ECEC sector staff are so busy that employee recognition is often put on the back burner. There are some compelling reasons to focus attention on employee recognition.
Employees who feel appreciated:
- Often go above and beyond what is expected of them
- Are more productive and motivated
- Are more likely to stay with the organization
Employee recognition lets employees know that their hard work is valued. It doesn't have to cost anything, it can be done in less than five minutes and the results can have a lasting impact.
Employee recognition is the acknowledgement of an individual or team's behaviour, effort and accomplishments that support the organization's goals and values. Recognition is not one-size-fits all. Thought needs to go into what would be appreciated by the person being recognized. Ask your employees how they would like to be appreciated.
Employee recognition needs to be a common practice in your organization. For the greatest effect, incorporate recognition as a normal aspect of day-to-day life in your workplace.
Employees can be recognized for both individual and group achievements. When recognizing a group of individuals, it is important for each person to be distinguished for their own contribution. Group recognition contributes to team building and informs the group that together, they are valuable to the organization.
To be effective, employee recognition must be sincere and heartfelt. Employees will sense if their efforts are acknowledged only out of duty or if comments are lacking in sincerity. Acknowledgement of effort and accomplishments must be timely in order to be effective. Remember that each person has their own preferences for how they want to be recognized – what one employee appreciates could be a real turn-off for someone else.
Remember that recognition can be either formal or informal. Formal initiatives can be put in place on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis, with informal recognition taking place when it is merited.
Keys for giving positive feedback to employees:
Recognition expert Bob Nelson gives the following guidelines for day-to-day recognition:
'ASAP Cubed' Guidelines:
- As Soon – Timing is important; don't delay praise
- As Sincere – Do it because you're truly appreciative
- As Specific – Give details of the achievement
- As Personal – Do it in person (or a handwritten note)
- As Positive – Don't mix in criticism
- As Proactive – Don't wait for perfect performance
There are endless ways to recognize employees. The following are informal employee recognition ideas for managers. Employee recognition must be designed to conform to your workplace culture and to the needs and interests of the individuals. Some of these suggestions may or may not fit all workplace cultures or individuals.
Based on recognition ideas from Bob Nelson and The National Association for Employee Recognition (see Links and Resources below).
In addition to informal recognition of employees, some organizations may wish to set up a more formal recognition program. These types of programs can take many forms and recognize various types of accomplishments. The following are basic steps for developing a formal recognition program:
Note: Many ECEC employers have a small number of staff. Therefore, anything that requires setting up a committee or planning group may be difficult to accomplish.
This group could take the lead in asking other staff what they would like to see recognized and how. They may wish to develop a short survey to get everyone's input.
With the competition for talent and retention issues, a newer trend is to recognize length of service before the five-year mark.
Employees are different and what might retain one employee might not retain another. For example, new graduates may prefer “cash” (i.e. a higher salary), while older employees may value a pension plan or RRSP. Employees planning a family may value the opportunity to enrol their children in the child care program, while older employees may value the opportunity to work part-time as they ease into retirement. Executive directors need to pay attention to changing demographics and create initiatives that reflect their staffing complement.
Examples of formal recognition programs
Below are examples of formal employee recognition programs including both individual and group recognition:
The Catholic Family Counseling Centre in Kitchener holds the "Cathy Awards" each year near the time of the Oscars. The awards are named after the executive director, Cathy Brothers. The director of communications designs a list of categories for awards, some humorous and some kind, related to things that are important to the employees, for example, "most compassionate therapist." All employees vote in advance on who should receive the awards. On the night of the awards, staff and their partners are invited to a casual beer and pizza supper at the agency. All costs are covered by the agency. Before new awards are announced, guests view a PowerPoint presentation showing all the previous award winners. This adds to the fun and has a way of making everyone feel included. The awards given out are plaques with a picture of an Oscar with the executive director's head on it. A picture of the winner's head is also on the award, superimposed over a comical body along with a description of the award.
The Ann Davis Transition Society in British Columbia has developed a number of ways of recognizing employees. Bobbi Jacob, the executive director, writes a personal note of acknowledgement to any employee who has done something terrific. The organization also has a Ground Hog Day Pancake breakfast held at the home of the executive director. She provides and cooks breakfast for all employees. The Ann Davis Transition Society also has a strategy for celebrating birthdays: each employee assumes the responsibility for another employee's birthday, including cake and card.
Women's Resources in Lindsay, Ontario has a number of ways of recognizing employees. Staff birthdays are celebrated, usually with cake, flowers and a gift. A “secret sister” game is played around Christmas where each staff person draws the name of another staff person out of a hat and then buys her small gifts during the three weeks leading up to Christmas. A Christmas luncheon is then held where everyone tries to guess the identity of her “secret' sister” and exchanges a larger Christmas gift. The “secret sister” then goes on to organize her “sister's” birthday celebration that year.
Abbotsford Community Services in Abbotsford, British Columbia has a Wellness Circle made up of a cross section of staff, supervisors and managers. Several events are held for employees throughout the year and these include everything from a "Soup for the Soul" luncheon to feel-good activities such as hand massages, head massages, Reiki and chocolate fondue.
- You Can Make Their Day: Five Tips for the Leader about Building Employee Motivation and Morale at Work by Susan M. Heathfield
- Nelson Motivation Inc. Recognition Resources by Bob Nelson
- Best Practices – Alberta Child Care Ventures
Bloom, Paula Jorde (1997). A Great Place to Work: Improving conditions for staff in young children’s programs. New Horizons Books.
Bloom, Paula Jorde (2005). Blueprint for Action: Achieving Center-Based Change Through Staff Development (2nd. Ed.) New Horizons Books.
Nelson, Bob (1994). 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.