Employee Recognition 101: What, Why, How, Best Practices

Timely recognition is the secret to driving employee engagement and retaining top talent. Get all your questions on employee recognition answered in this single article.

7

min read

Employee recognition has been one of the top tools that most organizations are leveraging to create an empowering and positive work culture to attract and retain top talent. You must have come across at least one discussion over the past couple of years on how your organization needs to develop and implement a robust employee recognition program. 

However, we understand that with several priorities in your mind and limited resources, there might be multiple questions that you would have on employee recognition and the best way to maximize its effectiveness and ROI. 

After working with several fast growing organizations, we have been able to identify some of the tried and tested ways to get started with employee recognition, in a way that is efficient, cost effective and bears incremental results

Here is a detailed guide to help accelerate your rewards and recognition journey. 

Create a culture of recognition and appreciation

The first major question or thought that is likely to strike you is how to create a culture of recognition and appreciation. It goes without saying that if you simply recognize the work of your employees on an ad-hoc basis, there will be no sustained efforts or results. 

It will be a one-off event, leading to no impact on performance, retention or motivation. Therefore, it is important to create a culture of recognition and here are a few steps to achieve the same:

1. Recognize early and regularly

First, your employee recognition efforts need to be in real time and regular in nature. There are two aspects at play here. On one hand, you need to ensure that you recognize and appreciate the performance or efforts of your employees when it is due and not months after, when the cause of appreciation is out of mind. Therefore, you need to ensure early employee recognition. 

On the other hand, you need to be regular in your recognition efforts. Appreciating your employees once every six month is not enough to create a culture of recognition. You need to make recognition a habit, across all levels of the organization.

Pro-tip: Having regular 1:1 check-ins with team members is a quick, easy and cost-effective way to induce a culture of regular recognition. Check out our short guide on how to take your next 1:1 check-in to the next level

2. Be specific 

A culture of recognition and appreciation thrives when you are specific. Simply telling your employees that they did a good job is not enough. Be specific and clear on what they are receiving appreciation and recognition for. 

Whether it is for closing a deal or for improving customer satisfaction, you need to be clear when recognizing efforts and performance. This will help them understand what they are being recognized for, and will further enable them to work towards the same with greater motivation. 

Being specific will also give cue to others on how recognition works best, and, thereby, encourage them to emulate the same.

3. Celebrate effort and intention

If you wish to truly create a culture of recognition and appreciation, you need to recognize every aspect of an employee's work and not focus merely on the results. This includes appreciating the efforts and intention, even if they were unable to achieve the desired results. Creating a culture is all about encouraging others to follow the same, and when you appreciate efforts and intentions, others will too. 

Top 5 Best Practices for Employee Recognition

An idea closely linked to creating a culture of recognition revolves around the best practices. These best practices can help you ensure that your recognition culture grows and thrives effectively. 

1. Have a clear recognition program

As one of the best practices for employee recognition, it is important to have a very clear recognition program. There are several aspects to this. 

First, you need to align on what the objectives of your recognition program are or what you seek to achieve by focusing on employee recognition. It could be a combination of results like increased sense of belongingness, better performance, greater satisfaction, higher engagement etc. 

Second, you need to be clear on what kind of behaviors will be rewarded and recognized. You can define these behaviors based on the culture or practices that you seek to establish in the organization. For instance, if you feel that your employees are not as responsible as you would like them to be, recognize accountability. 

Other factors that you need to decide on include the frequency of recognition as well as who should recognize, leaders vs peers. Having these bases covered will ensure that you have a robust employee recognition program. 

2. Experiment with different types of rewards

Next, you must ensure that your employee recognition efforts are actually bearing fruits, you need to experiment with different types of rewards and ways of appreciation. While in some situations a pat on the back can go a long way, others might require public appreciation or a combination of incentives and rewards along with recognition. 

However, don’t be afraid of using recognition and reward ideas like a day off, or a gift voucher. They can be as effective as any other form of recognition. It is important to play along with a bit of variety to make the experience of being recognized fun and exciting. 

3. Make it personal

One of the best practices that has had a high success rate for almost all organizations has been the ability to make recognition personal. You need to understand that you are recognizing a human being for their efforts and that requires personalization. 

Instead of sending out the same gratitude message to all, make each message personal and highlight how you appreciate their individual contribution and performance alongside team effort. 

Having a standard template for recognition looks more of a tick in the box and does not express any genuine or authentic effort for employee recognition. Invariably, you will be unable to achieve your desired result. Therefore, make each instance of recognition personal and customized to employee performance. 

4. Recognize everyday

When you seek to learn about the best practices for employee recognition, you need to understand that confining recognition to celebrate only the big wins is not enough. You need to recognize the everyday small wins for your employees and make them feel motivated at all times. 

The idea is to celebrate small wins like checking all points in a task list. All great leaders know that recognizing efforts everyday will act as a motivator for employees to outperform themselves everyday and give in their best, because they know their efforts and contribution are always appreciated. 

