Why staff recognition doesn’t belong to HR

Why does everyone see staff recognition as a task for which the human resources department is responsible?

When I tell people that I write and speak about staff recognition, most of them quickly identify it as “HR stuff.” Bookstores and libraries categorize books on staff recognition as belonging to “Human Resources and Personnel Management.”

Perhaps, this is understandable. Conferences for human resources professionals seem a natural place for me to speak about how to recognize staff.

HR professionals understand the value of thanking people for doing their jobs well. They believe in the power of staff recognition.

But staff recognition should not belong to human resources. Those hardworking professionals already have enough on their plates. 

Staff recognition belongs elsewhere.

Every member of the leadership team, from the top of the organization to those on the front line, should be responsible for ensuring that staff members feel valued for who they are and appreciated for what they do. They must create a work environment where everyone is comfortable being themselves and feel they are where they belong.

The tone should be set by those who lead the organization.

Senior leaders may not be present to recognize staff on the front line for what they do, but they can champion recognition throughout the organization. They can encourage and support their subordinates in their efforts to acknowledge the contributions and achievements of the people they supervise. 

Senior leaders should themselves be role models for staff recognition. They should recognize those who report directly to them when those staff members meet or exceed expectations. People who are recognized frequently are more likely to recognize others.

They can provide other leaders with the training, tools and resources they need to become skilled in recognizing staff. They can require their direct reports to describe how they are recognizing staff. They should recognize the recognizers for demonstrating a behaviour the top leaders want to see more often—acknowledging others for doing their jobs well.

When hiring for leadership positions in the future, it is important to search for people who have demonstrated a commitment to recognizing staff. Once you hire them, provide them with the tools and training they need to grow their recognition skills.

Responsibility for staff recognition does not have to end with the leadership team. Encourage peer recognition, too. Provide your staff with tools to recognize their co-workers.

Throughout your organization there can be a culture of recognition and appreciation. 

Recognition belongs everywhere and to everyone—including to the folks in the HR department.

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