by Matt Alderton | January 21, 2019
If you want to motivate your employees to do their best work, plush perks and good pay will get you far. And yet, there's something that might get you even farther, and it doesn't cost a penny: praise.
"Research has shown that appreciation from managers is one of the incentives workers want most," recognition expert Bob Nelson, Ph.D., writes in a recent article for Incentive magazine. "For example, Gerald Graham, former dean of the business school at Wichita State University, found in one study that employees rated personal thanks from a manager for a job well done as the most motivating of 65 potential motivators considered. Unfortunately, 58 percent of the workers in Graham's study said their managers didn't typically give such thanks."

If your employees are like the 58 percent of workers in Graham's study, you need to invest some serious time and effort into building a culture of recognition, according to Nelson, who says recognition becomes ingrained in a company's culture when managers make a habit of giving it every day.

To that end, Nelson recommends putting praise on your to-do list. "This approach works particularly well for no-nonsense executive types who like to focus on getting things done," he says. "Just add the names of the people who report to you to your weekly to-do list. Then cross them off when you're able to praise those employees -- i.e., catch them 'doing something right' in accordance with their performance goals."

Another take on the same approach comes from Hyler Bracey, president and CEO of the Atlanta Consulting Group. "[He] developed another, similar method that he used until praising became part of his routine," Nelson reports. "Bracey placed five coins in his pocket each day. During the day, he'd transfer a coin to his other pocket every time he recognized an employee for good work. That technique helped Bracey make employee praise a habit."

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