Awards season often feels like an opportunity to heap endless praise on the already over-appreciated. By the time we get to the Academy Awards, it feels like you’ve seen the same people over and over again bounding up steps in suits and long gowns and getting emotional in front of a lectern ([Feigning surprise] “I haven’t prepared a speech because I wasn’t expecting this…”).
It’s the big names – the lead actors and actresses – who grab the headlines. You’ll be more familiar with the ubiquitous Jennifer Lawrence than Barkhad Abdi, but they’re both up for Best Supporting roles at this weekend’s Oscars. Lawrence has already won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. Abdi is following his BAFTA award with an Oscar nomination for his debut film role in Captain Phillips – his FIRST EVER film. That’s quite a start in the industry.
Sometimes it’s not always the obvious candidates who make a difference to a project. Similarly, you won’t know the names of the cinematographers, make-up artists, sound editors and costume designers who are nominated at these ceremonies, but Gravity, The Hobbit and 12 Years A Slave wouldn’t be the successes they are without them. These awards ceremonies recognise how different roles fit, literally, into the big picture.
It’s the same in the corporate world. CEOs and MDs are often praised for turning around a company’s fortunes or leading change, or department heads get a pat on the back for rallying their staff to put in the extra grind. Sure, these people lead, but their visions would come to nothing without a team of doers to execute it efficiently.
Organisations need their own Academy Awards – a recognition scheme of some kind – to give their employees their moment of glory.
We are currently developing the branding for a client’s new employee recognition programme and all the collateral that goes with it. It’s a three-tier awards scheme, with vouchers, certificates and even a trophy presented annually, bi-monthly and on an ad hoc basis.
The campaign is a way of saying “Thank you”. It seems an obvious thing for a company to do – but sometimes the obvious things get forgotten. Some companies don’t have recognition schemes, and some employees don’t get even get any informal appreciation of the work they do. Do you say “Thank you” enough in your organisation?
It’s important to recognise employees who – to coin an employee-engagement cliché – go the extra mile, but it’s also essential to recognise employees who perhaps don’t have an opportunity in their roles to do anything outside of their job description or whose role cannot be completed any quicker or more accurately. Perhaps they are consistently very good and efficient at what they do, or they have shown significant improvement in recent months, or an entire team has worked for a full year with no errors or safety incidents. Having no dramas or mishaps in the workplace for a prolonged period is as worthy of celebration as occasional spikes of success.
There may not be obvious examples of extraordinary work within your teams, but you should be grateful for employees who perform solidly and steadily all year round. These are employees you can rely on when you need them. Keep them motivated. Look for positives in the ordinary. Look for ways to say “Thank you” for just doing the job.
Employees seek recognition. Sure, they come to work to get paid and you would hope most feel proud of the organisation they work for, but they also want to feel proud of the contribution they make. And they want to believe that others feel the place wouldn’t be the same without them. Generally, we all leave jobs wishing our former employers well, but secretly hope processes are a little more chaotic without us, and that our successors are a little bit less efficient. Still, being appreciated retrospectively is of no use to anyone.
Saying “Thank you” improves employer-employee relationships and, therefore, retention. Employees want to feel they are valued and their skills have been acknowledged. People are less likely to look elsewhere for work if there is a high probability that the grass isn’t greener – certainly in terms of morale – on the other side.
Showing your appreciation of an employee’s work suggests that you trust them. Good employees will not stay at an organisation where they don’t feel there are opportunities for them to influence the way things are. If they feel they are an important member of the team and they are listened to, they will be encouraged to propose ideas for doing things more efficiently, creatively and innovatively.
Everyone likes their ego being rubbed. People enjoy being thanked for things, and will want to do more that they can be thanked for.
Our client for the new awards branding scheme wants some “theatre” – not just at the big glitzy awards ceremony at the end of the year, but also for the smaller on-the-spot voucher presentations. These shouldn’t be quietly slipped in an employee’s top drawer. Colleagues should gather round and hear why their peer has been recognised. It helps to explain to the wider team what is considered good performance. It might even encourage others to up their game – eventually you have a whole team of high-performers.
Sure, it might be a little embarrassing for the winner to be in the spotlight, but if you’re consistent in what you give praise for, everyone should have their moment. Who wouldn’t want to be Meryl Streep or Daniel Day Lewis for a few minutes? Gwyneth Paltrow-esque gushing speeches are not allowed, however.
Some quick and easy tips for thanking employees
Don’t be complacent about the work that “just gets done”. Being consistently good is as challenging as occasional flashes of brilliance.
If you’re the boss, don’t assume people enjoy doing things for you. If someone on your team helps you with a task they wouldn’t normally do, acknowledge it. Likewise, acknowledge upwards or peer-to-peer if your boss or colleagues gives you a hand.
A few words speak volumes. Just saying “Thank you” or “I really appreciate that” – and sounding sincere about it – can make a huge difference to someone’s day. It makes thankless tasks less, well, thankless.
Share good news. Send an email around to thank your team or to notify them if one or two people have played a key role in a success story.
Consider a budget for acknowledgements of good work. If your organisation doesn’t have a formal scheme in place, can you spare £20 each month to applaud employees with a shopping voucher or a bottle of wine, or even just a spread of pastries to recognise the completion of a project?
If you do have a budget for a formal scheme… plan it well. Be consistent. Make sure managers know how and why they should recognise people. Make sure employees know how they can nominate a colleague. Have clear, engaging and memorable branding, and keep awareness of the scheme high.