5. Recognize even when times are slow

Finally, don’t save recognition only for the good and happy days. To make the most of your employee recognition program, it is crucial to appreciate efforts even when times are slow. For instance, if your team has been putting 12 hour long days for a deal and the deal doesn’t come through, you still need to appreciate the effort that went into the preparation. 

The idea here is not to completely dismiss what happened and celebrate despite being in a backstep when it comes to organizational success. But, it is important to motivate the team to perform better when the next opportunity comes along and avoid the fear of failure as well as prevent self doubt. 

Role of qualitative vs. quantitative recognition

A key component for employee recognition is to gauge performance review and evaluation effectively. That is what forms the basis for quantitative vs qualitative evaluation and consequently recognition. 

  • Quantitative evaluation refers to gauging the level of performance numerically in terms of deals closed or targets achieved. They have a clear goal, achievement of which turns to recognition. 
  • Whereas, qualitative evaluation is ideal for roles which have a more abstract outlook, especially the ones which come from a creative side. Qualitative employee evaluation is also useful to gauge employee behaviors.

Based on the type of evaluation, you can leverage different ways of recognizing your employees. These can include bonuses, praises, written notes, etc. You can leverage quantitative recognition when you wish to appreciate their achievements from a quantity or volume of work lens. However, leverage qualitative recognition when you are truly impressed by the quality of work your employees have been able to turn around or the kind of energy and enthusiasm they bring to the team.

What is the difference between recognition and rewards?

Many hyper growth organizations face a lot of confusion when it comes to understanding the relationship between rewards and recognition. There is often a question if there is a connection between the two and if one should take precedence over the other. 

For a simple understanding, you must look at recognition and rewards and intrinsically linked. If you look closely, recognition is relational in nature, while rewards are transactional. While rewards are tangible and constitute gifts, bonuses, vouchers etc., recognition is an intangible form where the work of an employee is appreciated by calling out their accomplishments and the like.

If you are wondering if you can replace one for the other, you need to think again. Both of them play a different and equally important role in advancing the cause of employee retention and satisfaction. 

While rewards are materially driven and become an important incentive and source of motivation for employees, recognition helps in employees believing that their efforts and contribution are being valued, even if it doesn’t translate to tangible rewards every time. 

For a more comprehensive understanding, you may want to see rewards as a way of recognizing employee performance which is less frequent and comes with an attached cost of realization. 

Whereas, recognition can be more frequent and does not necessarily require resources and investments. All that is needed are words of gratitude and a genuine willingness to appreciate efforts. 

Top 7 career milestones for employee recognition

As a fast growing organization, you will have many employees who will be celebrating key milestones in their professional life for the first time when working with you. It is extremely important to celebrate such career milestones from an employee recognition lens to create a greater sense of belongingness. 

We believe that the top 7 milestones can be divided into two major segments. The first ones include those which are more common and are generally considered to be more important, like:

1. Work anniversary

Celebrating the day when employees complete a tenure or a year and more with your organization to recognize their efforts and contribution. 

2. Landing first big deal

Recognizing the hard work and commitment of your team members when they accomplish a major target in their functional area which has large scale positive impact for the organization.

3. Promotion and appraisal

Celebrating promotion and appraisal for your team members. Here employee recognition comes in the form of appreciating their performance and congratulating them as they move up in the professional ladder of success. 

4. Retirement

Finally, the last of the most common career milestones for employee recognition is retirement. Here you can express gratitude and appreciate your employees for all they have done for the organization throughout their journey. 

While these are some of the common career milestones that you take into consideration as a part of your employee recognition framework, there are a few others too which may not be as prominent, but are equally important. These milestones deserve equal recognition and celebration to boost employee morale and encourage efforts and perseverance.

5. Meeting goals

Celebrate and practice employee recognition when your team members are able to meet their weekly or daily goals. A simple email or words of appreciation can go a long way to help employees strive harder for their goals. 

6. Sharing insights and knowledge

You must focus on employee recognition when your team members go out of their way to share insights and knowledge with others in the team. This will help expand the overall capabilities and competencies of the team and encourage others to contribute towards collective growth.

7. Mentoring peers

This is an important career milestone that you must recognize. Your employees deserve due credit if they make a genuine effort to mentor their peers and those who are new to the organization. If they are trying hard to help others navigate through the challenges they faced, they definitely deserve recognition and celebration of an important milestone. 

How to implement an effective employee recognition program?

Many growth stage organizations today struggle with getting started with the whole employee recognition journey. While we have talked at length about how to create a culture of recognition and the best practices you can follow, we have also captured here a few tips to commence your journey in a way that is destined for success. 

1. Get leadership buy-in

You need to start your employee recognition journey by ensuring leadership buy-in. This involves creating a business case for employee recognition and convincing those on top about how it has the potential to make a business impact. 

Back your pitch with evidence and data points and make a clear pitch around the return on investment. Leverage metrics like greater retention, increased productivity, etc. and how each one impacts the bottom line. 

2. Have a clear criteria

Once your leadership is aligned on the entire employee recognition agenda, you need to be clear on what recognition means to you. Furthermore, other factors like on what basis and how will recognize employee efforts need to be brainstormed and documented for effective implementation. 

