So, you have a “reward and recognition” segment planned in your annual general meeting and a “best employee” award for every month? Do you think this is enough for recognizing and appreciating your employees? Employee recognition is much more than a fleeting term included in management books and training. A good manager would know that employee recognition is not just about distributing awards or monetary incentives. It is channelized by genuine interest, honest feedback and a long-term relationship beyond work matters. Let's discuss how employee recognition helps a manager. Why does employee recognition matter for managers? It encompasses ongoing efforts to build an honest relationship of trust between a manager and her employees. When a manager recognizes her employees’ efforts, the employees are more likely to feel connected to the manager and the team. You cannot achieve this level of reliance unless your employees know that you value their work and acknowledge their efforts. Most studies reveal a direct correlation between employee recognition and employees’ happiness. In the words of Richard Branson, a British business magnate, investor, author and former philanthropist I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised. When an employee knows that her work matters for the team, they do not shy away from going an extra mile. Employees are the thread that connects your organizations. They are the hands that help your team achieve its goals and prove your competency as a leader. As a manager, your primary job is to nurture and retain such talent which can catapult your team goals into a success story. And, the first step towards securing your employees’ loyalty begins with recognizing their worth and acknowledging their abilities. Why is employee recognition important for remote employees? When you have remote employees, the need for effective employee recognition becomes all the more important. Especially during the times of Covid-19, a little praise and recognition from their manager can lift an employee’s spirit. When you work with your team in the same office space, it is easier to go up to them and pat their backs. However, the lack of face-to-face connection deprives us of these benefits during remote work. As a result, a remote employee may start feeling under-appreciated and uninspired. Hence, it becomes even more crucial to take extra efforts in making them feel recognized and valued. When they are recognized for the impact of their work, they feel more aligned with the team goal and develop a sense of belonging to the organization. Working from home in their comfort zone may seem like a great perk but nothing can compare to the feeling of being applauded by their leader. In this article, we discuss employee recognition at length and talk about the importance of one on one meetings in making an employee feel appreciated. So, read on as we discover the do’s of employee recognition and how to make them work. What makes employee recognition effective? “Hey Taylor, your weekly report was fantastic this time around. The analysis was accurate and to the point - especially the addition of charts made it simple and effective. Thank you for taking care of extra details and keep up the good work.” The above statement is a great example of what an effective employee recognition looks like. While it looks simple, it requires considering certain points to deliver a statement that helps employees feel recognized. Here’s what you need to keep in mind to ensure that your employee recognition efforts are effective 1Be regular As stated above, you need to be regular with employee recognition. Giving an award once a year doesn’t help in creating an environment of trust and value-exchange. In fact, it may seem formal and forceful. You don't want your employee to feel like Tina! When you recognize an employee regularly, they know that you’re paying attention to their work and truly recognize their hard work. 2Be specific Saying "good job"may make an employee feel great temporarily. However, saying “hey, nice work on the presentation’s graphics” tells an employee that you followed their presentation earnestly and appreciate the details they toiled over. It is more effective and encourages them to continue putting the same efforts. Thus, you need to dig deeper into their work and find what made it stand out. 3Be spontaneous Receiving praise for a job well done immediately after it is over is a different kind of a high for an employee. Their hard work is fresh in their mind and their manager’s appreciation helps them in realizing that it was worth it. Recognition delayed is recognition denied! If you wait for too long to recognize their efforts, its impact will lower down. This is why it is advised to appreciate your employees regularly, especially in the one on one meetings. Why are one on one meetings a great idea for employee recognition? One on one meetings are meant for a manager to give ample amounts of time to each of her employees. They help in building a relationship that goes beyond workplace requirements and transnational nature. One on one meetings add a human touch to your communication with your employees and cultivate empathy. They’re also a great space to praise your employee and appreciate their work due to many reasons. Here’s why you should include employee appreciation in your next one on one meeting. 