the 4 Elements of Effective Recognition

March 29, 2013

In Employee Engagement

One of the keys to driving employee employee engagement is without doubt recognition. Everyone needs to have their work recognized. There are a million ways to recognize people, but effective recognition must include 4 important elements to be of real value..


The moment chosen to recognize an employee is very important. For instance, Jonathan, your department leader, has succeeded to increase sales by 35% in the last quarter. If you mention this accomplishment 6 months later during his annual evaluation, the effect will be minimal. On the other hand, if you recognize his accomplishment a few days after the numbers for the quarter are out, then you will make a real impact.

The effect of recognition is inversely proportional to the amount of time spent between the behavior being acknowledged and the recognition itself.


You have probably been told (if your name is Johnny):

Great job Johnny!

Which is indeed a recognition. But is it effective? Unfortunately not. Recognition must be specific. The person needs to know why they are recognized. What they did right. If we want that behavior to happen again, the person must know exactly which behavior they did correctly.

Great job Johnny! You managed to reassure the customer by proposing very good solutions to his objections. The client left the meeting in a good mood and looks forward starting the project with us.

Johnny now knows what he did right and is more likely to reproduce the behavior in the future.


Proximity has an important role to play in recognition. Consider these 3 situations:

  1. Your boss sends an email to congratulate you.
  2. Your boss calls you on the phone to congratulate you.
  3. Your boss comes by your office to congratulate you.

Which of these scenarios would please you the most? Obviously, in person. Email is nice. Phone is better, but in person is the best. The closer you are to the person you want to recognize, the bigger the impact of the recognition will be. It is not always possible to do so in person. But as much as possible, try. And if you must send an email, be sure it is personalized for the person. The worst thing to do would be to send a generic email.


As you probably know, the tone is also important. The way a message is delivered is crucial. Be enthusiastic when you recognize someone. Put some passion into it. Look the person in the eyes. Smile, shake their hand. And most importantly, be sincere. Never recognize someone if you don’t really believe it. The other person will feel it. If a generic email recognition is the worst thing to do, being insincere is catastrophic…

What do you think? Do you recognize your employees? Do you do it for the right reasons? Do you have tricks to share? And always keep in mind: celebrate what you want to see repeated!

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