The What and Whys of Recognition

June 22, 2022
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

I have learned many lessons in leadership from my experiences as a parent.

For example, as my wife Cynthia and I were raising our blended family and trying to be good parents, one of the most important things we learned was if you don’t complement your children five times more than you suggest things they could do better, you are creating an oppressive environment for your child.

We have seen the same thing in our workplaces. One expression I have heard frequently is, “I get ten things right and I never hear a word, and I get one thing wrong and I never hear the end of it.” It applies to families, at work, in every environment.

I just read a recent Gallup/Workhuman report, “Unleashing the Human Element at Work: Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition.”

Here are some important takeaways:

  • 81% of leaders say recognition is not a major strategic priority for their organization.
  • 73% of senior leaders say their organization does not offer managers or leaders best‑practices training for employee recognition.
  • Nearly two in three leaders say their organization does not have a budget allocated to recognition.
  • 67% of leaders and 61% of managers say they give recognition a few times a week, but 40% of employees report receiving recognition only a few times a year or less from a manager, supervisor or other leader at their organization.
  • Only 23% of employees strongly agree their organization has a system in place to recognize work milestones; 15% strongly agree they have a system for recognizing personal events in employees’ lives.
  • Creating a culture of recognition can save a 10,000-employee company up to $16.1 million in turnover costs annually.

If this is the culture of recognition in most companies, if it is mostly an afterthought, wouldn’t you say they have created an oppressive environment?

Everybody wants to know that who they are and what they do matters. In the workplace, people need to feel personally valued regardless of their role.

When we talk about “recognition” at Barry-Wehmiller, we usually pair it with “celebration.” What we mean is, we are trying to look for the goodness in our people (recognition) and hold it up for others to see and say, “Thank you for sharing your goodness” (celebration).

We continually try to shine a light into every corner of our organization, searching for people doing good, to find and celebrate those individuals for who they are. When we find them, we teach our leaders in timely, proportionate and thoughtful ways to say, “thank you.”  We have learned it is a teachable skill and a key to Truly Human Leadership.

We’re trying to continually build a culture in which everyone, everywhere – not just leaders – are inspired to recognize others and celebrate the behaviors we value and align with our culture.

The more we recognize and celebrate, the more people experience not only how good it feels to be on the receiving end but also how good it feels to be on the giving end. The person who gives a great recognition gets as much or more by giving than the person who receives it.

From the Gallup/ Workhuman report, this is what happens when people feel truly recognized:

  • 73% are less likely to “always” or “very often” feel burned out
  • 56% are less likely to be looking or watching for job opportunities
  • 44% are more likely to be “thriving” in their life overall

    They are also

  • 5x as likely to feel connected to their culture
  • 4x as likely to be engaged
  • 5x as likely to see a path to grow at their organization
  • 4x as likely to recommend their organization to friends and family

But at Barry-Wehmiller, it’s not about reducing turnover or what the company gets out of it. It isn’t about giving a bonus to someone more productive or giving them a Lucite plaque so that you don’t have to give them a bonus. It’s about repaying their emotional investment with your own. We give awards to people who achieve something that is important to our culture, not just to our bottom line.

And we do it because it is the right thing to do. To show a person that who they are and what they do matters.

Here's a last takeaway from the Gallup/ Workhuman report:

Recognition has the most impact when it is:

  • Fulfilling employees' expectations and needs — though only 23% in the global workforce strongly agree they get the right amount of recognition for the work they do
  • Authentic — even though only one-third strongly agrees the recognition they get meets this bar
  • Equitable — despite only one-quarter strongly agreeing recognition is given equitably at their organization
  • Embedded in the culture — despite only 19% of the global workforce strongly agrees recognition is an important part of the culture at their workplace
  • Personalized — even though only 10% report being asked about their preferences for receiving recognition

Research shows that there is a strong correlation between these two statements: “I feel I am contributing to my company’s mission” and “This company gives enough recognition for work that’s well done.” Recognition and celebration engage people’s hearts and mind and shows them that we care.

It’s not just the grand celebrations either. Everyday expressions of appreciation that are genuine, heartfelt, and meaningful give people energy and let them know when they go home every day that they matter.

We want our people to realize that small appreciations that are well expressed and genuine have a ripple effect that is more powerful than we can imagine.

What does recognition and celebration mean in your organization?

Do you feel like you recognize and celebrate your people enough? How do you think they feel about how they are recognized?

How do you create a consistent practice of recognizing the goodness in your people and say “thank you” in timely and appropriate ways? 

How do you show your people they matter and not just make it routine, but make it special?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an event we held at our Phillips, Wisconsin (USA) location to “reimagine” our recognition programs within Barry-Wehmiller, in the spirit of continuous improvement. We always want to get better and be better about recognizing our people. It’s one of our responsibilities in the stewardship of the lives within our span of care.

The way we lead impacts that way our team members care for those in their life!

In the coming weeks, I’ll share a new video that documents that event and provides insight into what we were doing to better recognize and celebrate our people.

Related Posts

Brent Stewart / Apr 14, 2022
Podcast: Recognition and Celebration
Bob Chapman / Nov 16, 2012
The Power of Thanks
Bob Chapman / May 5, 2022
Lifting Up The Good Even Higher

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