Recognize What They Are Paid to Do or Just for Above and Beyond?

bob's Blog Dr. Bob Nelson

Hunter Owen, of Luxfer, the international gas cylinder company based in England, recently asked:

"Should we publicly recognize employees for doing what they get paid to do? Or should we only recognize those employees that go beyond the 'call of duty'?"

This is an excellent query that I often get.

To me the key is determining "What behaviors or performance do you want that you are not getting?" Those would be prime targets for recognition. At the point where those behaviors/performance become habit or commonplace, you can change the focus to new or improved behaviors/performance.

It's okay to recognize different types of behavior or performance -- this is not a black/white, either/or activity. So, for example, a lot of companies recognize "core values" such as teamwork, customer service, safety, etc. You can say you expect every employee to do those things all the time, but in my experience that doesn't work very well in getting those behaviors. If your culture notices those desired behaviors when employees do them, you will get more of the behavior and more employees doing those behaviors.

Also, public recognition is not the only way desired behaviors or performance can be called out.  There are many, many simple and more personal ways you can recognize people that don't involve a lot of time or money, either.

You should definitely recognize employees that go beyond the call of duty, but this should not be the only thing you recognize employees for or else you'll create a culture that is constantly looking for heroes who "save the day." 

- Dr. Bob

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