Talent Tips: Onboarding Recognition

Place the focus on giving recognition on Day 1 by having new employees express appreciation to someone who helped them during their first few days on the job.

By Roy Saunderson

Most orientation and onboarding programs are manager-initiated or online portal-delivered sets of steps, policies and procedures, and general ground rules to function on the job. Whether it is health and safety guidelines, learning the full benefits package, taking assigned online learning presentations, or signing off on required Human Resources documents, it can turn into a lot of information cramming and a check-box mentality of task completion.

There are lost opportunities when onboarding is not used as a loyalty-boosting retention strategy right from the beginning to engage employees the first day they start on the job. All it takes is some careful planning and synchronizing with all of the company’s engagement initiatives—recognition giving being just one of those components.

Too often recognition and rewards is seen as purely something the employee receives. Our recommendation is to turn that attitude around and make recognition about what each new employee can give.

Here are some ways to take a different orientation toward recognition giving:

What We Stand For

Your culture must drive recognition giving. Instead of listing the corporate vision, mission, and values statements in rote format in a PowerPoint slide or handing it out on a laminated card, have new employees hear live shared or video-captured content from employees telling stories demonstrating how other employees are living the values of their organization.

Often, it’s difficult to get your head around the values of an organization in terms of what they mean or what living them looks like. By sharing examples from the lives of employees within the company, it’s easier to know what to recognize when you see it.

Make sure your values lead people to action—giving recognition is just one of those positive actions that should come from them.

Tell Them What Recognition Means

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor, gave a succinct quote that helps to define recognition when she said, “Compensation is a right; recognition is a gift.”

Too often we lump recognition and rewards together, and employees don’t know the difference between the two. Rewards are much more transactional in nature and follow an “if-then” criteria: If you do this task in a certain time line or set of criteria, then you will receive this reward or incentive. Rewards are conditional upon task completion.

Recognition, on the other hand, depends on the relationship between the giver and receiver and truly is “a gift.” While often hoped for, recognition does not automatically occur. Recognition is about relationships.

Knowing what a company means by giving recognition is a great start to appreciating the wonderful things that go on behind the scenes at work.

Practicing Recognition Giving

In our attempt to orient completely, we may introduce employees to our wonderful “recognition” programs. Some programs provide an opportunity to nominate peers for awards, which may have certain levels or currency of points associated with an award. Other programs are manager initiated for living corporate values or completing certain strategic initiatives aligned with the business goals. The focus is more on what the employee can receive.

Why not change the focus and place it on giving recognition and having new employees practice the fine art of expressing appreciation to someone who helped them during their first few days on the job? Teach employees to give meaningful recognition through social recognition platforms, existing in-house recognition programs, or a handwritten thank you card.

At the end of each day, former Campbell’s Soup Company CEO Doug Conant took a half-hour to write at least 10 notes of appreciation to employees for contributions he had observed or been informed about.

Be sure to build time into your onboarding to have employees access your recognition portal or give them a thank you card and send words of appreciation to truly instill a recognition-giving mindset.

Demonstrate Authentic Appreciation

Instilling Real Recognition starts right from the top. A Wirthlin Worldwide survey of CEOs and Human Resources vice presidents found 89 percent of respondents said “senior leader participation” was the leading factor for success of any recognition program.

While many onboarding sessions now are conducted by the hiring manager, don’t lose out on the chance for new employees to connect with senior leaders in a small, informal, and intimate forum. Ensure each leader doesn’t just make a presentation but has the opportunity to be introduced to new employees and can chat with them and learn of their aspirations and goals with the company. Real Recognition is about appreciating people for who they are and recognizing them for what they do.

Imagine if, following the onboarding sessions, those senior leaders made time to send a personalized note to the employees they met, referenced their conversation together, and invited them to reach out to the leader any time they had an idea to suggest or a question to ask.

Recognition is a felt phenomenon and must be experienced in order to become a way of life in our organizations. Why not make recognition giving an expectation on Day 1 of your onboarding?

Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and president of the Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right.” Its focus is on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit http://www.RealRecognition.com.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.