1Personalized discussion A one one meeting provides a space where a manager can get to know her employees on an individual level. In a general meeting or scenario, you wouldn’t get a chance to speak more about a single employee and would appreciate the team efforts more. In a one on one meeting, you can focus on their singular performance and its highlights rather than speaking in generalized terms. 2Opportunity to get into details Praise is an outcome of extraordinary efforts and continuous hard work. During a one on one meeting, you can be more specific with your compliments and explain how an individual employees’ behaviour has benefited the team goals. You can discuss the hows’ and why’s of good behaviour and inspire your employees to practice them in future. 3Regular occurrence A one on one meeting is a regular part of a manager’s calendar. You don’t have to find a special time in your schedule to discuss your direct report’s good performance. You can include it in your one on one meetings’ agenda and dedicate some time to its discussion. 8 ideas for employee recognition during one on one meetings 1Give positive feedback Giving feedback is the easiest idea for employee recognition. It tells your direct report that their work is significant enough to be evaluated and discussed. Remote employees, especially, look forward to positive feedback as it is their only way to assess how they’ve been doing at their work. However, it is more than saying “good job” in a zoom meeting or giving a thumbs up while you pass by them in the hallway. Positive feedback which comprises productive and meaningful actionable insights can lead to the adoption of the right behaviour. This kind of feedback would require a detailed discussion between you and your direct report. One on one meetings are the perfect spot for you to give feedback to your employees. As it is an individual meeting, you can tell each of your direct reports what part of their performance stood out and what made it better. If you’re unsure about how to give feedback in a manner that it drives better performance. Here are a few real-life examples- \t \t \tWhen an employee performs better than usual “Hey, your performance was exceptional last week and it helped us in exceeding our target by 40%. How did you do it? Did you try something new? \tWhen an employee executes a task out of her comfort zone “You were really good at the presentation yesterday. I know that you shy away from public speaking and I really appreciate that you decided to give it a go. Especially the way that you gave examples made the presentation more interesting” \tWhen an employee sets the right examples for behaviour “ We really appreciated the way you asked everyone’s opinion while moderating the conversation. Teamwork has always been our core value and your gesture was a great example of that. Thank you.” 2Boost morale with positive conversation Busy schedules and approaching deadlines leave little or no time for meaningful conversations between a manager and her direct report. Our conversations either revolve around correcting behaviour or discussing technical aspects. However, if used thoughtfully, a positive conversation can become your go-to ideas for employee recognition. A conversation involving details of an employee’s behaviour and performance can be of great help to boost morale. Now, there’s only one way to ensure that you indulge in the right conversations with your direct reports - one on one meetings. One on one meetings are designed to encourage deeper conversations with a positive outlook between a manager and her direct report. You have more time to focus on every individual and drive them to right behaviour by stimulating their triggers. Let’s look at a real-life example of starting a positive conversation - Dina handles a team of 10 sales associates and is responsible for their performance. She notices that one of her direct reports, Bryan, has converted a few good leads this week. In her next one on one meeting with him, she decides to concentrate on this aspect. She asks him, “your efforts were tremendous this week. We all are so proud of you. What helped you be the star this week? What do you think is going right?”. Here’s how this conversation helped her make this conversation positive and fruitful - \t \t \tIt had praise and recognition for the employee. \tIt told him that the team has noticed his efforts. \tIt made him ponder upon the external factors that led him to success. A positive conversation helps a direct report feel valued, recognized and drives him to identify his support for a good performance. 