August 31, 2016

How to Praise Your Employees Effectively


Employee recognition or praising your employees for a job well done sounds like a pretty simple concept, doesn’t it? Every good boss has a natural impulse to heap praise on his or her staff members when they are doing a great job, but the employee recognition process is a very nuanced one; it’s not all black and white.

Believe it or not, there are incorrect and detrimental ways of praising your staff. And there are many questions that need to be answered within the process itself. What type of achievements do you praise? Can you praise one member of your team without praising the others? Should praise be doled out in a public or private setting?

Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to praise your employees.

Why is Employee Recognition Important

Offering praise to your employees is all about recognition. Most workers thrive on feeling appreciated. As an employee, knowing that what you are doing means something to your boss and to the entire business gives you a feeling of worth and it can motivate you to continue to get better at what you do.

When someone praises you, there is a chemical reaction that takes place in your brain. According to research, a burst of dopamine is released in your brain when you are being praised. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is linked to feelings such as pride, satisfaction and happiness.

Also, the happier your employees are working for you, the more engaged and productive they will be. Receiving praise is empowering. It doesn’t cost you anything to congratulate and praise your staff. However, not giving them credit when and where credit is deserved can cost you big time.

Positive reinforcement and praise can have a huge effect on employee retention. Offering regular praise to your staff is one of the key things you need to do if you are trying to combat employee turnover, and we’re certain that you are. Who isn’t?

Losing and then having to replace your staff members can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in salary and training. According to this survey, companies that have a system in place for recognizing employee achievements and success tend to have a turnover rate that is 30 percent smaller than companies who don’t.

This same survey says that you probably think you’re offering praise to your staff on a regular basis, but that most employees do not share your opinion on that matter. Up to 80 percent of senior management believe that they are offering praise to their employees at least once a month, while only about 22 percent of employees agree with that assessment.

The conclusions you should arrive to from looking at these statistics is that you’re probably not doing a good enough job of employee recognition and that praising your employees properly isn’t as simple of an action as you may have thought it was.

employee recognition

Why You Might Be Overthinking It

If you’re running a business or managing a larger group of employees, there’s a good chance that the simple notion of praising an employee sets off a wide range of questions in your head.

There’s a good chance that you automatically start thinking about the effects that the praise will have on the employee to whom you are offering kudos and to the rest of the staff around them.

Am I praising one person too often?

How do I distribute praise evenly?

How can I praise my employees often without making it sound contrived?

If I praise employees too much will they demand raises? Will they rest on their laurels?

There’s a lot to think about, but at the same time, over-analyzing the process could make it harder than it really needs to be. Praise needs to be natural and regular. You don’t have to wait for one of your employees to reinvent the wheel before commending them.

If you’re running your business with a keen and caring eye, then you shouldn’t have a problem noticing and praising all of the little things that your employees do in order to help your business prosper and grow.

The Effects of Employee Recognition

If you’re afraid that praising one person is going to cause some type of conflict or lead to disputes at work as a result of jealousy being projected by other employees, then you’re already doing it wrong.

If you’re praising one person, does that mean you’re scolding the rest? Of course not. If you’re worried about this, then there’s a good chance that you are doing a poor job of distributing praise equally.

As mentioned previously, employee recognition should be given in small doses and often. If you’re doing your job right, then you should be able to notice small things that all of your employees are doing well on a week to week basis.

If you are giving out regular praise to your entire team, you are building a culture that thrives off positive reinforcement. Before you know it, your employees will be doing the same – spreading praise among themselves in a very natural and nurturing way. It’s your job to set the example.

“Praise” and “Feedback” Are Not Synonyms

The process of offering praise to your employees on a regular basis and the standard feedback process are two entirely different things. Giving praise is something that should be much more casual while feedback and employee evaluations need to be more rigorous and defined.

Also, just because you are giving praise on a regular basis, doesn’t mean that you can’t combine it with some negative criticism. According to research done by the Harvard Business Review, the golden ratio for keeping your employees motivated should be five positive statements of encouragement for every one negative.

At the same time, creating a culture in which you openly praise and criticize your team on a daily basis doesn’t mean that you should be throwing your employee evaluation process out the window – they are two separate concepts.

The process of performing employee reviews is much more structured. It’s a process that usually takes place once or twice a year during which you have a detailed sit-down with each employee and go over not only what they are doing well and not so well, but also what they and you can do to help correct their mistakes and inspire them to achieve their potential.

Ideally, the two processes should coexist and compliment each other.

employee recognition

Best Practices

Praising your team is obviously not an exact science. It depends a lot on your work culture and the type of relationships you have with your staff. However, here are some tips to follow that work for pretty much any situation.

Make It Personal

There’s nothing wrong with praising employees in front of the rest of the staff, but making it more personal always leaves a greater effect. If you’ve ever received an email or a text message from your boss telling you that you’ve done a great job, you probably still remember that moment pretty vividly.

That personal touch makes the praise more valuable and sincere. The fact that you took some time out of your schedule to personally commend an employee makes all the difference in the way in which they perceive the praise and respond to it.

Make It a Team Effort

As mentioned previously, it’s up to you to create a culture in which praising your coworkers is an everyday and natural thing. The Deloitte study mentioned earlier finds that even though praise from managers and employers is important, employees tend to respond even better to recognition from their peers.

These are the people who are working closely with you every day and the people who understand best how much effort you are putting in. That’s why praise between employees is usually much more relevant and powerful.

One of the biggest reasons managers need to give praise is so that they can foster and encourage a work culture in which employees praise each other, which should inevitably lead to the development of a stronger and more collaborative workforce.

Help Them Develop

Giving employees praise on a regular basis will not make them slack off, it will actually do the opposite. Employees who feel appreciated and are being commended for positive contributions will continue to work hard. Employee recognition usually motivates employees to keep developing and overachieving.

Another common fear is that if you keep praising all your employees, you’re going to have a situation in which your entire staff is constantly asking for raises as a result of performing well. That very unlikely to happen as well.

Believe it or not, there’s a number of things that motivate employees to achieve much more effectively than the prospect of making more money. One of these is professional development.

Praise doesn’t always have to be strictly verbal. You can show your employees that they are doing a good job by helping them get better at it. Invest in the development of your employees. Offer them training, become a mentor, ask them what their goals are and help them reach those goals.

Be Specific

The more detailed your praise is, the more effective it will be. Don’t just tell everyone they are doing a good job, tell them explicitly what it is that they are doing well. The more specific you are about what it is that your employees are doing well, the more powerful the compliment will be.

Giving out detailed praise also enables your employees to understand what it is they are doing well and figuring out what they need to improve on. If you are constantly praising their performance in one aspect of their jobs but not saying anything positive about other aspects, they will quickly figure out what it is that they need to focus on improving.