How to recognize 'silent superstars' (and make sure the CEO does too)

Some employees hate the limelight – but that doesn't mean you should ignore their achievements

How to recognize 'silent superstars' (and make sure the CEO does too)

The way we show our appreciation differs from person to person. While some may love being thanked in front of crowds, stepping into centre stage, others are less keen on the publicity. In the workplace, there should never be a one-size-fits-all recognition program. This will only lead to increased turnover and a drop in morale – which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

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So, how can HR reward employees in ways which appeal to the individual? HRD spoke with Meghan Stettler, director of the O.C. Tanner Institute, who talked us through how to authentically recognize your employees – even when they’re not keen on the limelight.

“Our 2022 Global Culture report really leans into recognition preferences,” prefaced Stettler. “I think it's as simple as asking people how they want to be recognised. We want to make this a peak experience for them. After all. not everyone loves tickertape parades. There’s people who just want to be recognised one-on-one - or just quietly. When that happens it can be a really great peak experience for them.

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“The risk is visibility. Specifically, how do we let people know that they've done a great job if they don't want to be visibly seen? That’s on the leader to backchannel that up and ensure that people in other departments understand what that employee is contributing. It doesn't necessarily have to be a public moment, but it’s on the leader to communicate that upward and sideways throughout the organization.”

The impact of personalized recognition

One-on-one meetings aren’t just good for the less confident employees – they’re a verified method of increasing morale all round. All too often employers make the mistake of rewarding staff in a blanket email, sending out a list of employees who’ve met targets once every month. While that’s a good idea for a preliminary recognition method, it shouldn’t be the whole strategy. It’s not enough to simply send a message – to make a real impact HR needs to reach out personally. After all, research found that one-to-one meetings are done well, you’ll see a 430% increase in the odds that an employee will be engaged.

“If we look at the engagement numbers that we have gathered through our annual Global Culture report, you can see here that engagement among employees in Canada has dropped drastically from 69% in 2020 to 46% today,” added Stettler. “I think that companies are failing to understand the full scope of what we're calling the great resignation. Workers aren't just quitting their jobs. Many employees disillusioned with the way their companies are mishandling the new realities of work, no longer feel able or motivated to devote themselves to their jobs the way they did before the pandemic.

“I think Arianna Huffington hits it on the head when she suggests that employees are quitting a culture of workism. The idea that we're defined by our work and everything else in our lives must fit into that small space that's left over. With mental health and economic constraints, staff shortages and burnout, it's making it tougher than ever for organizations to pause - to rethink and look at opportunities to transform their workplace cultures. At this moment, it's more important than ever that we lean in to these new opportunities and take the chance to re-evaluate, to renegotiate and reinvent a new future that allows everyone to achieve not only their best work, but their best life's work. If not, I don't think we're ever going to get to the Great Retention because, fundamentally, the employee value proposition has changed.”

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