One Size Does Not Fit All

I don’t know who came up with the “one size fits all” idea.  Let me tell you, there are very few women who can honestly say that “one size fits all” nylons actually fit! As someone who is five feet tall (and no, I’m not going to tell you my weight), one size fits all simply means saggy, baggy knees and ankles. They may not fall down, but the definitely don’t fit!  Pretty much anything designed as “one size fits all” is guaranteed to disappoint a large percentage of the people it was supposedly designed for.

The thing wrong with “one size fits all” is that it doesn’t take individual characteristics into consideration. And that is the problem with a lot of employee recognition and reward programs.  So many programs are designed for ease of use and implementation, rather than effectiveness. I am sure it is less costly to make a whole bunch of “one size fits all” nylons and it is less expensive (perhaps more in time than money) to create an employee recognition program that treats everyone exactly the same, but that recognition program is probably about as effective as the “one size fits all”  nylons.

Ordering a bunch of logoed “stuff” from a promotional company and handing it out at five years, ten years and so on, doesn’t say “I know you, I appreciate you, I value you.”  I sometimes wonder how many pins, logoed watches, mantel clocks and framed certificates are gathering dust in drawer or closet somewhere.   Giving a generic “good job” sticky note or pin, without providing the specifics as to what was done well, doesn’t hold a lot of meaning for many people.  Employee of the month programs have become cliché and in many companies, a case of “whose turn is it” this month.  No wonder the concept of employee engagement is “pshawed” in so many circles.

Customizing recognition and reward based on employee preferences and personalities absolutely takes more time, although it does not necessary have to cost more.  Taking the time to say “Thank you for the effort you put into the report.  You clearly identified the challenges and your suggested solutions were thoughtful and thorough” will have much more of an impact than “Great job on the report.”  Giving a busy, new dad an afternoon off to spend with his family will create more goodwill than a company sweatshirt. And does anyone really want a crystal clock to put on their mantle after ten years of service? I suppose there are some people that do, in which case, give them the mantle clock. For the rest, perhaps they’d prefer a round of golf, a day at the spa. No, those events aren’t logoed, but who is the program really about? The company or the employee?

At the same time, don’t forget to take into consideration individual personality types. Some people love being the centre of attention. Go ahead … recognize them publically, but don’t force people who prefer the shadows to stand in the spotlight.  Remember, this is not about your opportunity to show what a great boss you are. This is about recognizing and rewarding an employee in a customized, personalized way that demonstrates you value them enough to focus on them, not on you or the company.


4 thoughts on “One Size Does Not Fit All

  1. Laurie,

    I completely agree that taking a little more time to think about how to praise the employee in the best way possible can make a big difference. Just like one of the examples you gave, I’ve known people who really appreciate being praised, but they did not want to be praised in front of others. They just didn’t like standing out. It made them uncomfortable.

    I like the idea of giving a gift card for books to somebody who loves books, a round of golf for a golfer, etc. It shows that you thought enough to get them a gift that recognizes something they enjoy. It may take a little more time, but it can go a long way.

    Since the employee has put the effort into their job to earn the praise, I figure the same effort ought to be put into how the employee is praised.

    • “Since the employee has put the effort into their job to earn the praise, I figure the same effort ought to be put into how the employee is praised.” – Great way to express this Greg. Thank you for adding your insight to this topic.

  2. Spot on. Something sized to fit everyone generally fits almost no one well. A co-worker has complained about promotional or participant t-shirts some companies and vendors give away. He says they always give out larges figuring that those will fit everyone – except he wears extra large and his wife is a medium. Is it a reward if you can’t use it? Or is it actually a demotivator?

    My wife once received a watch as recognition. It was broken.Again, is it a reward if you can’t use it. Or is it actually a demotivator? I’m pretty sure she would have preferred a coffee and an authentic, heartfelt thanks (even if the watch did work).

    That said, it makes me wonder how I could better recognize my employees…

    • LOL…I’ve lost count of the size large shirts I’ve donated to goodwill! I have yet to receive the broken watch, but who knows, it may be in my future. The examples you provided are, unfortunately, very common. Rewards and recognition need to be valued and recognized as a reward by the recipient in order to be effective. Taking the time to get to know individual likes and dislikes means we can customize and create value. Bookworms would probably appreciate a gift card to a local book store, movie lovers would appreciate a free movie and everyone appreciates a heartfelt, personalized and well thought out thank you!

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