3Give them opportunities Nothing makes an employee feel recognized than getting the right opportunities in their workplace. When you offer more opportunities to your direct report, you inadvertently recognize their skills and potential to grow. When employees work from home, they become unsure about where their career is going. Talking to them about growth opportunities can help them get reassurance about their work. These opportunities could range from suggesting them the right learning programs to giving them a bigger role in a project. If these learning opportunities are personalized, they become even more encouraging. In a one on one meeting, you can discuss each employee’s aspiration and learning curve. Through detailed conversations, you can help them in choosing what’s good for their growth. When most ideas for employee recognition fall flat, carving fruitful opportunities help in engaging employees. Here’re some real-life examples to help you make better opportunities for your direct report in a one on one meeting - \t \t \tWhen you see potential in an employee “Hey, I have been noticing that you’re great at analytical reporting. Do you know about this online course which can help you get professional expertise in the same field?” \tWhen you want a direct report to get more responsibility “Hey, your support has helped me a lot in this project. There’s a new project coming up, would you have time to join me on it?” \tWhen you want your direct report to become to be more visible in the organization “Our annual meeting is coming up. I have noticed that you’re great at team activities. Why don’t you join the organization committee?” \tExpress interest in your employees’ professional development and growth Studies reveal that most employees cite a lack of growth and career development opportunities as the top reason for leaving a job. In fact, most millennials consider career development as an essential factor to select an organization. Lack of interest in a direct report’s career development could lead them to think that their work is not given the importance it deserves. As a manager, it becomes your responsibility to make employee development a priority. If your team has remote employees, employee development can become your arsenal to retain them. Most managers end up taking remote employees’ growth lightly and it leads to their disengagement and increased attrition rate. We understand that career conversations are not easy. They require more time, personalized space and more than one meeting. That is why it is advised to keep professional development as one of the main agenda for your one on one meetings. During one on one meetings, you get to know the long-term plan an employee has for himself. You also learn more about their skills, their strengths and can guide them more closely. However, a good discussion about your direct reports’ career requires the right set of questions and probing. Here’s a set of questions for you to begin a discussion about your employee’s career growth in your next one on one meeting - \t \t \t“What future are you looking at in the organization by the end of this year?” \t“What skills do you think would be required to achieve it?” \t“ What do you enjoy the most in your job?” \t“What demonstrated strengths can become your asset in the future?” 4 Ask for their feedback Suppose you have a direct report called Tim. Lately, you’ve been noticing that Tim seems to be losing confidence and has become inactive in the team. You’ve tried giving him the pep talk, and have reassured him about his skills; yet, nothing seems to work. In this situation, what would you do? How would you ensure that an employee feels recognized and starts feeling valuable again? One of the simplest ideas of employee recognition is to ask them for their feedback and opinion. In this case, you could ask Tim to evaluate a task and ask for his feedback on it. This act will help him know that you acknowledge and value his skills enough to ask for his validation. Your gesture of confidence in his talent will reinstate his faith in himself. While you could always ask for their feedback at any time of the day, a one on one meeting is an ideal setup to start this conversation. One on one meetings are private and help in making employees feel confident. They would be able to express themselves with freedom and put forward their real opinion. When they can express themselves and see their opinion being given the right importance, it helps them in feeling recognized. So, next time if you feel your direct report seems lost, ask her for feedback on current projects and prevalent organizational practices. 5 Go beyond regular status updates One on one meetings were conceptualized to help build rapport between a manager and her direct employee. If you want to build a team that goes an extra mile, you need to have a relationship which goes above professional exchanges with your direct reports. Your status updates and information regarding ongoing projects can be left for your regular meetings. In one on one settings, you need to discuss the real person behind your direct report. Your willingness to understand their stance and their ambitions can act as a major motivator and make them feel recognized. In times such as the current pandemic, you need to make yourself even more available for your direct reports. They might be facing multiple issues owing to sudden shifts in work setup and additional responsibilities. In a one on one meeting, you must allow your direct reports to vent out their feelings and assure them your support. While there may be a hundred ideas for employee recognition, all you need in reality is a genuine interest in your direct reports and their journey. Begin your conversations with topics that can help you break the ice. Here are some questions to help you through. \t \t \tStart with a question about their