When was the last time someone told you “job well done?” Knowing that we have done our job effectively makes us feel good about ourselves and the work that we have done. When we give and receive recognition, everybody wins! 

The Importance of Praise
Successful leaders use praise effectively. Employee achievements and/or performance improvement is a vital part of performance management. Sincere and honest praise lets employees know that you appreciate their efforts. This simple act takes little time but will provide many benefits. With a few positive, encouraging words and a pat on the back, you can recognize and reinforce desired performance behaviors. An employee who feels that his or her best efforts are valued by you is likely to continue those efforts.

It is important that your employees know they are viewed as valuable members of the organization. With praise, you can create and reinforce a positive self-image in your employees, making them feel like winners. This is most desirable in confusing or unclear situations where the employee is trying to do the right thing but is uncertain of the actual performance level.

Employees under stress also need a few words of praise to let them know they have done the right thing in a difficult situation. When an employee has been assigned necessary but unchallenging tasks, they, too, must be praised for their contributions.
Research on Recognition and Rewards
Giving recognition helps your employees to:
  • Take pride in their work and in their job responsibilities
  • Feel appreciated for their contributions
  • “Go the extra mile”
  • Heighten level of commitment to the organization
  • Improve relationships between coworkers
  • Be more open to constructive feedback
  • Strive to meet and/or exceed performance expectations
  • Support and promote a positive atmosphere in which praise prevails
  • Get more enjoyment out of the work they do
For all these benefits, recognition and rewards also take hardly any time and cost little or nothing to give.
Types of Recognition and Rewards
Employees are motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. An effective reward system recognizes both sources of motivation. There are several factors that influence and motivate peak performance. To ensure that the reward system is effective and motivates the desired behaviors, it is important that rewards are based on or linked to performance. Rewarding performance fairly is a supervisory responsibility that occurs regularly, not once a year at the time of annual performance discussions.

Praise and Acknowledgement 
From Supervisors/Managers, this is among the most important motivators for employees. Employees want to be recognized and valued for their contributions. It is important that you recognize the importance of sincerely thanking employees both verbally and in writing for their specific contributions. Recognition of positive accomplishments should also be part of regular discussion and coaching sessions with employees.

Challenging Work Assignments 
Providing challenging work assignments for high performing employees is another way to reward good performance. These types of assignments provide opportunities to develop skills, expand knowledge and/or increase visibility within the department and university. They also send an important message that employees’ contributions are being recognized and valued. When considering such assignments, you should consult with employees about the types of assignments they would value. You should also assess whether workloads need to be redistributed to ensure that employees have sufficient time to devote to new tasks. A job enrichment assignment is one way to reward employees who are interested in cross training or learning a new skill.

Professional Growth and Development 
You may provide employees with opportunities to participate in special educational programs, conferences or other activities that will expand their skills and knowledge. Employees benefit by developing new skills, and the university benefits from the additional expertise acquired.
Points to Remember When Giving Recognition
  • Make it specific. It is useful to think about what, in particular, is good about what the person has done so that you can refer to that very early in the conversation.
  • Talk about it. Starting a conversation gives you an opportunity to tell the individual why what they did was so good. The message reinforces how what they did is important to the department.
  • No “sting in the tail.” Don’t ruin the recognition by saying “Well done, but….”
  • Put it on record. This should be used in addition to delivering the message verbally, face to face and as soon as possible. These records will be an important part of your performance discussions with your employee(s).
  • Make it public. This rule is excellent advice, but be a little careful. If your department isn’t in the habit of giving recognition now, you should go gently and increase the amount of recognition steadily and consistently.
  • Pass praise on. When someone else recognizes a person on your team, let them know.
  • Look for opportunities to praise people. It is important to go looking for good work. In particular, think about:
    • Who? Praise for your team might come from many sources so keep your eyes and ears open.
    • When and Where? You should be constantly on the lookout for good work to recognize, but there may also be particular times when and where the search is likely to be productive.
    • MBWA - This stands for “Managing by Walking Around.” It is a simple reminder that informal, unscheduled contact with team members should be a regular part of every leader’s day. The motto for all leaders is: Try to catch them doing something RIGHT!
Quick and Easy Ideas for Recognition
Here are several simple ideas that can be taken to give recognition and rewards:
  • “Sticky” praise - Use sticky notes to say thanks
  • Project photo collage
  • “Bravo” bulletin board
  • Appreciation certificate
  • Article about staff member in newsletter or UnivMail
  • Greet employees by name when you pass by their desk or pass them in the hall
  • Keep a roll of Lifesavers handy to give to someone who has been a real “lifesaver” with a special project or request 
  • Encourage your team to give each other spontaneous recognition
Praise should be a part of your normal day-to-day leadership action. Its contribution to employee development cannot be overstated. Recognition and rewards are most effective for reinforcing or improving work performance when the employee has confidence in the basis of that praise. And you, as the Supervisor/Manager, will be more confident when giving recognition and rewards based on information that you can support.
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