3. Explore different ways of recognition that fall in your budget

There may be several ways to facilitate employee recognition including some of the most extravagant ones like a foreign trip. However, you need to identify ways of recognition that best suit your budget. Dig deep and you will be able to find many ways to recognize employee efforts which come with no attached cost and have the potential to create large scale impact. 

4. Include employee voices

As a fast growing organization, while setting up the employee recognition program, you have the golden opportunity to include the voices of your employees. You can ask your employees what ideal recognition looks to them and incorporate those ideas when devising your program. This will ensure that your employee recognition efforts are accepted and appreciated by the employees and they will actually be able to drive performance and results. 

PRO-TIP — Conduct a quick survey to get insights into how your employees want to be recognized. Click here

5. Collaborate with external partners

Finally, as you may have multiple priorities to take care of and limited expertise in the area, it might be a good idea to collaborate with partners like SuperBeings. 

What features to look for in an employee recognition platform?

Taking cue from the point above, to accelerate your employee recognition efforts, you can collaborate with external platforms, especially if you have limited time and resources at hand. 

Most high-performing organizations believe that leveraging the services of employee recognition platforms has enabled them to create a culture of recognition effectively. However, if you plan to go with a platform, you need to check for the following features:

  • Does it offer real time employee insights for recognition?
  • Does it align OKRs with recognition based on performance?
  • Does it enable your managers to have 1:1 recognition conversations effectively?
  • Does it provide you with industry insights and best practices for recognition?
  • Does it help you gauge employee pulse to refine your recognition efforts?

If you are looking for an employee recognition platform that takes care of all these and much more, you need to collaborate with SuperBeings. It can help you ensure a consistent and regular approach to employee recognition coupled with OKR alignment and guided templates for your managers for effective 1:1 conversations. Click here to book a free demo.

How to align your DEI initiatives with recognition for workplace success?

In recent times, organizations have seen a lot of focus being diverted towards fairness and inclusivity in the workplace, which takes into account recognition as well. Here are a few ways to ensure that all your recognition efforts promote inclusivity: 

1. Have a diverse criteria

Don’t have a narrow or a single criteria for recognition. Be open to recognizing different efforts and achievements. Have unique criteria for each team to ensure that you are recognizing employees based on what they bring to the table and not on the basis of a standardized approach. 

2. Emphasize on inclusive rewards

While your criteria needs to be diverse, your rewards and ways of recognition need to be inclusive. Ensure that the way your recognition messages are worded do not exclude anyone in the team. Similarly, your rewards should be such that can be utilized or enjoyed by everyone and not limited to a particular group. 

3. Leverage technology for performance review

To promote inclusivity, you need to ensure that your review is fair and unbiased. Here, you can use performance management tools like SuperBeings to get a real time picture of performance which can help you eliminate recency bias or horns/halo effect and recognize and reward holistic performance based on continuous review and feedback. 

PRO-TIP — Are you looking for the perfect performance review tool that suits your needs? This quick guide will help you to find one.

What role does technology play in effective and fair recognition?

As mentioned in the point above, technology can play an integral role in ensuring that employee recognition is effective and fair. 

If we look closely, recognition is based on performance reviews and feedback. However, these reviews can be vulnerable to recency effects in which only the events closest to the review are taken into consideration. Similarly, reviews can be clouded by the halo or horns bias where one positive or negative feedback becomes the base on which the employee is reviewed. Invariably, these biases prevent fair recognition. 

Fortunately, technology can play a major role in preventing the same. On one hand, technology is unbiased and can help provide a true picture of the employee’s performance. On the other hand, it can help you capture performance and effort in real time with a continuous lens to ensure that single instances or events don’t cloud recognition in the long run.

Efforts vs Results: The Best Approach for Recognition

If you feel confused whether you should be recognizing efforts or results, you are not alone. However, replacing one at the cost of the other can be detrimental. Undoubtedly, you need to recognize results, but recognizing and appreciating efforts is equally important because of the following reasons:

1. Motivates employees

It encourages them to keep trying and striving for excellence and enables them to believe that their contribution is being valued. 

2. Promotes innovation and risk taking

Employee recognition of efforts encourages them to take risks and unlock innovation rather than follow the same path for results every time, which will eventually lead to growth stagnation.

3. Facilitates engagement and a positive experience

Finally, it will create a positive experience for employees where they see recognition of efforts as an empowering environment for growth and development, reducing voluntary attrition. 

3 common problems with employee recognition programs

It would be an overstatement to say that the path to building a culture of employee recognition is one without challenges and struggles. Here are a few challenges that you might face along the way:

1. Inconsistency

Due to other pressing priorities, you might find yourself unable to maintain consistency in recognizing employee efforts. This will lead to an ad-hoc mechanism, which will not reap sustained and scalable impact. 

To facilitate consistency, you can collaborate with a platform like SuperBeings which will help you recognize employee efforts on time and ensure that you don’t miss any accomplishment that deserves celebration. 

