the value of customized recognition

By in Appreciation
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I had the good fortune of working for a company that made recognition a priority—from the frontline to the head office, there were tools and resources for managers and employees alike to recognize one another for a job well done, a service anniversary, or a business milestone. Recognition was customized for the event, for the achievement, and for the individual.

I’ve also witnessed the other side of that coin, when recognition was generic—a one-size-fits-all approach. There’s no comparison and here’s why:

Customized recognition is personal.

When it’s your birthday, people sing to you. We know that on our birthday, the song—even though it’s been sung millions of times—is for us.

It’s the same with recognition—we all want to know that the trophy, announcement at the staff meeting, thank you note, service award, or any other symbol of appreciation, is meant specifically us. That’s why it’s important—even if we’re not handing over a physical award—to provide details beyond a generic “great job” or “nice work” when we recognize someone’s efforts:

  • What is significant about this person’s accomplishment? Tell them in concrete, personal terms why they are being recognized.
  • If you’re celebrating the efforts of a team, make sure you mention every team member’s name so that they know the appreciation is meant for each person, not just for the group. 

Customized recognition is memorable.

Generic recognition doesn’t have the same potential for long-term impact as customized recognition does. When you deliver one-size-fits-all appreciation, it’s easily forgettable:

  • Why did I receive that pen?
  • What did I do on that project?
  • Who is the person that signed this service anniversary card?

Customized recognition doesn’t require a lot of money to make it memorable. I worked on a 12-month project and when the system finally went live, the project manager planned a memorable celebration and recognized each member of the team with a “specialized” trophy. The trophies weren’t fancy; in fact, they were made of plastic. But the meaning she assigned to each trophy—I received one with a genie’s magic lamp, someone else earned a trophy with a race car—made them memorable. Years later, that plastic genie lamp sits on my bookshelf as a meaningful reminder of what great teamwork can deliver.

Customized recognition demonstrates awareness of the contribution made.

Compare these two greetings:

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 7th Anniversary!

The second version illustrates that the employer cares enough about the employee’s contributions to highlight the number of years the employee has worked for the organization. With the simple addition of “7th” (or 5th or 13th or 20th), the employee understands that their company recognizes the distinct contribution they’ve made. It’s not just any anniversary; it’s their anniversary.

Making the effort to customize recognition is an investment that benefits both the organization and the employee. Recognition done well helps emphasize and remind employees that they hold a unique place within the company—they aren’t just another cog in the wheel. That understanding makes it more likely that they’ll stay with the organization, that they’ll be more engaged, and that they’ll deliver business results.

By liz sheffield
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