well-being. A “How are you?” asking with an earnest interest can help you start the conversation in a good mood. \tAsk them about their family and share details about your own. \tCollaborate with them on setting the agenda. It will help them to mention important topics to cover. \tShare stories from your career and tell them how they shaped you. \tDiscuss your failures and encourage them not to get disheartened. Pro tip: If you are finding it difficult to gather your thoughts around one on one meeting, you can always take help from an online one on one meetings tool. It can help you in setting agenda, fixing reminders and follow-up actions. Effective One on One Meetings We built a software that automatically schedules, lets you set agenda, take notes, exchange feedback and track actions – all in one place. Try for free 6 Keep some time in every one on one to talk about their accomplishments When an employee walks in their office every day, they bring with themselves a hope to make a difference with their performance. Receiving praise and getting recognized from their seniors boosts their confidence which translates into better results. What makes the praise even better is personalization and details. And there’s only one way a manager can make compliments long and honest - one on one meetings. In a one on one meeting, you can discuss the trivial points which made your direct report perform better. The more specific your praise is, the more valued your direct report will feel. When employees work from home, they live in a constant fear of their work being overshadowed. So, when you discuss their good performance and its minute details, they get reassured of their work’s value in the organization. Thus, keeping some time aside to discuss the progress in a one on one meeting is crucial for meaningful employee recognition. Here’s how you can start discussing your employees’ progress in a one on one meeting- Suppose you have a direct report called Tina and she’s become much better at preparing excel reports. During your one on one meeting, you can start the conversation about this topic in the following manner - “ hey, I noticed that your reports are crisper now. Have you learned new tricks?” This statement will act as praise, help them feel recognized and inspire them to put more effort. 7 Set small targets for your employees Right goals are important for an employee to know how her career is shaping up and is aligned with the company’s objectives. According to research, only 14% of employees understand their company’s strategies and direction. When an employee knows the importance of her role in the organization, she feels engaged and motivated. As a manager, it is your responsibility to help them envision the importance of their task in the bigger picture. The best time to do that is in a one on one meeting where you can explain how their performance adds up to the efficiency of the team goal. During a one on one meeting, you can help them set achievable goals for themselves so that they know where their career is headed. Knowing that their manager is interested in their goals brings about an immense feeling of recognition and value. Thus, ensure that your next one on one meeting has time kept aside for discussing goals for your direct reports. 8 Express gratitude Sometimes, it just takes a small but genuine “thank you” to make an employee feel immensely appreciated and recognized. The power of these two simple words have a ripple effect and it shows on direct reports’ morale, enthusiasm and proactiveness. An expression of gratitude shows that the organization cares about them and values their hard work. In fact, expressing gratitude can be a great way to start your one on one meeting. It can steer the conversation towards your direct report’s strength and positive aspects. The main purpose of a one on one meeting is to keep employees engaged. And showing gratitude directly impacts an employee’s engagement, morale and happiness quotient. Saying “thank you” can even help you change your direct reports mood in a jiffy. Let us show you by an example - Suppose you’ve an employee named Rob in your team. He has been working long hours in a project as another member of your team had to take a sick leave. The work pressure is quite visible on his demeanour and he seems to be losing morale. Here’s how you can make him feel better by recognizing his extra efforts - Start your one on one meeting with the following statements - \t \t \t“Firstly, I need to thank you for giving your all to this project. We wouldn’t have reached this stage without you. \t“Hey, the management is extremely grateful to you for pitching in. You have set an example for others.” Wrapping up Employee recognition begins the day a manager starts treating each direct report like her mentee and lets them open up to her. Employee recognition begins when a manager ensures that her one on one meetings are productive and contribute to the growth of an employee. One on one meetings are your most effective tool to help employees feel valued, cared for and listened to. All you need to do is take an honest interest in an employee’s well-being and rest assured - you won’t need a list of ideas for employee recognition. PS: Read the full guide to employee engagement for remote managers HERE.