Today I wanted to talk about the importance of recognising the achievements and accomplishments of your employees. It’s one of those areas that is paid a tremendous amount of lip service – surveys have shown that if you ask managers whether they consider recognition an important part of their role, a very high proportion of them respond that they do. But when you probe further and look into what they are actually doing to recognise their employees’ achievements, the evidence isn’t there that they are delivering.

Research conducted by Gallup has shown that employees’ motivation and engagement are strongly affected by how often they receive recognition for their achievements. So not only is recognition important, but it should be delivered regularly to be effective.

Also research has shown that employees don’t necessarily need huge tokens to recognise their accomplishments. According to the excellent book by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton: “The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance” (Free Press 2007), employees are motivated by “many simple but powerful actions” – notes, memos, public praise, a simple tap on the shoulder and a thank you for good performance. There are four kinds of praise – personal, written, public and electronic. All of them are free to produce, but hugely valuable to the recipient.

Saying that, the same research also shows that effective recognition has to be appropriate to the achievement. So if someone has achieved something really spectacular – achieving a six month long project saving the company a fortune, for example, then giving them the same level of recognition as someone who perhaps worked through a lunchtime on one occasion won’t hit the mark. So you need to tailor the recognition to the magnitude of the achievement.

Also it’s good to make sure the way you recognise the individual reflects their own personal interests. Cash bonuses may mean less to one person than to another; someone else might be motivated by an entirely different form of recognition. Recognition needs to be fresh, relevant and sincere and also timely – a “thank you” months too late is almost worse than none at all, as it may feel like a token gesture.

The reason I’m focusing on this at the moment is that we’re coming into our sales conference weekend. We have one per quarter and it’s a hugely motivational experience every single time. We bring together all our team and have working sessions on how to take the business forward as well as training sessions with both internal trainers and external speakers. We also have a black tie drinks party and an Oscars type ceremony where effort and achievement are publically rewarded. It’s such an important part of Peninsula’s calendar and I never fail to be impressed at the levels to which our staff go the extra mile for the company. Such accomplishments should be acknowledged.

Whether you’re a big company or a small company, there are many ways to recognise and acknowledge your staff’s achievements and efforts. They don’t need to cost a lot but they can make a huge difference to your staff’s motivation. It’s an essential but often overlooked part of management.