Magazine article Management Today

The Rewards of Recognition

Magazine article Management Today

The Rewards of Recognition

Article excerpt

Last year, Geraldine Manning, a senior customer services assistant with Abbey National, was working late on a regular basis. Three or four nights a week, she would stay back for a couple of hours a night, reading course notes to one of her colleagues, Graham Salmon, a blind mortgage adviser, who was working towards a promotion. It was an extraordinary act of service both to Salmon and to the company, and she didn't expect anything in return. 'I did it because he's a friend,' she says.

But Manning's efforts did not go unnoticed. A year ago Abbey National introduced an employee recognition scheme called 'Bravo' and Manning was put up for -- and won -- its top-level gold award. 'I was really surprised,' she says modestly. 'It's a brilliant award-- you get 20,000 air miles [enough for one return trip to Australia, or two to the Seychelles] and a certificate.' Winners are made a fuss of and presented with their awards at a special ceremony in a hotel. 'I had to go up on stage; it was a bit embarrassing but I did like it,' she says. 'You do feel really special.'

Manning is not alone in appreciating recognition. According to International Survey Research (ISR), a company specialising in employee attitude surveys, 'recognition for good performance' is the third job priority for UK workers after 'being treated with fairness and respect' and 'job security'. Interestingly, observes ISR managing director Roger Maitland, while 70% of people say recognition is 'very important', just 37% are satisfied with the recognition they are getting -- the widest discrepancy among the 12 job priorities polled.

Though the research does not distinguish between private and public recognition -- a quiet thank you or a pat on the back versus a formal recognition scheme -- more and more UK companies are adopting the latter approach. The notion that it just isn't 'British' is outmoded, they argue. Public recognition inspires loyalty and commitment, as well as encouraging better standards of service. We can learn from the experiences of our transatlantic cousins, they say, who've been recognising employees' achievements for years, and have a tangibly better service culture to show for it.

Manning certainly believes Bravo works for Abbey National. 'It does motivate people,' she says. 'If they see someone they know who has won, it makes them think that they can win, too.'

Motivation, moreover, is becoming increasingly important. The introduction of such concepts as total quality management, the prevalence of flatter management structures and corresponding employee empowerment, have all meant that companies are demanding more from employees, while at the same time being unable to offer them what most took for granted -- job security. 'How do you attract better staff and keep them committed when you can't offer them a long-term job?' asks Shaun Tyson, professor of human resources management at Cranfield Business School. As for the notion that public recognition just isn't in the British culture, Tyson has this to say: 'Companies are more upfront about what they're demanding of employees, so there's no reason not to be explicit about rewarding people who show they can do it.'

So what should companies do about recognition? There are two schools of thought, explains Tyson. One is that you just need to say 'thank you' in some sort of formal way, maybe by awarding a certificate or badge. The other is that it's important to have a concrete reward to create an impact.

Peter Stephenson, managing director of Forte Posthouse hotels, believes that reward and recognition should be kept separate. The group runs a recognition scheme whereby staff get 'stars' for achieving certain standards and can be made employee of the week or month, without any further prize or reward. 'It's all about being better than your peers. You see it in people's eyes when they win. It's highly motivating,' he says.

Others disagree. 'I don't think saying "thank you" is enough,' says Nick Edmans, communications manager at Abbey National. …

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