A high-impact, low-cost technique to motivate people

There is a technique that costs little and has a high impact on people’s motivation: recognition. However, it is conspicuous by its absence in companies (although we would have to see how much exists in private life). In Spain, for example, 87% of workers consider that they do not feel recognised and the group most affected are women between 25 and 54 years old. On the other side of the Atlantic, the situation is not very buoyant either. In the United States, for example, only a third of professionals consider that their bosses have valued their work in the last seven days, according to Gallup. But what’s worse, according to the study, workers who don’t receive recognition are up to twice as likely to leave the company (or fall into internal layoffs, we might add). Recognition motivates, helps to develop our potential and commits us to what we do and to the person. If it is so important and there is so little, what could we do to make it really effective? Let’s look at five practical keys.

  1. Recognition must be sincere, concrete and timely, and can come from anyone. It does not apply to generic or ambiguous phrases such as “here in the company they are all good”. No, the message that motivates is the sincere and direct one, the one that addresses one with facts and concrete observations. “In the last team meeting you made a magnificent presentation, you included very new data that helped us to solve the problem”, for example. It has to be at the right time. It doesn’t help to say it after too long because it loses its effect. It can also come from anyone. Normally, the one that is most valued and the one that has the most impact is from the boss or from the company, but it can happen between colleagues, clients, suppliers, friends, partners…
  2. It has to be individual and team, if it were the case. Google has it clear. For this reason, when a professional achieves an achievement, he and his boss are recognized, because, even though he may not have participated directly, he has contributed to achieving it (or at least, that’s not how he puts on the medals alone). Therefore, let’s make collective recognitions when it comes to the case and not forget the individuals, who tend to be the most motivating.
  3. It does not only have to be for results. Sometimes we leave our skin on achieving something, but for whatever reason we do not succeed. For this reason, it is also important to value the effort or the way we have worked: the values that have prevailed, if the person has known how to involve other departments… that is to say, to have a broader perspective of things.
  4. It cannot be continuous. The recognition that motivates does not have to be daily, because there comes a time when our brain gets used to it. Dopamine wakes up when it receives an unexpected reward and this helps us to learn, to feel good and even to remember, according to Terry Sejnowski of the Salk Institute of Biological Studies. Therefore, recognition should be frequent when appropriate, but not continuous.
  5. It has to take into account the motivation of the person. Virtually everyone likes recognition, but the mode depends on the motivation of the recipient. If someone is very affiliative, for example, or afraid of rejection, they will suffer if the recognition is public and, therefore, it is preferable that it be private. On the other hand, if it is a person with high power motivation, he will enjoy the public appreciation even if he doesn’t recognize it.

In short, recognizing a job well done (or effort or values) is something that motivates the person who receives it. It is important that it comes from the boss, but any one of us can do it in our work, when we are in a restaurant or when we come into contact with anyone. This helps us to have a more appreciative look and feel better about ourselves. So if recognition is so cheap, let’s not be stingy and practice it today.

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