Fortune has a feature article this week about David Novak, the CEO of Yum Brands. The article focuses on the leadership development efforts at Yum Brands, with a specific emphasis on the employee recognition program at the firm. Yum Brands has a lot of fun with employee recognition, but they also take it very seriously. They know that it's vitally important, and they stress the need for leaders at all levels to recognize the contributions of key employees. However, they also do it with a smile and a joke - they have fun with it. Here's an excerpt from the article:
As in all things, the way it's done makes all the difference. Every company offers recognition -- a trophy, a plaque, a ceremonial dinner. It typically accomplishes little, for two big reasons: It happens long after the performance that's being recognized, and it's impersonal. The Yum version is the opposite. Faster is better. "You go into a meeting, and somebody blows you away by something," Novak says. "You get up, go back to your office, get your Yum award out, and you go back and say, 'God, that's so great.' Boom! You give him a recognition award. That's the best recognition of all."
And it must be personal. Every Yum acknowledgement -- a rubber chicken, a cheesehead (used at Pizza Hut), a roof tile -- can be written on, and it must carry a handwritten message. "You want to give away a piece of yourself," says Novak.
These two attributes are so crucial: it must be immediate and personal. I would add a third criteria. Recognition must be about behavior, not just results. You have to identify the key behaviors that you want to reinforce, and you must recognize the individuals who engage in these activities. People must understand what you think is important for achieving the broader objectives of the organization. Moreover, they must know that you not only care about achieving the desired results; you also care about how people about achieving those goals.