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Two mistakes that will kill your employee recognition program


A recent SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey found that less than 30 percent of employees surveyed were satisfied with their organization’s recognition efforts.

Among organizations who had a formal recognition program, less than 50 percent were satisfied.

How can it be that even among organizations that are making the effort and have good intentions, less than half of their employees are satisfied?

Two mistakes can kill even the best-intentioned recognition efforts: A focus on recognition instead of motivation, and selective hearing that leads to prejudice.

The Process Communication Model identifies six distinct personality types, each with specific motivational needs that must be met for optimal functioning.

Here’s a list of six distinct motivational needs along with their prevalence in the general U.S. population:

▪ Recognition of work and time structure – 25 percent (75 percent are male)

▪ Recognition of work and convictions – 10 percent (75 percent are male)

▪ Recognition of person and sensory – 30 percent (75 percent are female)

▪ Contact and fun – 20 percent (40 percent are male)

▪ Incidence; lots of excitement in a short period of time – 5 percent (60 percent are male)

▪ Solitude – 10 percent (40 percent are male)

The list illuminates two problems with how most organizations approach employee recognition.

Mistake number 1: Focusing on recognition instead of motivation.

Only three personality types (65 percent of the population) desire recognition at all. The rest are motivated in different ways. Motivation, not recognition, is a better area to focus on.

Mistake number 2: Selective hearing leads to prejudice.

Most employee engagement and recognition surveys engage a limited group of personality types. The result is that we obtain a lopsided view of what people want, use this information to guide systems and processes, and end up inadvertently ignoring key employee motivators.

For example, Gallup Q12 – the most widely used engagement survey in the world – predominantly targets recognition of work, convictions and person, effectively tuning out 35 percent of the population.

I recently presented this perspective at the National SHRM Diversity and Inclusion conference to a room of more than 100 diversity and inclusion professionals. While I was happy that the group overwhelmingly resonated with what I shared, I was shocked that the majority of them had never thought of personality diversity as a critical factor in the workplace.

If diversity and inclusion are important to you, consider personality as an area of greater focus.

Nate Regier is CEO and co-founding owner of Next Element Consulting, a global leadership communication advisory and training firm based in Newton. Contact him at or 316-772-6174.

Interested in writing for “Business Perspectives”? Contact Tom Shine at or 316-268-6268.