Is there anything worse than having to beg for recognition?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into this issue with coaching clients and within organizations. It comes in many forms: Star performers who aren’t being compensated fairly or who deserve a pay increase but haven’t gotten one; employees who are clearly ready for their next challenge or role, but are being kept in a position because they’re “good at it”; or highly engaged employees who are looking for flexibility or special accommodations and aren’t being considered because it’s against company policy. 

These are the types of recognition that can make or break an employee’s work experience. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s critical for leadership to recognize and reward deserving employees proactively. This boosts morale, engagement and productivity. When these star employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to remain motivated and committed to their roles. 

And it’s not just about handing out bonuses or perks; it’s about acknowledging hard work and dedication in a timely and meaningful way. 

I always encourage leaders to think about things like extra time off or flexible working arrangements, which can be very impactful. Then there are more tangible rewards like bonuses, pay raises, wellness funds, or professional development opportunities that also show an immense level of appreciation and that the company is invested in the employees’ wellbeing and growth. 

Let’s look at why it’s so critical to reward employees before they ask:

1. It boosts morale and engagement: First, we have to talk about morale. Employees who receive recognition for their work are generally more satisfied with their jobs. This satisfaction translates into higher morale and engagement. When an employee is rewarded without having to ask, it sends a strong message that the organization values their contributions and appreciates their efforts. When employees have to fight for recognition, it sends the opposite message–which may or may not be accurate. Recognizing your star performers promotes loyalty and retention. These are the employees you want to keep around–I’ve seen firsthand how costly and disruptive losing talent can be. (It’s usually a lot less expensive to reward them than to replace them!)

2. It creates a positive work culture: Creating a culture of appreciation and recognition is like planting seeds in fertile soil. A positive work environment where employees feel valued often builds workplaces that are more collaborative and supportive. Not only that, but when other employees see friends and colleagues being rewarded for their hard work and contributions, it demonstrates that excellence is noticed and celebrated. This type of positivity is contagious, and I’ve seen it have incredible effects on organizations over the years. 

3. It can make your business more productive: Have you seen what a reward can do for an employee? It’s one of the most effective motivators out there. When employees believe their hard work will be noticed (and appreciated, most importantly), they are more likely to go above and beyond in their roles. This type of increased effort can lead to greater productivity and better overall performance. 

4. It can prevent burnout: This is such a big one! Ever since the pandemic, stress and burnout have become two of the biggest threats to organizations and their star performers. But you know what’s a great antidote to both? Rewards and recognition! When employees feel appreciated, they are less likely to experience the negative effects of job stress. Knowing that their hard work or extra hours are being noticed (and rewarded) can provide a significant emotional boost, helping to manage stress more effectively and maintain a healthy dose of work-life wisdom. 

5. It can benefit your brand: You know what consumers, clients and customers love? Brands that treat their employees well. Just look at Costco and Patagonia. A company that appreciates and rewards its employees creates brand advocates, which in turn, develops brand equity and affinity. Whether you’re trying to attract new employees, clients or customers, a positive reputation helps. 

Rewarding employees before they ask is not just a nice-to-have; it’s a critical component of thriving organizations. I’ve seen how this approach not only benefits the employees but also drives the overall success and growth of the company. When you cultivate an environment where recognition is a given, you’re setting the stage for a happier, more motivated and more productive team–what kind of leader doesn’t want that? 

What do you think? Have you worked for someone who rewarded hard work before you had to ask? Join me on LinkedIn and let’s continue the conversation. 

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