Employee Recognition Could Improve in a Recession

Employees want the cheapest form of recognition. That may be all employers can give.

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If cost-cutting employers chop employee rewards programs during the downturn, will workers despair over the lack of recognition? Perhaps not--if the programs are replaced with something better.

Bob Nelson, an author and expert in employee motivation, talked with Harvard Management Update about employees' favorite kind of reward: praise.

An excerpt of the interview:

What kinds of recognition and rewards do employees want most?

I conducted an Internet survey that gave people choices of 52 items. The No. 1 factor they valued was "managerial support and involvement"--asking employees their opinions, involving them in decisions, giving them authority to do their jobs, supporting them when they make a mistake, and so forth. Also important were flexible working hours, learning and development opportunities, manager availability, and time.

Employees also want basic praise. In the top 10 factors, there were four types of praise: personal praise, written praise, public praise, and electronic praise. Those are the hottest ones for people, and none of them costs a dime!

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