First Word: The gift of recognition

It doesn’t cost a thing monetarily, yet study after study has shown American employees rank appreciation for their work as a top job satisfaction factor – and one that consistently outweighs pay.

The first research of this type stunned employers. While good wages and job security were among the choices when Lawrence Lindahl asked workers to rank the rewards of their jobs in 1949, feeling appreciated for work done and feeling “in” on things came in No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. More recently, Gerald Graham, professor of management at Wichita State University, surveyed 1,500 employees and found personalized, instant recognition from managers was the most powerful motivator of 65 incentives he evaluated. And when employees leave a job, “limited praise and recognition” is the primary reason, according to a national survey by Robert Half International.

Most employers now know the value of recognition, but many still struggle to put this knowledge to use. A study by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a human resources consulting firm, revealed 86 percent of employers think they do a good job of treating employees well, while only 55 percent of employees agree.

If you want to effectively recognize your employees, researchers say praise should be immediate and specific to the commendable action. According to Gallup, formal recognition programs often fail because employees don’t have a clear understanding of what is being recognized.

Here at Randall-Reilly Publishing, we strive to recognize employees in a timely fashion through an “open microphone” policy at weekly company meetings. Any employee can praise another for a job well done. In this way, extra effort that might have gone unnoticed by all but a few close colleagues is made known to everyone. Recent research has proven the efficacy of allowing employees to recognize each other. Co-workers often know the particulars of a job better than supervisors, so employees cherish praise from their peers.

But of course, employees aren’t the only ones who deserve praise. Business owners are worthy of it as well. And I can’t think of a group of people more deserving than you, the hard-working men and women who construct our country’s roads and bridges, buildings and other vital infrastructure. Most of you juggle a horde of tasks, work 12 hours a day or more, rarely take vacations and are painfully aware that if you aren’t successful, your employees’ lives could be affected as much as your own.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many recognition programs for contractors. That’s why it’s our great pleasure to promote Equipment World’s Contractor of the Year program, which recognizes 12 outstanding construction companies annually. In this issue we feature our 2007 winner, Brinley’s Grading Service of Garner, North Carolina. You can read the Brinleys’ recipe for success on page 28. We will profile our finalists in articles throughout the year, including our Wacker Light Equipment Award winner, father-and-son team Richard and Brian Churchill of The GroundsKeeper in Ashland, Massachusetts.

Our partners in this endeavor, Caterpillar and Wacker, warrant a special thank you for seeing the importance of this program and generously sponsoring it.

Given the deep-seated human need to feel one is respected and is making a contribution through meaningful work, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised a price tag can’t be applied to recognition. As with any gift, it’s the thought that counts.