At the Michigan Recruiter’s Conference last week I got into a side conversation with a TA leader who had her team at the event. She was talking about motivating and recognizing her team, and that it seemed to be more difficult with younger generations versus the Gen Xers she has managed in the past. I told her I wasn’t sure it was generational, but I had a couple of examples of recognition I thought might work for her.
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 afterward 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, handwritten to these employee’s 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. End of letter. 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 (HR), believing something bad must have happened, so I took the call. I spoke with a man in his mid-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 of their son.
Later, the employee also came into 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 handwritten 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 talked about that moment all the time! 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.