When it comes to workplace culture, Dunder Mifflin — the fictional workplace from The Office — doesn’t exactly set the gold standard. However, while you’re laughing at the ridiculous situations Michael, Jim, Pam, and the rest of the crew find themselves in, you can actually learn quite a bit about how to properly recognize your employees, even if that generally requires doing the exact opposite of what they did in the show.
Because, make no mistake — recognition at work is important. It doesn’t just make employees feel good, but according to one study, more than a third of the employees surveyed said that more personal recognition would lead to better work on a more frequent basis. And there are lots of things you can recognize your employees for, including years of service, professional achievements, smaller everyday efforts, and the impact they have on customers. When workers are recognized for their contributions, it helps them handle frustrations in the workplace better, plus it gives them a sense of connection, both to the person recognizing them and to the company at large.
Recognizing your employees leads to engagement and innovation; in fact, strong recognition leads to the generation of twice as many ideas. That’s some serious ROI! And it’s a factor in talent retention as well, with employees staying two to four years longer at companies with employee recognition programs than at companies that don’t have those programs.
However, as anyone familiar with the Dundies (the awards given in an episode of The Office) knows, not all recognition is good recognition. Inappropriate awards might be funny in a sitcom, but they’re a true nightmare in your actual office. If you’re offering employee recognition, make it meaningful by tying awards to what your employees are actually achieving, and, considering 45 percent of employees surveyed felt that their company’s recognition program felt stale and disconnected, it’s clearly important that you be willing to make updates to both what you’re recognizing and how you’re doing it. The technology you use for this recognition matters, as does the amount of time that lapses between an employee making an extra effort and being recognized for it. If employees don’t feel like their efforts are being appreciated, they, themselves, feel unappreciated, are less likely to stay at the company, less likely to remain engaged, and less likely to promote the company.
So, what rules should you follow to make sure you’re marking your employees’ achievements without pulling a Michael Scott-type blunder? Stick to professional accomplishments, for starters, and plan ahead, both for the achievements you want to honor and the awards you want to give out for them to avoid having them feel like empty gestures. Focus on positive, feel-good awards, and always make it about the employees rather than putting the manager center stage. And, finally, make sure to plan an event that will be fun, safe, and memorable (in a good way!) for everyone.
Looking for a few more tips on recognizing your employees — or just want to remember some of the more humorous awards given out to the Dunder Mifflin workers? Take a look at the following infographic and get ready for some laughs (and a few awkward cringes).