2. Lack of authenticity

Sometimes, your managers or leaders might recognize employee efforts just for the sake of it, devoid of any authenticity. Employees are generally able to recognize the lack of authenticity and such recognition will backfire as a simple tick in the box. The best way to navigate through this challenge is to invest in the training of your managers on key leadership competencies to enable them to lead and recognize authentically. 

3. Inability to communicate effectively

At times, you might have the right motivation, but the inability to communicate your recognition and appreciation effectively can impact the whole situation adversely. Here, you need the right guidance and templates to sail through the conversations in an effective manner.

If you want to avoid these challenges and effectively implement the best practices for employee recognition, book a free demo with SuperBeings today. As a one stop platform for all people management needs, we can help you take your recognition game to the next level.  


Sudeshna Roy

Marketing, SuperBeings

Hi There! I am Sudeshna. At SuperBeings, I lead our content strategy to bring you the best and latest on everything related to people management

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OKRs
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Agile and OKRs: What You Need to Know to Thrive in a VUCA World

It is no longer an assumption that the traditional approach to annual goal setting and review has run its course. The VUCA world demands more quick and adaptable business models.

While the agile values and methodology was initially created for software delivery, you can apply the same to transform how you set and achieve your business goals. 

In this article, we will focus on:

  • Relevance of agile and OKRs in the VUCA world
  • Importance of leveraging agile techniques for OKRs
  • Best agile and OKR framework for growing organizations

Why you need to reimagine goal setting in the VUCA world

Traditionally, goal setting has been a very static and long-term process for organizations. Here are a few key components of traditional goal setting and performance management:

  • Annual or multi-year goals with little or no interventions at regular intervals to realign on changing priorities
  • Top-down approach — goals being set by those at the top with minimal inputs from those working on the ground
  • Only annual feedback cycles and the inability to identify or address challenges in real time
  • Lack of flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances or situations, which are uncertain and ambiguous

This form of goal setting and performance management had relevance for organizations operating in steady and stable market conditions. 

However, in today’s VUCA world, the pace of change is skyrocketing and organizations unable to tide with the same are finding it extremely difficult to survive, let alone thrive. 

Some of the reasons to reimagine goal setting for VUCA world include:

  • Increased globalization requires businesses to be agile and adapt to changes at all times
  • Focus on creating short term goals and action plans
  • Need to relook at business priorities due to changing market conditions and customer expectations 
  • Need to incorporate constant feedback from diverse stakeholders
  • Need to focus on collaborative goal setting over top down command

Relevance of agile and OKRs for growing organizations

While it may not be apparent in the first look, agile and OKRs are quite complementary and combining the two can be a great step for growing organizations. Here’s why —

  • OKRs can help you understand the end goal and envision what success will look like. 
  • On the other hand, the agile methodology can enable you to create the right roadmap with frequent experimentation to reach the OKRs successfully. 

Here are a few reasons why you should combine agile and OKRs for your organization:

  • Set shorter goals for each quarter with the flexibility to look at the results in real time
  • Agile iterations based on learning which can be communicated across teams 
  • Shorter feedback cycles which prevent investment losses that might occur if the whole project/ goal has to be reworked
  • Continuous improvement with frequent retrospectives which can enable you to reflect on what is working well
  • Focus on collaborative goal setting and performance management with team autonomy
  • Agile approach to progress tracking

How to use agile techniques for OKRs

Now that it is clear why working agile and OKRs together makes sense for growing organizations, let’s quickly explore the top ways in which you can apply agile techniques to your OKR framework to make goal setting and performance management suitable for the VUCA world. 

Agile Value 1: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Ensure collaborative OKR setting, assigning OKR champions and the right team members to execute the same
  • Facilitate clear understanding and communication of the intention and expectation behind each OKR and the responsibility for every team member

Agile Value 2: Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Focus on clear outcomes and key results instead of comprehensive literature on why something is important
  • Facilitate shorter feedback cycles to gauge challenges early on and ensure feasibility of the OKRs
  • Reduce administrative overheads and complex processes related to OKR setting and progress tracking by using a simple, integrated OKR tool

Agile Value 3: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Ensure continuous development by taking real time feedback from internal customers i.e. stakeholders in the leadership

Agile Value 4: Responding to change over following a plan

  • Facilitate dynamic planning over a static plan with quarterly OKRs
  • Ensure adaptability to change, uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Promote short cadence to gauge achievability and relevance of key results early on

Best agile and OKR framework

In this last section of agile and OKR for better goal setting and performance management, we will uncover the top framework. 

We have combined the best components of different frameworks like waterfall goals, delivery agile, scaling, full stack agile, into a single framework with 5 major components that can help you enhance the complementary potential of agile and OKR 

This approach can help you leverage the benefits of agile methodologies and OKR framework to impact all aspects of organizational structure for achievement of goals, including the culture, strategy, initiatives, tactics, etc. The framework is premised on:

1. Create value based OKRs

  • Focus on creating value based OKRs instead of activity based
  • Activity based OKRs are effective for specific projects, but for organizational goals, the focus should be on value
  • Instead of focusing only on the outcomes, have a clear understanding about how each of the outcomes can create value for the organization
  • The activities for each OKR should be a part of the agile roadmap and not the end destination

If you are struggling with combining agile and OKRs for your organizations, chances are you are focusing on activity based key results which often resemble agile steps, leading to confusion and inability to meet goals. 

