Saying Thank You–Creating a Culture of Recognition

by julia.hanigsberg | February 18th, 2014

One of the things employers typically learn when they conduct employee “engagement” surveys (like Ryerson University’s “People First Survey” two years ago) is that employees crave more recognition. We knew this at Ryerson before we even held our survey, which is why we had already launched an extensive recognition and awards program even before we received our survey results. We wanted to be a proactive employer, wanting to demonstrate tangibly to our employees a People First culture. Since that first set of awards, we’ve expanded our program launching newer awards for equity, diversity and inclusion and for leadership as we’ve tweaked the existing program. So are we done?

Arguably, all that, and it was a lot of hard work, was the EASY stuff.

So what’s the hard stuff?

The ultimate recognition culture, part of the ultimate People First culture, isn’t about annual awards, service milestones or performance review. To achieve what your organization truly needs to embrace recognition is to build a culture of gratitude. This isn’t a program, it is an attitude that permeates management and peer interactions. At its simplest, it is ensuring your workplace is one where sincere thanks happen all the time, related to the day to day work that takes place all over by all employees whether at the front line, in operations, or in leadership roles. But cultural change is the epitome of the HARD stuff. As the cliché goes, big ships turn slowly…

So push for the hard stuff. Work to create great programs of formal recognition, but work harder, and model sincere gratitude for the actions of the people all around you every day.

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