Posted by Aoife Gorey
The theory of recognition for employee motivation and engagement has been around for over 2500 years. In today’s business world, however, because it is free to do and well known that you should do it, most people - especially those in management positions - do not do it as often as they should. People are constantly looking for the next best thing, forgetting about the tried and proven theories for employee motivation that have worked well in recent centuries.
Motivation comes from more than dollar signs and fat paychecks. In fact, employee recognition is essential to keeping employees happy, engaged, and motivated.
You need to go out of your way to catch your people doing something right. “Giving employee recognition” is a topic that is significantly popular among the world’s top business blogs, authors, and development coaches. What you don’t read about as often is why and how it actually works.
2 reasons to start recognizing people today:
1. A physical feel-good
When someone gives you feedback for something you’ve done well, that you know is warranted (in other words, not flattery) stating, “Oh, you did a good job there,” it should be more like: “You did a good job, and the reason I say that is because our client John Doe emailed me to tell me how your work has impacted their business, they’ve increased their ROI by 40 percent, and they attribute it to you and your efforts.”
When you give someone good feedback and authentic recognition, it causes a chemical reaction in the brain. It releases dopamine and serotonin: the feel-good chemicals. They are same chemicals released when you exercise, or eat your favorite treat like chocolate or ice cream. When you give someone recognition, you give them a genuinely good feeling in their brain.
But, here’s what happens subconsciously; a little voice in the back of their head says, “Whatever you did there, do it again… that felt good.” So, the behavior that prompted that feedback in the first place is reinforced. Think of your own experience, the last time someone gave you some genuine recognition.
For example, I work on creating eBooks and marketing content for our team at SmartMoves. A colleague recently communicated to me just how much our assets are helping them achieve their goals, and that we’re helping them to help their clients. That’s the kind of support they need from us.
This made me feel fantastic. Not only did I smile, feel great about myself and my hard work, but I also passed it on. I shared the positive recognition to every other member of my team who had worked on the projects. I, in turn, just created that same, positive chemical reaction for them. It’s how we’re wired as humans.
2. What goes around comes around
That’s just the physical side of employee recognition. The second thing is the psychological aspect. There’s a thing psychologists call the norm of reciprocity. When you do someone a favor or give them something - even if they didn’t ask, don’t want it, or the favor has no great value to them (and even if they don’t like you) - they’re inclined to reciprocate. They want to give it back. So when you give someone recognition, along with that slight dose of dopamine and serotonin, they feel better about themselves momentarily. It triggers that norm of reciprocity; those people now want to think of what they can do for you. Recognition creates an environment where people become engaged with each other and the people who are managing them. This is why it providing positive feedback is so powerful!
If it is so easy to do, why aren’t you doing it in your business?
No one said you have to be the leader or manager to recognize others. Employee motivation and engagement is an astonishing thing. Make sure you know how to integrate it in your business, regardless of your title, level, or rank.
If you’re a team member or manager, make sure you recognize your coworkers, when you genuinely believe they deserve it. If you’re an executive or HR director, make sure this is a prominent part of your company culture.