I think employee recognition is an area that’s grossly undervalued, both by managers and by people in general – especially when it comes to knowledge workers.
Knowledge workers get paid reasonably well. If not, they know they can go somewhere else and make good money. I find that engineers, as a rule, are very good at crafting a world that works for themselves. Maybe because it’s easy to do. But crafting a world that works for others – not just yourself – is much more difficult.
In my experience, when it comes to work happiness has everything to do with WANTING to go to work each day. I never WANTED to got to school, but I put that life behind me 12 years ago when I started my first company and I’ve never looked back or given it another thought since.
Do your employees find themselves in a place where they WANT to go to work? Beyond money, an important way to make people WANT to come to work for you is to recognize them when it’s warranted and make recognition a systematic part of what you do so it actually gets done.
To some degree, in order to put other people in the spotlight, you have to step out of it, which entrepreneurs have a terrible time doing. For some people it’s a zero-sum game – they care too much about themselves. But those are not the type of people you want. You want people who feel good about making others feel good.
It’s very easy to follow the path of least resistance and recognize only those near to you, while forgetting everyone else. It’s also very easy to put off or completely forget to recognize exceptional people without a conscious, ongoing effort. Keeping a spreadsheet or other system where you can record when someone does exceptionally well that also includes your ideas on what you plan to do for them works really well. Otherwise, its too easy to forget and go about your day.
To get employee recognition right, it needs to be an integral part of your regular routine. You need to hold yourself accountable for recognizing your employees in some structured way and make time for it. Otherwise it won’t happen. And, when your top performer turns in his or her resignation, your day will be about to get a lot busier. Then it will be too late.