The #1 Employee Recognition Tool of All Time…

Tim Sackett Driving Productivity, Employee Coaching, Tim Sackett

I was reading an article recently about millennials not being cut out for this job market, it was called “Are millennials cut out for this job market” – ironic.  I won’t go into the detail of the article, suffice it to say the author felt that in an ultra-competitive job market, millennials might struggle to find and keep jobs when organizations weren’t handing out trophies for just showing up to work. But I’m not going to pile on…in this post!

Rather, it reminded me of a couple of times when I’ve seen recognition work so well with millennials, I wondered why you don’t see it happen all the time.  The first example happened when I was working in my first HR manager position.  One of the executives I supported had a good, young, enthusiastic worker – a top notch kid who had a great work ethic.  I sat down with this executive and the employee to do their annual performance review. Everything went perfect, as it usually does with that type of employee.  It was what happened afterwards that blew me away.  The executive asked me to get him the address of this employee’s parents.  We knew he thought highly of his folks, and he mentioned them when we gave the employee praise for his performance.

I went back and found the address, the executive drafted a short letter, hand written to this employees parents.  He didn’t tell the employee he was doing this, he just did it.  The executive basically told the parents you should be extremely proud of your child, our organization is lucky to have them, and our organization wants to thank you for raising such a fine person.  Send.

About a week later, I got a call from the front desk. It was the employee’s father, asking the front desk to talk to the executive and telling them they were the father of this employee.  The front desk person called me, believing something bad must have happened, so I took the call.  I spoke with a man in his 50’s who had a hard time holding back tears of pride, thanking me (and our executive) for sharing such a wonderful story and how proud they were.  The employee also came in to my office to thank me for doing this – believing I must have put the executive up to it (it’s an HR touchy-feely thing).  The employee said that they could never imagine a better place to work.  A 3-minute hand written letter = powerful recognition and engagement.

The other example I have is of an experience that happened to me a few years ago. I was working as a director in a large health system, and my mom was in town and came to my office to meet me for lunch.  Being a hospital, she came into the building and walked into the HR office.  I introduced her to some of my team and we were walking out when the head of HR came walking in.  I introduced him, and he shook her hand and said “I want to thank you for sharing Tim with us, he’s an extraordinary individual, and I’m sure you are responsible for that.”  Bam!  My mom still talks about that moment to this day!  I felt pride and respect, and most of all, loyalty to my supervisor for such a gesture.

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be hard, or take a long time, or be a part of a process.  It has to be genuine, in the moment and meaningful.  Too many times we forget this on the organizational front.