10 Employee Recognition Mistakes to Avoid

by Allan Peretz

Has your boss ever surprised you with some unexpected appreciation? If so, you probably already know that employee recognition can do wonders for your business.

Short and long term benefits include:

  • Improved morale
  • Improved productivity
  • Increased collaboration

If you recognize employees in the wrong way, though, it can backfire. Here are some approaches you should definitely avoid.

Money Doesn’t Talk

Paychecks are important to everyone and bonuses are great. However, placing too much of an emphasis on money can be disastrous. An employer needs to foster relationships with his or her employees that go beyond just compensation. While money is great, maintaining relationships is more important.

Bonuses can get employees accustomed to a cash reward system. This will foster a belief that they should be paid for every success they have. There are many forms of rewards you can give your employees outside of money.

Too Many Contests

Competition can inspire employees to push themselves harder than they normally would. This makes contests a great way of motivating your employees. On the other hand, too much competition can demotivate employees.

Everyone loves to win, but not everyone loves to lose. Employees who are disappointed too often have a lack of morale which results in diminished returns. The best way to run a contest is to ensure it’s about rewarding excellent performance rather than individual winners.

Treating Everyone the Same

Every employee responds differently to different reward systems. What inspires one employee can mean nothing to the next. A catch-all rewards system risks alienating many employees. Employee rewards should be personal and focused on what each individual brings to the table.

Employers should conduct research on their employees to find out what the best rewards are. The best way to find the rewards that work are to survey employees or to directly ask. Many employees are able to give a detailed response regarding what will motivate them.

Examples of more personal rewards:

  • Financial bonuses
  • More time off
  • Merchandise or tickets, such as to a sports game
  • Donations to a nonprofit in their name

Employees appreciate when they're asked what form of recognition they'd like.

Indirect Recognition

Top-down recognition programs don’t work because they're too indirect. Employees want to feel like they're part of the company culture. Indirect recognition indicates a hierarchical structure that will rub many employees the wrong way.

The CEO isn’t expected to give recognition to every employee, nor do they have the time. Managers should be empowered to recognize employees who do great work.

Not Achievement Oriented

Recognition should be more achievement than personal oriented to get the best out of employees.

Achievement based recognition communicates that you noticed your employee’s hard work. Focusing praise on the person rather than the achievement can make employees feel like their efforts were underappreciated . For example, instead of recognizing someone as a good presenter, acknowledge the presentation itself.

Recognition that isn’t achievement based can make employees feel like they’re great at their jobs regardless of the effort they put in. This can result in employees who try to sail through and start making poor decisions .

While recognition should be achievement based, it shouldn’t be made too easy or too hard. Targets that are too low will make employees feel like they don’t need much effort to succeed. Targets that are too high will demoralize employees because they’ll believe it's impossible to receive rewards.

In order to strike the perfect medium in doling out recognition, pay attention to how your employees react. This way you can make adjustments to create the best rewards program that you can.

Recognize Employees Late

If you wait to recognize performance until a meeting, chances are you might forget what it’s for. This form of generic recognition won’t offer any lasting motivation. It's important to recognize employees as quickly as you can. Peer-to-peer recognition systems are often effective in businesses with a flat organization structure.

Too Generic and Frequent

Personalized recognition is the most effective in motivating employees to push themselves harder. While handing out the same reward to every employee can save money, it won’t be as motivational. Too much praise can diminish its effect because it won't feel as meaningful or sincere.

Praise is Used to Fix Performance

Praising employees as a means to an end when you want something can backfire. This kind of recognition often feels like a form of control and can lead to resentment and demotivation.

This misstep can be fixed by being direct and honest with your employees and remembering to offer constructive criticism as well. When offering criticism, it’s important to recognize when employees recover from their errors.

Rewards Program Isn’t Effectively Run

Many companies have rewards programs, but forget to mention it to their employees. Easy ways to announce the program is by hanging up posters, sending out newsletters, or just telling your employees about it.

Reward program rules should be laid out and easy to understand. Programs should be focused on reaching goals. Rewards programs that are left up to the "best judgment" of the employers are bound to fail due to perceived favorability. Reward programs should have specific rewards for specific activities or behaviors.

Another mistake people make is abruptly stopping the program or postponing rewards. This mistake is often made because the program is deemed too time-consuming to keep up. Programs will only work if they’re kept active.

Only Focused on Hard Goals

Employees shouldn't only be recognized for reaching goals. It's important to also recognize the employees who add to the company culture and values. Remember to acknowledge when an employee stays late or works to keep up team morale.

At Attacoin our mission is to help you make every employee feel like appreciated. Contact us to find out how we can help you recognize employees.