2. Facilitate horizontal alignment for shared OKRs

  • Encourage collaborative OKR setting with realistic timelines and short intervals
  • Make OKRs team/ department specific and acknowledge avenues for collaboration and alignment between teams on shared OKRs
  • Acknowledge OKR dependencies between teams and facilitate transparency and horizontal alignment
  • Avoid splitting OKRs for a shared goal between teams, rather create opportunities for working together

For instance, if you have an event coming up and wish to successfully execute the same, the objective will be common, with specific value based key results for each team.

Objective: Successfully execute the 7th edition of our annual event

Key Results

  • Get 1000+ unique registrations
  • Raise INR 20,00,000 in sponsorship
  • Curate 5 high impact panels
  • Get 10+ media and affiliate partners
  • Get 5000+ impressions on social media with organic promotion

If you look closely, while the objective is shared, key results are spread across sales, marketing, and even product/ services teams

3. Combine quality and quantity results

Your agile and OKR framework should enable you to get the best of both worlds when it comes to results. Agile results by nature are qualitative in nature and focus on the features that you wish to ascertain in a specific period of time. On the other hand, OKRs are driven by metrics. Thus, you can use a combination of the two for effective results:

  • Use OKRs to validate goals set using the agile methodology
  • Ensure each key result has a quantitative (data) and qualitative aspect (value)
  • Use a combination of agile and OKRs to ensure that your progress is positively impacting the organization

The combination can help you create an ideal balance between outputs and outcomes which are both critical when it comes to goal achievement and performance management. 

4. Promote use of data

  • Leverage data and evidence to create your agile based OKRs
  • Instead of creating OKR based on leadership opinion alone, validate the same with market study
  • Don’t rely completely on hypothetical representation, undertake primary and secondary research to ensure relevance and perceived achievability

Pro-tip:

Using data and not relying solely on opinions will help you set agile OKRs which don’t under or over estimate the goals. For instance, if the market data on traffic to a new website in your industry is 20,000 clicks in one week, your OKR can focus on reaching 25,000 to make it aspirational but achievable up to 80%. 

However, if you set the target at 50,000 or above, it will become too far fetched and the team might not even strive for it. On the flip side, if the target is only at 10,000, it will not encourage your employees to push the boundaries. Thus, you need to replace opinions and command OKRs with data backed experimentation.

5. Build self organizing teams

  • Provide you teams with a clear idea of what the larger vision looks like
  • Encourage them to set their own OKRs and help with a direction to achieve the same
  • Facilitate team autonomy and empower your team members with the right tools and resources like SuperBeings to not only set OKRs, but also track progress in real time and grade them at the end of the cycle. (Learn more)

Self organizing teams are important for growing organizations as they proactively take onus and ownership of achieving OKRs and lead to a greater degree of success. Step away from controlling detailed plans for each OKR and encourage the leadership to provide direction. 

Wrapping Up

To conclude, if you combine agile and OKR, you have for yourself a clear model for success which you can easily apply to goal setting and performance management. Furthermore, leveraging the right technology resources can help you stay on track and enable you to thrive in the VUCA world. 

OKRs
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How to Create a High Performance Culture Using OKR Methodology?

Like most fast growing organizations, you might also be leveraging the OKR methodology to set, implement and facilitate effective goal setting to maximize growth. If not, you should start using OKRs ASAP.

OKRs not only provide an excellent goal setting framework but also drive high performance when implemented strategically. Most importantly, with enhanced goal visibility and transparency, OKRs ensure that everyone is on the same page which is the foundation of a cohesive and high performing culture. 

In this article, we will discuss 8 ways in which you can adopt the OKR methodology to build a thriving company culture.

Use OKR methodology in 8 ways

1. Focus and clarity

A high performance and thriving company culture is based on the foundation of clarity and focus. When there are 100 things to focus on, your employees will eventually lose sight of what’s actually important and might feel burdened with non-priority tasks. This will lead to a poor employee experience and limited productivity, both situations that prevent an impactful culture.

However, when you apply the OKR methodology, you will be able to limit your focus on 3-5 top priorities which will attract attention, energy and efforts across the organization. You will then be able to create a high performance culture by dedicating all your resources to the key priorities to realize impact. 

2. Collaboration and alignment

A culture that thrives on collaboration, teamwork and alignment is one which creates maximum impact. The OKR methodology can help achieve this in an effective manner. On one hand, everyone is clear about their role in the OKR achievement, which makes collaboration seamless because everyone is on the same page and no one steps on the shoes of others. 

On the other hand, OKRs can help your employees align their responsibilities and tasks with the overall vision of the organization, motivating them to contribute to the big picture. 

To learn more about how to align teams using OKRs, read this

3. Agility and resilience

Recent times have shown that uncertainty and ambiguity will continue to mark the new normal. Thus, a culture of agility, resilience and responsiveness is critical for fast growing organizations. The OKR methodology can help achieve the same. 

