What Can Employers Learn From Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize?

What Can Employers Learn From Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize?

Last week’s announcement that President Barack Obama would receive the Nobel Peace Prize ignited a firestorm of criticism in this country and across the world. Many felt that Obama had not yet achieved sufficient tangible results to warrant receiving the award. Maybe so.

But in rushing to condemn the Nobel Committee, they may be missing the message that Committee was trying to send. It is clear that the it was trying to reward behavior that it saw as positive and to encourage such behavior in the future. Employers do this every day – in pay raises and performance evaluations. But many go much further. Why? Because positive reinforcement works.

How should you go about rewarding and recognizing the employees? Here are five tips:

First, take the time to figure out what type of recognition best motivates each of your employees. Some employees like public recognition, while others value informal pats on the back, personal gifts, or social activities.

Second, make the recognition timely. Just as inappropriate behavior should be corrected immediately, excellent behavior should be rewarded promptly. Don’t delay in recognizing employees’ achievements.

Third, tailor the level of the recognition to the performance. An employee who performs well on one day should not be recognized in the same way as the employee who has performed at an exceptional level all year. This can lead to bad feelings on the part of those who have worked the hardest but receive the same reward.

Fourth, encourage your supervisors to seek out and reward good behavior. Give them concrete examples of the kinds of behavior you are trying to encourage and ways that it can be recognized.

Fifth, remember that a heart felt thank you given face to face can be just as powerful as a written memo, a plaque, or a party. As my mom always says, “It’s the thought that counts.”

In sum, recognition, individually tailored and timely offered, is a powerful motivator for employees to achieve excellent performance. If you don’t take your employees for granted, they won’t take their jobs for granted.