Think back and picture someone in the past that really motivated you to do your best. Be it a teacher, parent, or coach, chances are this person probably wasn’t someone who constantly criticized you. Instead, the person is likely someone who believed in you and encouraged you with lots of praise. They recognized when you performed well, and they consistently let you know they appreciated your effort. It sounds too simple to be true, but effective praise can be one of the most powerful employee motivators—even more so than money.
There are numerous ways an employer can motivate their employees with positive reinforcement—raises, bonuses, extra time off, gifts—but one of the most powerful and often overlooked ways to get your employees to perform their best is simply to recognize their hard work. In fact, numerous studies have shown that positive recognition provides more long-term motivation and satisfaction than raises. Moreover, the lack of recognition and praise is listed as one of the primary reasons employees quit.
Given this, offering consistent praise is not only an extremely potent way to motivate your employees, but it’s also the most cost-effective strategy you can use, especially when money is tight. Best of all, offering positive feedback is extremely easy and takes little or no effort to accomplish. Indeed, if you learn to do it consistently, it will soon become second nature.
To maximize the motivating effect of your recognition, use the following strategies when praising an employee’s work.
Be timely Don’t wait until the next staff meeting to praise an employee—do it as soon as you see the positive behavior. The more time you wait, the less motivating the praise will be. And you can always praise the person a second time in the meeting!
Be genuine Always be sincere with your recognition. Don’t just randomly tell an employee, “You’re doing a great job!” Employees can tell when you’re being fake, so wait until you see something worth praising to offer your feedback. Insincere compliments actually work to demoralize staff.
Be specific Tailor your feedback to specifically praise the behavior you are highlighting. Don’t say, “I really appreciate your hard work.” Instead, tell them, “I really appreciate the extra time you put into cleaning the floors at the ACME building yesterday.” The more specific you are, the more motivated the employee will be to repeat the same behavior.
Be public In most circumstances, it’s best to offer praise in front of others. This not only lets the person being praised feel extra good, but it adds an incentive for others to seek the same reward by copying that behavior. However, if a person is particularly shy or when it might cause animosity among their co-workers, you can offer your praise in private or with a thank-you card.
Be strategic When you’re looking to train someone or encourage certain behaviors, try not to spend too much time calling people out for their mistakes. Rather, be on the lookout for positive actions you can praise, and this will be a much better motivator than criticism. And when you do have to criticize, be quick to follow up with praise once that behavior has been corrected.