OKRs are cognizant of the changing environment and have the flexibility to be adapted to the same. 

More importantly, you can leverage the OKR methodology to foster a culture that focuses on outcomes and is not fixated on the tasks to achieve the outcome at hand. 

4. Continuous engagement and reflection

One of the top challenges of building a great company culture is a siloed approach and annual reflection. This leads to surfacing of major risks and problems which result in high rates of attrition, absenteeism and lower levels of motivation, productivity, etc. 

However, the OKR methodology adopts an approach of continuous engagement and reflection. You can create a regular cadence to check OKR progress for each of your team members, even daily is effective. 

This continuous engagement and reflection can enable you to preempt risks before they surface and leverage the power of communication to address them in real-time. Invariably, a culture built on continuous engagement leads to greater impact and high levels of performance as well as employee satisfaction. 

5. Transparency 

The lack of transparency is one of the key obstacles for many fast growing organizations that seek to create a thriving company culture. A way out often seems difficult to navigate. Fortunately, the OKR methodology can help address this challenge as well. When you use OKR, especially with the support of an effective OKR tool, you can facilitate high levels of transparency. 

Everyone in the organization will not only know their role, but also will have a complete view of the level of performance for others. Such transparency can help you increase coordination of efforts and give everyone the visibility of what’s happening across the company. 

6. Non-hierarchy

You may agree that most fast growing organizations these days seek to replace a strict hierarchy with a more flat organizational structure that facilitates inclusion of diverse ideas, thoughts and opinions. However, many struggle when it comes to actually implementing this thought. 

Adopting OKRs can solve this problem.

By nature, the OKR methodology is based on a collaborative foundation where a top-down approach compliments a bottom-down approach for goal setting. 

This suggests that while the skeletal structure of the goals might be laid down by those in the top leadership, you can give all employees the freedom and autonomy to create OKRs for their teams and verticals. 

When your employees participate in setting the OKRs they have to execute, the level of ownership is much higher. Thus, you can leverage the OKR methodology to create a thriving culture built on greater ownership and a flat organizational structure. 

7. Open communication and feedback

With a focus on continuous engagement and reflection, the OKR methodology can help you facilitate open communication and feedback. Many studies have shown that a culture that facilitates regular feedback along with open channels of communication is more likely to thrive than one which does not. 

In the OKR methodology, when you constantly track your OKR progress (download our free template for tracking OKRs), you will be armed with data backed insights to offer regular feedback for your employees. Furthermore, you can also leverage the same to start meaningful conversations with your team members in case you feel that there is any kind of disconnect. Such open communication can help you create a truly inclusive culture when employees feel their voice is heard. 

8. Accountability and recognition

Finally, a company culture that thrives has two major components supporting it, accountability and recognition.

  • On one hand, only when your employees are accountable will they give in their 100% to create a high performance culture. 
  • On the other hand, if you don’t recognize the efforts of your employees frequently and in an effective manner, they are bound to feel demotivated with a lack of encouragement, leading to a poor employee experience and culture. 

The OKR methodology is an answer to both these challenges. 

  • First, being regularly reviewed, tracked and organization wide visibility makes accountability a given for fast growing organizations leveraging OKRs. Since everyone knows what the other person is responsible for, there is a development of a culture of accountability. 
  • Second, with regular tracking, monitoring individual progress becomes seamless for managers. Invariably, they can track the performance of their team members and recognize efforts in real time. This leads to a culture of recognition which is bound to see high levels of engagement, motivation and satisfaction. 

Empower your culture with the OKR methodology

Now that you know how the OKR methodology can help you in many ways to create a thriving culture, it is also true that as a fast growing organization with multi-pronged focus, leveraging OKRs is a challenging task. To address the same, you can collaborate with an integrated OKR tool like SuperBeings to automate the OKR adoption and maintenance.

With SuperBeings, you get to — 

  • Keep OKRs at the center of your business activities by aligning everyday tasks 
  • Reduce friction in goal management with zero context switching (by integrating Slack, Teams and Gchat)
  • Stay ahead of risks with a bird's eye view on key OKR status as well as compare progress over time with automated daily OKR tracking
  • Connect OKRs with Meetings tool to automate OKR check-ins and empower managers with data-backed AI driven actionable templates for meaningful conversations

Learn more about the OKR tool here. Otherwise, to see this in action, book a quick call with one of our experts. Also, get all your questions answered on the same. 

See Also

How to Run a Successful OKR Progress Review  

The complete guide to adopting OKRs (PDF)

Master OKRs in just 10 days: Free email course

Performance
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How to Write Negative Employee Reviews (Examples + Templates)

With performance management becoming a critical part of organizational success, giving effective employee reviews is becoming a crucial part of a manager’s responsibilities. While regular employee performance reviews focus on illustrating the strengths and what worked for employees and the organization at large, there needs to be an equal focus on areas of development in case of poor work performance

If you look closely, writing negative employee reviews is often considered to be more difficult because the words need to be chosen very carefully. It needs to have a developmental tone rather than a critical one. 

