That old saying, "Money can't buy happiness," rings true in the work environment when considering the value in praising employees' talent and contributions. The difference between reward and recognition isn't just monetary. It's the sincere express of appreciation that makes employees happy that their work is valued. Employee rewards -- the financial kind -- are monetary carrots for good performance that eventually lose their appeal if they are simply automatic payouts for a job well done. Recognition, on the other hand, can often have a greater impact on the employer-employee relationship simply because the employee's value isn't reduced to dollars and cents.
Supervisors who routinely pat their employees on the back for outstanding job performance or congratulate a team for delivering on a particularly difficult project gain respect from peers and especially from their employees. This type of unplanned feedback and genuine appreciation for employees' contributions is one of the ingredients for sustaining employee engagement. Announcing employees' accomplishments publicly is a simple, no-cost form of recognition that has tremendous return on investment. For example, during a staff meeting, a department manager could say, "This quarter's outstanding performance recognition goes to the shipping department for its 100 percent no-injury safety record. Let's congratulate the team on maintaining a safe work environment."
Recognition is among the purest forms of motivation, according to management consultant Frederick Herzberg, who developed the two-factor motivation-hygiene theory related to job satisfaction. Non-monetary recognition, such as giving plum assignments to employees with outstanding performance records, is one of the basic elements of job satisfaction, based on Herzberg's theory. Therefore, increasing an employee's level of responsibility is recognition for his demonstration of increasing capabilities. A prime example of this form of recognition is delegating new-employee orientation and training to an employee who embodies the company's philosophy and goals through stellar performance.
A casual remark, such as, "Great job on handling that client's concerns about his account. I couldn't help but hear the way you explained how we reconcile customer accounts in such as professional and detailed, yet very clear manner," counts as what is referred to as a "drive-by" compliment. A manager gives praise without any advance preparation. This often is perceived as one of the most genuine forms of appreciation because the spontaneous act isn't planned or conceptualized as part of the employee-recognition strategy.
Congratulatory letters become part of an employee's collection of professional achievements. A personal, hand-written or personally signed letter from the organization's top leader is something that won't be tossed aside very easily. An organization's leadership has an obligation to provide employees with the tools they need to be successful. These tools are more than training, orientation and professional development; they include encouragement and motivation, intangibles that often are most inspiring. Consider a message along the lines of, "Finding the words to say how much the company appreciates your hard work, dedication and commitment isn't difficult, but how to express them is, so I hope this personal letter conveys how much ABC Company leadership and staff value your contributions throughout your first year with the company." This type sentiment praising outstanding performance might be something that an employee will cherish for many years.