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Foundations of Effective Recognition

Have you ever considered that all things have a foundation upon which they are built? As with any foundation, the quality upon which it is made can dramatically affect the resulting outcome. This article explores the importance of building a recognition program on a firm and effective foundation.

People Matter

At the core of every companies success, are its people. A simple statement that rings true with something that we each relate to, after all, we are people. This concept of understanding such a core truth, that people matter, is also at the foundation of an effective recognition program. Why, you might ask, because recognition, given in the absence of this principal, translates to insincerity and a desk cluttered with cheap meaningless trinkets. More importantly, these halfhearted acts in contrast to the daily grind and never hearing a simple "Thank You" or "Good Job" drive home the message that people are being played as fools to simply squeeze more productivity out of them.

Some Self-Introspection

What does it really take to be successful with a recognition program? What can you begin to do that will lead to effective recognition and more importantly, happier employees.

Take a moment to consider the answer to these questions.

  • "Do I believe the people in my company are valuable?"
  • "Am I treating my employees and peers in the same way as I desire to be treated?"
  • "If I was on the receiving end of one of my recognition happenings, would I believe it was done in sincerity?"

By carefully considering your answers to these questions you can quickly assess if you have a strong foundation for effective recognition or if some level of damage control is in order to resolve years of a contradictory message.

A Recognition Check-up

What is the general attitude within your organization about recognition? Are you observing a natural outpouring of recognition from your leadership without them being prompted or is it like pulling teeth to get them to submit a recommendation for employee of the month? A healthy recognition environment will externalize in a consistent way throughout an organization. A fragmented recognition environment, where some are doing very well and others are not doing it at all is a telltale indicator that recognition is not valued and unbalanced.

Modeling Healthy Recognition

Recognition is one of those practices that must be modeled in order to increase. If you think about it, leadership follows this same principal, if leadership is weak or non-existent, you will have big troubles on your hands. There is good news though, as a pacesetter within your organization, you can model sincere recognition to your constituents and communicate how important it is that they model sincere recognition to their staff. Remember to keep it "Real" and sincere and be proactive in looking for genuine opportunities to recognize those around you.

Recognition in the Hands of the Hurt

Be aware of inhibition, where recognition is not naturally happening. If recognition is based upon the foundation that we value people, then it's reasonable to believe that some have been very damaged by people in their lives. Many times these individuals expose this damage by neglecting others much in the same way they too were neglected. What this translates to for an organization is valuable individuals with beneficial resources not being fully realized. This happens so often in organizations it deserves a future article exclusively on this topic. What's important to remember, is the core principal that people matter. That includes the manager and their employees that may not be receiving the genuine recognition they deserve.

The Birth of a Recognition Program

One of the most effective recognition programs to put in place happens to be the cheapest recognition program to put in place. It starts with the ability to say these words "Thank You" and "Job well done". If you're not finding countless opportunities to express these simple, verbal acts of recognition, then you should take notice; there could be a problem. These straightforward words can add significant value to another persons life and greatly motivate them to give everything they have for the good of their organization. In contrast, an organization that lacks even this simple form of recognition is likely to be missing the best from its employees.

Goodbye Great Talent

Recently, I was told of a trend in companies cutting recognition programs, not due to the cost but due to the realities that employees must stay with their companies because of the tough job market. This shortsighted perspective does not account for job markets that will eventually change. These companies should anticipate seeing some of their best talent leave at the first offer from a more respectable employer.

Recognition Styles

In addition to verbal recognition through positive words such as "Thank you", people have different ways they best receive recognition, it can be referred to as their "Recognition Style". It's important to understand these Recognition Styles because it's common for people to express recognition in the same way they like to receive recognition. For instance, if you appreciate a positive complement then there is a good chance your Recognition Style is "Words of Affirmation". If you appreciate tangible items such as a gift card or even cash then your Recognition Style may be "Gifts". A number of tools are available at to better equip you to understand your Recognition Style and the overall Recognition Nature of your team.


Don't lose sight that "People" are working for you. Each comes with all the complexities of human beings, the positives and negatives. Decide today to be a world changer not only through your business endeavors but also through your daily actions of recognizing and investing in the lives of others.

Your Feedback

I hope this has been useful to you, I would enjoy getting your feedback and hear the creative ways you are finding to recognize those around you. Please feel free to write me at

Greg Paskal