What are negative employee reviews?

As the term suggests, negative employee reviews are reviews delivered to employees who have underperformed and need to be pulled up to the expected levels. It involves a variety of components which include:

  • Problem statement i.e. an illustration of poor performance, how it has been manifested and its impact on the overall organizational success
  • A clear understanding of the level of performance which is expected
  • A potential way or action items to correct the poor performance and improve

To get actionable ideas of how to deal with poor performance issues at work, read this

Writing and delivering negative employee reviews is very important for any organization that seeks to maintain a high level of employee performance. It is critical to ensure that:

  • Poor performers are aware of their level of underperformance and have a clear picture of what’s expected from them
  • Those who are underperforming get an opportunity to improve or face the consequences of consistently performing poorly
  • Underperformers are given the right support and guidance to improve their work and efforts to meet the expectations

Why should you be cautious of your words?

When you are writing negative employee performance reviews, you need to be extremely cautious of the words you choose. Using the right words will help the receiver acknowledge and work on the suggested points, while using words that are too harsh or critical can lead to adverse consequences. There are a few reasons which make the choice of words extremely important. 

  • The right words can help negative employee reviews focus on the developmental aspects and the impact of poor performance on the organization, rather than criticizing the person in general
  • They can help ensure that the job and the performance are the focus of the employee reviews and not the character or the personality of the person
  • Being cautious also ensures that the negative employee reviews don’t have a negative impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of the employee and are taken in a constructive spirit.

The same review when offered with the right words can be more powerful and have a larger influence. 

For instance a statement like ‘you interfere too much in the work of others’ can be seen as a personal attack and may yield a defensive response from the receiver. 

However if you frame it in a different manner like ‘if you give others greater autonomy and freedom to work in their own way, you will be able to inspire greater creativity and innovation’, you will be able to put your message across and also help your employees understand how it will make a difference. 

Download: Free guided 1:1 meetings template to get personalized meeting recommendations

Tips for writing negative employee reviews 

In addition to being cautious of the words you use, there are a few other tips which you must keep in mind while writing negative performance reviews, including:

1. Keep it crisp and structured

While giving negative reviews is difficult, don’t beat around the bush and get straight to the point. However, instead of directly saying what isn’t going well, try adopting the sandwich approach. Start with a positive comment, add areas of improvement and end it with some suggestions and action items. 

Example: Tina has an excellent eye for detail and is very dedicated to her work. However, she often misses the deadlines which has led to a delay in 30% of her projects resulting in poor client experience. It would help her performance greatly, if she is able to prioritize her work better and keep an organized calendar for timely delivery. She can consider using the latest project management tools to facilitate better prioritization. 

2. Don’t get personal

Second, negative employee reviews should focus on the job or the role and not the person specifically. Steer away from using words or phrases which may end up combining performance and personality of the person. Your review should be specific towards performance challenges and not generalize that performance challenge is a personality trait.

Example: Instead of saying, “you are not punctual”, you can say that “I have seen you arrive late for meetings frequently, leaving shorter time for discussions. It would be best if you could be more punctual to respect others' time and make the most effective use of the same.”

3. Focus on progress

When you are writing negative performance reviews, you must focus on the progress and how a change in behavior and attitude can help them in the long run. Simply mentioning what went wrong and the associated process might lead to demotivation. 

Example: Some of your work has had grammatical errors in the past, maybe because you were trying to complete a lot at once. I am sure if you prioritize some tasks and create an action plan, your work quality will be better. 

4. Offer facts

Don’t simply give negative employee reviews about the problem area, but back it up with facts and data points. This will help you illustrate a pattern and establish that your review is not based on a single incident. Also, it will make your review more credible and authentic and not just a few words strung together. This will also help you in being very specific.  

Example: It has been observed that 40% of your customers claim that you don’t have adequate knowledge of your product, leading to a poor experience. 

5. Give examples

There might be some performance parameters which are difficult to add quantitative data points to. In such cases, you can offer specific examples of underperformance, especially if it has been repetitive. It is ideal to have at least 2-3 instances of poor performance to make your point stronger. 

Example: It has been noticed that in the aspiration to get your work perfect, you end up delaying projects. It was observed in project X with client A, project Y with client B as well as when the internal submission for Z was due. 

Pro-tip: Use our free Performance Review Phrases template to get 50+ examples of writing a negative review positively

How to deliver a poor performance review?

Once you write the negative employee reviews, you exactly know what you want to say to your employees. However, the way you deliver it also has a big impact on how it is received. To make the process simple, we have compiled a list of some of the best practices to help you deliver a poor performance review in the best way possible:

1. Connect in person

If you are delivering a negative performance review, it is best to do it in person, or if your team is remote, over a video call. If you deliver it over an email, you cannot be sure of the tone and context in which your words will be read. 

It might backfire by being read as more critical than developmental as per the intent. Furthermore, when you are delivering the negative reviews face to face, you can also use your gestures and body language to facilitate authenticity and empathy. 

