Does Recognition Really Matter?

THE CHALLENGE/OPPORTUNITY: How To Create a Culture that Expresses Appreciation When It Matters Most

Recently, as part of work I was doing with a Big Four accounting firm, I interviewed each member of a large engagement team. Our discussions focused on how the firm helped them achieve their career aspirations and what kept them energized and committed to the firm goals. The responses of one staff person stood out in my mind. She had been with the firm about three years — a critical retention milestone.

When I asked her what motivated her to stay with the firm, she pulled out a note card from the portfolio she carried. On it was a handwritten message from a partner who was her mentor. Last year, she had been working on a big project for a very demanding client and deadlines were tight. “The partner took the time during this intense project to tell me how much he appreciated my commitment and dedication. It made me feel so important to the team and the firm.”

Research by the National Association of Employee Recognition indicates that 78% of employees expect to be recognized when they do something well.

If we asked your employees about the most memorable recognition they received at your firm, what would they tell us? Would they recall something in the past year, six months, 90 days?

THE SOLUTION: Make It Part of Doing Business In Simple, Sincere and Timely Ways

While elaborate award ceremonies may come to mind, when you think of recognition, research illustrates that the most memorable recognition is often simple and cost-effective. In fact, every time a manager or partner communicates there is an opportunity to reinforce desired behaviors.

What Would a Recognition Audit Reveal?

Use the list below to do a quick audit of your recognition practices. Check off the strategies you use to create a culture that recognizes the “right behaviors.” You may also want to get feedback from a sample of partners or top performers. Which approaches do they value most? Recognition has the greatest impact when it is designed with the recipient’s preferences in mind. Then develop action plans to ensure these strategies or others you identify get put into practice first.

  • A timely performance review where the employee does most of the talking and leaders ask thoughtful questions about their aspirations and goals.
  • Receiving a handwritten note from a partner or senior leader that is specific and sincere.
  • Impromptu “out of the office” meetings at a place (a coffee house, golf, etc.) the individual or team values when a significant goal or milestone is achieved.
  • Recognizing a significant professional accomplishment in the firm’s newsletter (e.g. passing the Bar, CPA, CFA, or other exams).
  • Posting and mentioning positive client feedback across the firm.
  • Making a contribution to a favorite charity of a member who went above and beyond performance expectations.
  • Having the managing partner or practice leader show up at a team or staff meeting (especially in the field) to present a special recognition to an individual or team.
  • Creating ways for peers to give meaningful recognition (e.g. award nominations, 360 degree feedback, etc.).

Creating a culture where everyone recognizes value-added contributions demands focus and clarity about behaviors you want to reward. Superficial notes or gestures undermine relationships and are worse than doing nothing at all.

YOUR NEXT STEPS: Talk to Congruence, Inc.

Call Congruence, Inc. or email Jan to learn more about Achieving Results on Purpose and for new ideas on how to implement recognition practices that matter to your best professionals.