In a previous position, I was responsible for ensuring that the proper safety training was completed for a large department within a large company. I didn’t necessarily perform the training itself, so much as serve as a liaison between the people who needed the training and the people who offered the training. In other words, I had to make sure the right butts were in the right seats.
One day, my colleague who was responsible for offering the training came to me and said, “Man, your department is like vultures. As soon as I put something on the calendar, they scoop up the seats.”
Taking this as a compliment, I wanted to pass along the kudos to the person responsible for scooping up all those seats. Her name is Nikki, and she took it as a compliment, too. She was proud to be called a vulture, because it meant she was doing her job and someone noticed.
It didn’t matter that her actions were being compared to a roadkill-clearing scavenger, what mattered was that there was an acknowledgement, a recognition for what she had accomplished. She may have been toiling away quietly at her desk, doing her job to the best of her ability and hoping it was creating a positive outcome. And then someone noticed and they cared enough to mention it. And Nikki started scooping up the seats even faster!
I ran across a similar example from some friends in a call center environment. The goal was efficient calls and resolution, and each call was timed. The person with shortest call time average got a little Hot Wheels race car to put on their desk. The person with the longest call time average got a little toy turtle. They said you would not believe the buzz and friendly competition that erupted in the center because everyone wanted that car and no one wanted the turtle.
I think we can sometimes get too wrapped up in WHAT or even HOW we are going to recognize an achievement (before it even happens) that we lose sight of WHY we are recognizing. I think the vulture status was motivating to Nikki because it was directly related to something specific she had done.
And WHY do we recognize? Because we want people to know that they are doing the right thing so they will keep doing it. The folks at the call center increased efficiency and satisfaction because they wanted a little toy car on their desk. Bragging rights.
So before you go planning an elaborate (and expensive) recognition and reward plan, remember what people really want (and what will influence behavior):
- Acknowledgement – they need to know that way they did meant something to someone.
- Sincerity – the acknowledgement has to be real, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to be real.
- Personal – Nikki was the Training Vulture. No one else could take that title. It was hers because she earned it.
Did I miss anything? Let me know!
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