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7 employee behaviors that always deserve recognition

3 min read


The popularity of recognition programs designed to motivate specific behaviors has jumped from relative obscurity to the number three recognition priority over the last five years for organizations, according to WorldatWork’s latest Trends in Recognition Report.

You’ve probably heard that the key to building a culture of recognition is reinforcing these specific employee behaviors so they are encouraged to repeat them in the workplace. However that’s sometimes easier said than done, especially if you’re one of the 47% of organizations that don’t have a written strategy for their recognition programs. Here are seven employee behaviors that should always be recognized:

  • Accountability – Manages time effectively, meets deadlines, and achieves established goals and objectives. Assumes responsibility for the actions and decisions of staff, as well as policies and processes. Doesn’t pass the buck.
  • Trust – Is aware of the concerns, aspirations, and circumstances of coworkers, and gives them the benefit of the doubt. Projects confidence and makes informed decisions.
  • Inclusiveness – Treats others with dignity and respect. Demonstrates sensitivity to everyone’s needs, concerns, and opinions. Successfully manages differences in primary language and culture.
  • Teamwork – Understands how individual job tasks responsibilities and projects relate to the departmental goals. Cooperates with others to attain common goals. Shares expertise and facilitates team interactions to achieve objectives.
  • Adaptability – Changes behavior in response to feedback and learns from experience. Functions effectively in uncertain or stressful situations. Responds effectively to multiple demands. Uses discretionary effort to balance priorities.
  • Communication – Communicates clearly and effectively, and actively listens to others. Adjusts communication style to suit different situations and audiences. Responds to situations effectively and creatively.
  • Customer/Quality Focus – Demonstrates consideration, cooperation, and generosity in customer interactions. Acts as a resource for creative problem solving, and establishes the service philosophy of the organization.

All in the timing

The other question is when and how often you should be giving recognition for these behaviors. That answer is easy: as much as you can, every day. A study by Glassdoor found that more than 80% of employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, compared to only 40% who say they work harder when their boss is demanding or they fear losing their job. More than half of the survey participants also said that they would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciation at work.

Immovable culture

To have a deeply embedded recognition culture, managers must be masters of kindness and seize the moments when these behaviors express themselves, and they must do it consistently. Building a workplace culture is much like how a mason builds a brick wall – it takes slow, concentrated effort, with each layer of bricks building on the previous layer over time to create a strong foundation until it becomes an immovable object.

Cord Himelstein is vice president of marketing and communications at Michael C. Fina.

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