The Human Touch: Personalizing Employee Recognition for Maximum Impact

Personalizing Employee Recognition

Written by Vladimir Tosic

Corporate and Startup Leader. Culture builder. Marketer and product designer.

December 13, 2023

Feedback   |   Leadership   |   Motivation

Image by: StockSnap from Pixabay

Picture this. You have just scored a major win for your company. You sit at your desk proud of your latest achievement. You know you deserve a pat on the back, and a nice hefty bonus wouldn’t hurt. More than anything you want everyone around you to know who got the job done before the usual suspects try to take the credit. Instead, all you get is a „Congrats, team“ email. Its short, its cold, and what bothers you most of all – it is generic.

It sounds like one of those automatic messages you get from your mobile carrier, or your bank on your birthday. It doesn’t tell the story of your unique contribution, instead, it gives a dystopian view. It’s like being praised by ChatGPT. Sure, it sounds nice, but we all know it only did it because someone told it to.


How not to be ChatGPT

Don’t worry, nobody expects you to pin a personalized „thank you“ card to someone’s cubicle or bake a cake. Companies love procedures, so no matter how many times we advise people to be spontaneous sometimes even spontaneity needs structure. Here are a few examples of personalized recognition done right.

Don’t – send a generic email that sounds like a bank statement

Do – create a Newsletter stating that Charlie, Tasha, and Mateo nailed it!
Insert their picture. Make an internal joke about how even the toughest client succumbed under the weight of Tasha’s endless emails. Say that Charlie and Mateo used the teamwork they forged during a business league basketball game, and won both on the court and at the office.

Don’t – always do the same thing

Do – Teach your team leaders how to get to know their team members.
If Charlie hates being the center of attention but loves playing for the office basketball team, get him a jersey with his name on it, instead of dragging him to a public event. If Mateo loves to win and strut around, please let him do it, and allow him to present the next company award just like he woos potential buyers with his charm. If all that Tasha wants is more days off so she can travel and post 50 Instagram pictures a day, give her an extra day off and like her pictures from your corporate profile. Hey, every like counts!

Don’t – assume your employee is happy because they are quiet
Imagine you had a fight with your significant other and suddenly they went quiet. If you think all is well you are in for a big awakening. The same goes for people who were once really engaged at work, and now suddenly they don’t care. Chances are they don’t care because they think that soon it’s all going to be a “you problem“, and they will be far, far away.

Do – listen to their complaints, no matter how small
Sometimes recognition means respecting someone’s needs. If Charlie bikes to work but can’t find a place to park his bike, perhaps a small section near the parking lot can make Charlie and a couple of other eco-conscious coworkers happy. If Tasha is awesome but hates the name of her job title, try changing it to better fit her new job role. If Mateo is brilliant at securing deals but can’t be on time for work to save his life, find a flexible work arrangement to help him work from 10-6. Small things do matter.

The moral of the story is, that we are all unique individuals and like to be treated as such. In a world of corporate greys allowing someone to shine their colors can make up for a beautiful addition to a large company picture.

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