The Art of Recognition

A perfect thank you

It is the end of another enjoyable, packed, fascinating week of work. In the middle of this week’s canvas was a trip to Tate Modern to enjoy the Matisse cutouts with a small group of friends.

I returned home on Friday to find a bright purple envelope waiting for me. I opened it, and inside was this beautiful hand made card:

Thank YouWhat a lovely surprise! This gift hits all the right recognition buttons for me:

  • It was unexpected.
  • It is personal.
  • It is relevant – I love the simple genius of making a cut out card after visiting an exhibition of cut outs.
  • It is timely – we visited the exhibition on Wednesday afternoon – the card is with me on Friday.

Thanks Hilary – what a pleasure. I’m really grateful.

Recognition, So Much Better With a Why

We all know that recognition is a useful part of the motivation mix, it’s great when your work is recognised.

Blog Recognition

People Management published a Top 20 HR Power Tweeters list recently. I haven’t bothered to include a link to it because it is now archived behind a paywall, but what a hoohah ensued as people picked over the omissions and exclusions. And the publication of the list led to a couple of good blog posts that I know about, one here by David Goddin, another here by Mervyn Dinnen. Mervyn asked a question about how the list was ranked, and whilst he was given assurances that it was ranked, no further explanation was forthcoming. Somehow I came in on this list at number 12 out of 20. Not quite a top ten finish and the lack of any ranking evidence took the shine off a little, but hey – I got a little recognition. I probably had a beer to celebrate.

More recently, a list of top socially shared HR bloggers has appeared here, courtesy of Bamboo HR. I first knew about this list when William Tincup shared it on Facebook. At the time William said well done to all though the list was irrelevant because it didn’t contain Laurie Ruettimann or Fistful of Talent. Weirdly, now it does, though the list hasn’t gotten any longer so I’m guessing two at the bottom got bumped to make way? I wrote to Bamboo HR asking why the change of mind – they chose not to reply.

Bamboo HR have shared how they compiled the list, and yes there is the inevitable subjectivity, you can read about their selection process here. Alongside the subjective element there is some gathering of data, specifically the number of shares each blog received over a three month period across a number of social networks. I found the data gathering aspect quite interesting so over Christmas I copied their methodology and tracked my blog in an identical way.

Using their numbers I found myself checking in at number 19 on the list. Now, I’m not on this list – and it’s subjective to an extent just like all these recognition lists, so I’m not celebrating per se. However because Bamboo has published some data, myself and other nerds can at least get a handle on where we might sit in the grand scheme of things. Assuming we care. I mean – you may not but I do right, otherwise I wouldn’t have geeked out and done all this huh?

Employee Recognition

All this reminds me of far too many well meaning and poorly thought out recognition schemes. If they have no why – then do they have any point? We all know that recognition is a useful part of the motivation mix, it’s great when your work is recognised. And surely it’s even better when you can get your head around at least some of the criteria, and see why you’re getting recognition.


It’s important to recognise good work. We know this and yet we stubbornly persist at not being very good at it. Too often we prefer to draw up totally bland recognition awards like this classic example I observed last year.  At the time, Peter Hros suggested that ‘You could use them all instead of wallpaper in the room where you go every time you feel worthless.’ Ahhh, the room of worthlessness, we’ve all been there eh?

On recognition David Goddin notes that ‘the recognition that people respond most positively to is immediate and authentic. It’s akin to the reflex praise we received as a children when we ate food, took our first steps, etc. At it’s heart is a true appreciation of what it took for the individual to achieve.’ I love the way David has described this and I’m clearly biased, based on this observation of recognition from Jonathan Wilson.

Jonathan and I were with a customer yesterday meeting their new Marketing Director, Sheila. During the conversation Sheila explained to us that when she started work with the company our report on how the company engages with and could improve engagement with its stakeholders was one of the first things she was given to read. ‘Your work continues to inform our decision making’ Sheila told us, and went on to explain how. We had a useful conversation and I look forward to more in the future. Our report is not brand new, but it was the first time Sheila had the opportunity to give us feedback and she chose to do so.

In the next few days you will observe someone doing good work for you and others. It may be a colleague, it may be a friend, someone serving you in a restaurant, it may be a supplier. It would be lovely if you could find just a few seconds to acknowledge that work. No need to nominate someone for an award or get a certificate printed. Simply observe, approach and recognise their contribution. Trust me, as a recent recipient I can tell you it’s a motivating thing when it happens.

picture credit