Employee Recognition Lessons from the Olympics

As I’m sure is true for most people, the sheer athleticism of our Olympic athletes held me in awe these past two weeks. More even than the athletic performance, I found myself enjoying the post-win celebrations of the athletes, regardless of the nation they represented. Colleagues tell me they’ve actually cried watching the athletes hug each other and rejoice in victory, even before the medal ceremony.

Why do we react this way? I believe our emotional reaction to scenes of recognition for significant achievement are deeply ingrained in us, as is our pride in our own achievements. Recent research shows pride in achievement is an “innate human biological response that shapes human dynamics.”

The same need for recognition and pride in accomplishment is true in the business environment. How do you recognize your star performers? Do you give them an appropriate platform to demonstrate pride in their accomplishments? Are you “shaping the human dynamics” in your organization by fostering a culture of appreciation in which all employees – at any level – encourage each other to push just a little bit harder to win the gold? And then do you give them a forum to celebrate those achievements?

In these tougher economic times, consider modeling a strategic recognition program on the spirit of the Olympics. Give rewards on the spot for a job well done. Publicly acknowledge good work so that all can celebrate it. Measure the program to ensure success. Personalize it so recipients find meaning and value in the reward. Give the “medal” of thanks!

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