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Darn it … Notice Me !!!

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A few weeks ago, I found myself, with growing irritation, standing at the deli counter trying to get the attention of one of the service staff. At first, I just stood there waiting to be noticed. When that was ineffective, I “ahem”ed … quietly at first, then louder. Still ignored, I asked if someone could help me. No one even glanced up. Making one final ignored request, I then stormed off to spend my money elsewhere.

This personal frustration mimics what many employees face daily as they give their best to their company, quietly, waiting just to be noticed. And, sometimes when ignored for too long, they also storm off to another company in hopes of a more supportive environment.

A CCI Consulting leader has a simple, yet effective way to engage staff at all levels. He regularly inquires “What are you working on?” Not in a way where one feels micromanaged but with genuine interest in what’s on your plate. Employees get to share their ‘hot project du jour’, even if it would not usually rise to his level of attention. A quick conversation usually follows with a chance for both parties to ask questions of clarification. He leaves knowing more about what’s happening on the floor and the employee feels both noticed and valued.

That personal touch is powerful. One manager hand writes a note to each reporting staffer on his annual company anniversary. It’s only a few lines … the first one of congratulations. The following sentence or two, identifies one of the employee’s unique contributions to the company good. It can be as simple as:

Mark, congratulations on your 5th anniversary with ABC, Inc. I wanted to take a moment to especially appreciate how you continually share your technical expertise with junior staffers. Your generosity of knowledge helps our company be the best-in-class. I am glad to have you on our team. Sincerely, Laine

She later finds these notes tacked to cubicle walls or pinned to a personal bulletin board.

It may also be valuable to develop a simple recognition program at a company level. In my early career, I mistakenly thought that a particular company program was doomed to failure. They had printed the words “Quality Leader” in gold lettering on what looked to be glazed blue bathroom wall tiles. I couldn’t imagine that particular reward inspiring anyone. The premise of the program was that when employees or clients recognized any good effort by a staffer, the manager would read the letter of recognition to the entire team and present one of the awards. Learning never to underestimate the power of recognition, I saw those who received the tiles display them proudly. Recipients of multiple tiles invented ways to display them all, glued to ribbons or frames. Validated and noticed, employees responded positively.

A CCI client company, a major distribution center in a small town, created an inventive program. They had plastic coins printed with the company name. Supervisors were given a fixed number of coins monthly to distribute to staffers who had met or exceeded production standards. Those coins, by prior agreement, were as good as cash at the local movie theater, grocery store, and corner diner. Popular and easy, the program was extraordinarily effective.

What are the hallmarks of good recognition efforts? They should be …

  • Personal and genuine.
  • Easy. Cumbersome programs die of their own weight and quickly become meaningless when employees realize that they are merely a burden to their bosses.
  • Related to performance. Everyone who is performing to standards should get some recognition. Those who are performing above standard should get more. Recognizing sub-standard performance on the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ principle may likely render the effort meaningless.
  • Positive and fun.

When it comes to employee engagement, recognition matters. The results from the numerous employee engagement surveys conducted by CCI Consulting for client companies identify ‘Lack of Recognition’ as one of the biggest reasons employees disengage.

Channel the inner rage that you have personally experienced when ignored into a positive leadership skill. Recognize the efforts of your staff in ways that are simple, frequent, and joyous. The rewards reaped will exceed your wildest expectations.

Joan Engel
Director, Career Transition, Project Management & Ombuds Support
CCI Consulting

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