The Role of Recognition in a Recession

As I’ve blogged before, motivating employees in this ailing economy may be more challenging, but it is certainly more important than ever. Erin White recently interviewed Jim Harter of Gallup in a Wall Street Journal article on motivating workers in tough times. Harter made a couple of key points on recognition:

1) Set clear expectations and a vision for the future: “Only a little over half the people in the workforce clearly know what’s expected of them in their jobs. That becomes more important in an economic crisis. Managers should also be helping people know how they’re a part of the future.”

2) The importance of recognition: “When times are tough… I would argue recognition is even more important. They’re going to hear more negatives naturally through the course of the day, and if you can’t get recognition at work, where are you going to get it?”

Ideally, you should provide a vision for the future and demonstrate how expectations are being met through a strategic recognition program. Frequent and timely recognition – saying thank you and well done – for actions or behaviors that achieve personal and company objectives ensure employees are focused on precisely the activities you need accomplished and, critically, on the behaviors that will help achieve the company’s overall goals.

As Elizabeth Blackwell recently commented in an article in, “Employee recognition isn't just about feeling warm and fuzzy. It may be the key to surviving the current economy. Trim costs all you want, but customers will stay away if they see sagging morale and a staff that has mentally checked out. A thriving team environment can be what sets your company apart.”

The 2008/2009 Watson Wyatt Global Strategic Rewards Report The Power of Integrated Reward and Talent Management reinforced the cost-effective value of strategic recognition, citing spend at only 0.5-2% of base payroll for a program highly valued by employees. I couldn’t agree more with the report’s finding:
“Given the cost-effective nature of these plans, coupled with the opportunity to reinforce key behaviors, employers may want to revisit existing plans and/or consider implementation of a formal recognition plan as a priority.”

Are you setting a clear vision and expectations for employees and reinforcing their efforts through strategic recognition? How are you seeing this play out in your organization? Join the conversation in comments.

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