New ways to notice exceptional performers


When was the last time you said thank you to a colleague? Not just in passing. I mean a real, genuine thank you to show your appreciation for doing something really well. 

Recognition is a vital factor in driving colleague motivation and achievement within the workplace. Noticing good performance and saying Thank You is a big part of this.

The research organisation Gallup carried out an interesting study into the factors that drive engagement. The findings, commonly known as the ‘12 Factors of Engagement’,show employees are likely to be more engaged when they gain on-going recognition at work. 

One of the 12 questions in the survey is:

‘In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?’

As a manager or leader in your organisation, how would you answer this question? Have you either received praise yourself or taken the time to recognise someone else’s performance?


Notice me!

In order to deliver effective recognition for your team, you simply need to notice what people are doing well.

It breaks my heart when leaders say ‘well, it’s their job’ or ‘that doesn’t deserve recognition or praise’. 

This kind of attitude belongs to a leader who will quickly tell you when you’re doing something wrong. A leader who will easily criticise but rarely offer praise.

I wonder how your own team would feel and think if you treated them like this. Imagine going into work each day thinking ‘today might be the day I get to hear I’m doing my job completely wrong.’ How demotivating and upsetting this must be! 

Such poor people management is likely to lead to an atmosphere of stress and anxiety.  

Recognising when employees are struggling

Research tells us anxiety is one of many factors causing stress and poor mental health within the workplace. It’s great to see so many workplaces acknowledging this and appointing Mental Health First Aiders to identify and support employees who might be struggling.

Recognition is not just about rewarding good performance, it’s also about noticing when people need help. Do you think you could recognise the signs that someone in your team might need a little more support, understanding or consideration? 

Mental health is a subject we are hugely passionate about at Zest for Life (that we will no doubt cover in future posts). It’s one of the reasons we strive for the work we deliver to leave everyone with a real ‘Zest for Life’.

When managers notice the good things their team does, each and every day, slowly teams become more engaged, feel valued, and are mentally well and in tune with the leaders and organisation are striving to achieve.


Two words can have the biggest impact

Saying thank you takes little effort yet has the biggest impact on employee performance. For example,

‘Thank you for getting the report to me on time and in the right format, I appreciate it.’

In the above case, having received this recognition, the person will likely continue to meet deadlines and have a heightened awareness of how things should be done. This behaviour will continue forever. What’s more, this colleague is likely to share what success looks and feels like with their colleagues, improving team performance and freeing up management time.

Maybe the accomplishment warrants more than verbal recognition. In this case, how about sending a physical card to thank the person. A tangible acknowledgement of a job well done can last a lifetime. I love to walk around workplaces spotting Thank You cards pinned to desks and walls. The fact that people keep these cards shows how much the recognition means to them.


Low cost ways to recognise exceptional performance

The words employee recognition can conjure up scenes of lavish awards ceremonies and big budget internal events. But you don’t need a huge budget to recognise exceptional performance. Here are some more low cost ideas to use in your own team.

  • Continuous feedback– regular performance reviews and coaching sessions are important forums to identify and recognise strong performance.

  • Experiences employees can share with their family – a cinema voucher, a meal out, or an extra day’s holiday.

  • A special mention at a team meeting – a personal thank you is important, saying it in front of colleagues adds impact. (Watch out and make sure you know your team, as some people don’t like any kind of ‘being in the spot light and this might be the worse thing you could do for them).

  • Sharing on social media– sharing achievements with your followers demonstrates a caring culture. It also allows employees to share the good news with friends and family.

  • Employee Hall of Fame– a simple noticeboard or a digital platform, you choose!

However you choose to recognise good performance, noticing the little things will have a HUGE impact on your team’s engagement and enjoyment of their work.

What little things will you notice today?