Appreciation and recognition are crucial in employee retention and engagement.

However, this becomes challenging to do effectively as advanced technology allows your team to be more distributed. A recent Gallup survey found that increased numbers of Americans are working remotely more often.

How can you effectively recognize employees if you don’t see them regularly in the office? Getting everyone involved is key. Here are some common mistakes to avoid so that you can be sure to show appreciation for the entire team:

employees gathered around a  laptop

1. Giving out participation trophies

You want to show team members that the team values their individual strengths and contributions. This means that you will probably need to work harder to get to know the team members you don’t see every day. You’ll also need to put more effort into how you show this appreciation. Even though it’s natural to not want to leave anyone out, recognition efforts lose meaning when everyone gets an award, which can be frustrating to your high-achievers. Stay away from mundane awards like ‘Employee of the Month’ and don’t be afraid to get creative!

Leadership should: get creative with recognition and not be afraid to recognize only those who deserve it.

Teammates should: not be sore losers – use the opportunity to learn from others who were recognized and get motivated to earn it next time!

2. Not setting an example

Recognition won’t work for anyone if it’s not embedded in the culture and leadership isn’t setting an example. Employees should understand that it is considerate and worthwhile to appreciate others, not just another item on their to-do list. Great recognition behavior also encourages reciprocation. Everyone should work to include all employees, even those they don’t see on a regular basis.

Leadership should: communicate the value of distributed employees to the whole team and encourage recognition from supervisors and team members alike.

Teammates should: share responsibility for making every member feel appreciated and take notice of the great things your remote co-workers accomplish.

3. Being too vague

If you’re going to praise someone, give details! Explain to them exactly what they did well or how great they handled that situation. Don’t just tell your project lead that you enjoyed her presentation – let her know that you admired her confidence, enthusiasm, and concise answers to questions. But don’t stop there! The best appreciation is anything that shows that you’re paying attention. Recognition is more powerful to someone when it shows that you understand who they are personally.

Leadership should: seek out opportunities to learn more about remote employees’ strengths and give everyone a chance to learn more about them than their name and title.

Teammates should: pay attention to the ways that remote employees excel and take advantage of opportunities to get to know them on a personal level.

4. Not designating time for employee recognition

It’s likely that a lot of recognition within your organization comes from day to day interactions. For instance, do you remember that colleague you congratulated in the breakroom yesterday? You probably didn’t go looking for her, but instead recalled her recent job well done when you saw her pouring a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, employees who are not around miss out on these opportunities to receive praise. It’s too easy for a busy team to neglect those they don’t see regularly.

Leadership should: designate time for employees to recognize others, provide an outlet for recognition based on your unique team, and promote connecting with others as time well spent.

Teammates should: take advantage of the ways to connect with remote employees and know that even though you aren’t billing hours, time spent on appreciating others is still time spent working to make the organization a better place.

5. Making it a popularity contest

It’s important to avoid letting recognition and appreciation efforts become more about an individual’s popularity than their achievements and contributions. It’s highly unlikely that even your funny, outgoing Customer Service Representative would win – she has considerably less chances to befriend others from her home office in the UK! It’s also all too easy for managers to connect with those they see often, which makes it that much easier to unintentionally play favorites and alienate their remote workers. No one likes to hear continued praise for very little effort while their own hard work is ignored.

Leadership should:  find an easy way to keep track of remote employee achievement and use recognition that relies on clear criteria to avoid bias.

Teammates should: pay attention to biases and always give credit where it’s due.

6. Not balancing opportunities for recognition

While it’s critical to provide employees with an outlet to communicate their appreciation for others, no one has much to say about someone they haven’t had the chance to work with before. Remote employees should receive the same opportunities to work closely with others and be rewarded for their achievements. Also, though it’s fantastic to take a team out to lunch to celebrate their new product launch, it isn’t the best way to recognize remote teammates. Any recognition efforts that leave out your distributed team members may not only fail to reward them,, but can also leave them feeling actively left out and disconnected.

Leadership should: recognize your whole team, avoid doing what is easy but only benefits in-house employees, and give everyone ample opportunity to work with remote workers.

Teammates should: be a team player and know that your manager is just one person – help them recognize others when you can and jump at the chance to work with and learn from different colleagues.

team building

Keep in mind that not all of the ways you typically recognize employees work well for distributed teams. The same is true for organizations with employees who work on a different schedule, like those in a different time zone or on second shift. It is up to everyone, leadership and teammates, to work together to create a culture that celebrates all employees.

Have you seen examples of these mistakes with workplace recognition before? How have you recognized your remote employees or teammates lately?

%d bloggers like this: