According to a Gallup article, your team members should be recognized for praise-worthy work on at least a weekly, if not a daily, basis. Recognizing your employees frequently causes a dopamine rush, the feel-good chemical in our brains, which creates a sense of pleasure and pride in a job well done. This, in turn, motivates us to do more good work. However, the same article also states that “unearned praise can do more harm to an individual and a workgroup than none at all.” So, what’s a manager to do? You need to recognize your employees frequently, but you also need to distinguish between truly recognition-worthy work and work that is not. Below are a few tips that may help you sort out this sometimes tricky task.

 

  1. Be the Fly on the Wall

If you want to recognize exemplary work, that means you’re going to have to notice it first. Paying attention to all of the intricacies of your company may not be an easy task, especially if you are part of a large organization, but it’s crucial to know what’s going on at all levels so you can know when great things happen. Meeting with team leaders and departments regularly can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your company. Then, when your sales team brings a prominent client on board, or when your purchasing department finds a great way to reduce expenditure, you will be there to recognize the achievements.

 

  1. Know Your Goals

Your company’s goals can be a great benchmark by which to measure exemplary versus average work. If your team meets their objectives and conquers a big goal ahead of schedule or under budget, that’s a no-brainer to recognize the accomplishment. Meeting company goals, breaking records, and exceeding expectations all call for celebration. It might mean rewarding the development team with a celebratory lunch for launching the new website. Or, it could mean presenting the customer service team with recognition awards or gifts for a great month of solving customer issues. Make sure the recognition matches the scale of the accomplishment. The bigger the success, the bigger the celebration should be.

 

  1. Recognize Your Stars

There are probably people in your organization who you already know are star players. They’re the ones who put in extra hours and effort when the situation calls for it. They go above and beyond. Make sure your stars know you notice their commitment and readiness to rise to tough challenges. Recognition can be spur-of-the-moment and as simple as a comment: “I noticed how much time you spent with that customer; I really appreciate your dedication.” Patrick Lencioni, a “New York Times” best-selling author and CEO of the Table Group, has a great story about a simple, unplanned moment of recognition. When recognition is timely and sincere, it can go a long way in making your stars feel appreciated and will keep their levels of motivation high.

 

  1. Define Your Keywords

To help distinguish between exemplary and average work, it can help to make a list of “keywords” or short phrases that describe what you see as recognition-worthy work. Examples might be “creative problem solving,” “taking the initiative,” “demonstrating superior skill,” “innovating,” or “being a team player.” Use these as guides to help you recognize great work when you see it, and to help you plan recognition accordingly, whether it’s formal or informal.

 

  1. Turn the Concept of “Recognition-Worthy” on its Head

An article by Henry Stewart of Happy, a learning and development company based in London, describes successful companies that regularly reward failure. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, celebrating project failures can actually result in more innovation from your team members because they are less afraid to fail. Learning from failure is an important lesson in all aspects of life, our work lives included. Start seeing the failures as paving the way to future successes that may never have been achieved if not for the repeated falls along the way.

Whether it’s recognizing a team or an individual, or recognizing by an informal word of praise or through a planned activity, what matters is that you’re practicing recognition regularly for great work. A little appreciation can go a long way in helping you retain those employees that contribute the most to your organization.