2. Steer away from yelling

No matter how poor the performance has been, when you are delivering negative employee reviews, you should stay away from yelling or using foul language. Since the focus is on facilitating development for your employee, yelling will only defeat the purpose, making the employee demotivated and pushing them towards even lower levels of confidence and motivation. Furthermore, it will negatively impact your organization from an employer brand perspective. It can also create a negative impact on the wellbeing of your employees. 

3. Add anecdotes 

While delivering the review, you may want to add some personal stories or anecdotes if you have yourself been through something on those lines. This will help you connect better with your employees and make them trust you more. Furthermore, it can enable you to illustrate how they can turn poor performance into something better with a live example in front of them. 

4. Make it a dialogue

Your negative review shouldn’t be a monologue where you deliver what you have written with the employee absorbing it as a passive recipient. Instead, make it a dialogue by putting forward questions to understand the reasons behind poor performance and how you and the organization as a whole can help turn the table. Hearing their side of the story is extremely important before deciding on the next steps. 

4. Create a safe environment

When you are delivering negative employee reviews, you need to create a safe environment. It should not be harsh and the employee should feel comfortable in receiving what you have to offer. Also, make sure you deliver the review privately and not publicly shame your employee. They should see it as a developmental conversation in a safe environment, where they can also voice their opinions. 

5. Make it regular

Finally, negative employee reviews need to be regular and not come as a surprise to your employees at the end of the year. Regular reviews will give your employees enough room to improve their performance. Furthermore, it will give them a clear picture of what to expect when the year closes. 

To learn how SuperBeings can help you have guided conversations around negative performance review with AI recommendations based on performance and goals history as well as maintain a steady cadence to maximize the impact of such conversations, see this

Offer suggestions and follow up

After you have delivered the negative reviews to employees, the natural next step is to create a plan for improvement to help your employees reach the level of performance you expect out of them. This is a critical part of the performance management and talent development process for employees who have been consistently underperforming. Here are a few ways you can help your employees improve their performance.

1. Create action items collaboratively

If you have reached this level of negative employee reviews, you and your employee would be on the same page about their level of performance. Thus, it is best to create a list of action items that can help them improve their performance. To create the next steps, you must:

  • Ensure the steps are specific and not generic which only state the objective
  • Create steps which are aspirational, but achievable at the same time
  • Ascertain that there is an intended result for each decided step
  • Collaborate and brainstorm with your employee to create action items which are agreed upon by both
  • Align timelines and other factors to achieve success

2. Document the next steps

Next, your focus should not only be on planning the action items, but documenting them as well, because once they are out of sight, they’ll be out of mind. Furthermore, documenting them will help you remember the agreed steps and track progress every now and then. 

Clearly document what needs to be achieved, by when and how. It can be a good idea to encourage your team members to constantly document their experience as well to help discuss what has been working well and what needs to improve. 

3. Draft a Performance Improvement Plan (PiP) if needed

Depending on the performance issue, you may want to introduce a performance improvement plan for your employee. It is a formal tool to address performance challenges which outlines specific goals and expectations along with clear actions that need to be undertaken over a duration of 30-90 days.

For more details on PIP, check out A guide to implementing a performance improvement plan (PIP)

4. Set up a cadence

You also must set up a cadence to discuss performance improvements or challenges once the next steps are agreed upon. Unless you connect regularly to discuss the status, you might find yourself at square one at the end of the next performance review period as well. 

Depending on what needs to be achieved, you can set a weekly, fortnightly or monthly cadence to connect with your poor performers. While it may be seen as a regular review, it will also act as a reinforcer for them to ensure there is some improvement everytime the cadence to meet comes up. 

5. Define metrics

When you are determining the next steps, it is important to identify the associated metrics as well. For instance, if you want your employee to become more detail oriented, your metric can focus on reduction in errors by a specific percentage over a specific duration of time. 

The metrics will help you measure whether or not there has been an improvement in the performance as desired or not. At the same time, the metrics will help your employee move towards a specific goal. 

6. Follow up

While you have a set cadence, you may also want to check-in or follow up from time to time to make your employee comfortable enough to reach out to you in between your cadence for connecting. The follow ups can be over emails or calls or simple messages to check if everything is on track and to offer them any support whichever is needed. Especially in the beginning, you may need to check from time to time in case there’s any additional support that the employee needs to work on the action items. 

7. Evaluate progress

Finally, to ensure that your negative employee reviews translate to impact, you must focus on evaluating progress. Use the metrics you defined to gauge the level of progress and document it whenever you evaluate the same. This will help you establish a trend over time. 

Furthermore, if you feel the progress is below expectations, try to understand the rationale behind the same to check if putting the employee on a performance improvement plan will make more sense. 

Wrapping Up

By now, you must have gained a clear understanding of how to write, deliver and follow up on negative employee performance reviews constructively. If you are keen to learn how best to connect negative performance issues with regular 1:1 meetings with your team members with technology, book a quick demo with one of our executives. We would love to show you around :)

See Also

How to use Start Stop Continue feedback framework for high performance

10 performance review tips for managers that actually work

How to use employee coaching to unlock performance

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