Have you ever said that to someone? Typically we mean, we didn’t realize they were who they were. It’s funny how this often shows up the exact same way in the workplace.

A stat that floored us recently is that 82% of employees feel their supervisor doesn’t recognize them for what they do. That’s a lot of people. Under-recognition is an epidemic in the workplace, and with statistics showing that a still whopping two-thirds of the workforce is disengaged (disengagement is the #1 reason people leave their jobs), it seems that this should be a wake-up call. As leaders and leadership experts, we had to ask, “What is going on?”

Like so many things, one of the major contributors is lack of education and communication. It turns out that a lot of leaders don’t understand the impact of recognition and how it not only helps team members enjoy work more (PS this motivates your people), but it directly benefits the bottom line. Or, they just forgot.

Leaders. If your team members don’t feel seen or recognized, it will look like you don’t care. If that’s the case, your people won’t care either. We all know that won’t do anything to drive your culture or bottom line in the direction you want it to go. So what WILL you do?

  1. Educate yourself. There are leadership books, workshops (we do these!), and conferences for the leader who has decided this matters. What are you trying to create and what do you want out of your life as a leader? Know why you care, if you do.
  2. Find out how you’re doing. How would your employees rank employee recognition? Would they say that leadership is quick to give praise, or withhold it? When we work with teams and survey them, this is usually a surprise result for leaders. If you’re feeling ambitious and you’ve made the leap to do something about it, send a quick, confidential survey to your people and put some science to it. Let the numbers do the talking.
  3. Make it a priority. If it’s important, it’s on our calendar. Keep a running list of your people and what they’re doing well. Make a regular habit of reflecting on this list and communicating your comments – in specifics. We continue doing what we’re rewarded for.
  4. Create a good habit. Each day, say one of the following to someone on your team: “Thank You.” “You did a great job at ___.” “I know how hard you worked on ___.” Share your practices with the leaders on your team and make this a cultural priority. Not only does this become a habit, but it shifts the culture into one of celebration. (69% of employees would work harder if they knew their efforts would be appreciated)

Think about how you feel when you are recognized. Either when someone sees you after years and calls you by name, your spouse or friend takes time to acknowledge something you did vs. assuming you know it went well? It’s simple and it’s gold, yet we’re not making it a priority. So be the outlier! Make a plan to be THAT leader. Then watch what happens.

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