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An Idea That Will Keep Your Staff Smiling

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An Idea That Will Keep Your Staff Smiling

Planned Spontaneous Recognition

You want high performance from your staff. You push them to give you exceptional results. In doing so you often raise stress levels-theirs and yours! This can create a potentially explosive situation. If you want to diffuse that possibility and keep your staffing personnel smiling, try introducing Planned Spontaneous Recognition.

  • Planned – You need a process to recognize performance.
  • Spontaneous – On a systematic basis, make the recognition unexpected.
  • Recognition – Do lots of things that will let your people know they are valued and appreciated.


  • Your staff will feel appreciated and work stress will get reduced.
  • Desired behaviors get reinforced and repeated.
  • Happy employees create a harmonious work environment and your stress gets reduced.
  • Creativity flourishes and customer problems are more readily solved.
  • Turnover is reduced and the cost of training new staff is reduced as well.
  • Productivity is increased which will ultimately increase your bottom line.
  • It can cost you nothing to do it.


To help implement this idea quickly and effectively, we’ve provided:

  • A step by step action plan
  • Tips that will assist you
  • An implementation plan
  • Samples of recognition scenarios at all levels in a staffing operation
  • Pitfalls to Avoid

Action Plan

Develop a Planned Spontaneous Recognition program that you and your top management team can make a regular part of your day to day business activities. Why? Because:

  1. Behaviors that get rewarded, get repeated.
  2. Most people consider recognition to be one of the most valuable rewards they can receive.

Steps for a Successful Planned Spontaneous Recognition Program

Step 1

Put the name of every employee you are responsible for recognizing on a 3×5 card (you can create a paperless version using a spreadsheet, if you prefer).

Step 2

Sort the batch of cards in alphabetical order by the person’s last name.

Step 3

Every day (if you have 10 or more cards) or every week (if you have fewer than 10 cards) select the first two to three cards for recognition.

Step 4

Find something each person did that exemplifies the behavior you want to reinforce.

Walk up to that person (or call/video conference them) and say: “I want to thank you for ___________________________ that I saw you do last week.”

– or –

“I want to thank you for ___________________________ that I heard you did last week.”

– or –

“I want to thank you for ___________________________ that ________________ told me you did last week.”

“I wanted to let you know just how it helped me and/or the company.” (Then tell them how you or the company may be better off as a result of their actions.)

“Thank so much-I really appreciate what you’ve done.”

Step 5

Take the two to three cards you’ve selected for recognition and put them at the back of your pack to await their next “Planned Spontaneous Recognition.”

Note: If you cannot find even one thing to recognize in an employee’s actions, you might consider just what contribution that person is making to your organization.

Tips That Will Help You

Tip 1

You can always find something good to be recognized if you’re really looking. Remember you’re trying to recognize behaviors not results.

Tip 2

As you observe behaviors you might want to recognize at a later date, write the facts on a “yellow sticky.” (The technical term for a Post-It Note.) Attach it to the back of their 3×5 card for later use. Be sure to include the person’s name and date on the Post-It Note. (Again, feel free to create a paperless version of this process with your favorite spreadsheet software).

Tip 3

Remember the four-to-one rule. You need to give four compliments to balance one negative criticism. People are much more likely to dismiss positive feedback, but to remember negative feedback.

Tip 4

Try to recognize each person at least one time per month. Two to three times is better.

Tip 5

Recognition from an employee’s boss’ boss is more valuable than recognition from their own boss. Try to arrange to recognize the subordinates of your direct reports and/or if you have a boss, get your boss to recognize your direct reports.

Tip 6

Be sincere. Made-up compliments sound phony. Find behaviors you truly appreciate.

Because people really do like surprises, we advise that you not announce a “Recognition Program.”

Implementation Plan

  • At your next management meeting, introduce the idea of Planned Spontaneous Recognition and the benefits your staffing service could experience if this idea was implemented.
  • Have your managers prepare 3×5 cards for the employees they supervise or distribute 3×5 cards that you have already created.
  • Review Steps 2 through 5 in The Action Plan’s “Steps for Successful Planned Spontaneous Recognition Program.”
  • Review the “Tips” section of The Action Plan.
  • Establish a schedule for how often you want each person recognized.
  • Do not announce this program to anyone who might be a potential recipient of such recognition. It could spoil your appearance of “spontaneity.”
  • Implement and have fun. Your employees and your managers will love this idea!


Sample List of the Kinds of Recognition You Can Use

There are three types of recognition that you can implement with this program.

People Personal attention from the boss, (comments, written memos, in-office e-mails) Most effective. (Don’t forget that bosses have a greater impact on their employees than they think they do.)
Activities Including events both inside and outside the work setting, special acknowledgment, promotions, participation in meetings Activities are more effective than things as they can be given more spontaneously and can be included in the day-to-day operations.
Things Rewards that have a monetary value such as gifts, plaques, trophies Tend to have a short-term effect, and set expectations for “next month’s prize.”


Samples of “People” Recognition:

  1. Planned Spontaneous Recognition of your Receptionist:”Let me thank you for the great job you did in handling that irate customer from XYZ Company. Without your help we might have lost the order-and even the customer. Your help was really appreciated. Thanks again!”
  2. Planned Spontaneous Recognition of an Inside Customer Service Person:”I want to recognize the extra effort you put forth this week in filling that difficult order for ABC Company. They are a very fussy client and your extra effort went a long way in making our company look good to them. Thanks again, I appreciate what you did.”
  3. Planned Spontaneous Recognition of an Outside Sales Representative:”Allow me to extend a special thank you. I was told by ________________ that you took time during your lunch break to pick up that temp’s missing timesheet so her check could get processed this week. That temporary is valuable to us and I’m certain that extra effort will help ensure her loyalty to our company. I appreciate that. Thank you!”
  4. Planned Spontaneous Recognition of a Recruiter:”Thanks for volunteering to stay late at that job fair last week. I know it was a long day. We really need every experienced person you were able to recruit, and your extra effort is really appreciated. Thanks so much.”
  5. Planned Spontaneous Recognition of a Manager:”Let me extend my thanks to you for spending the additional time training our newest sales rep concerning ______________. I’m sure the training will help when she has her first appointment with ____________________ next week. Let me know the results and thanks again for the extra effort!”

Samples of “Activities” Recognition:

  • Lunch with the boss
  • Special recognition at a company meeting
  • A “special” parking spot for one week
  • ½ day off
  • Attendance at an offsite training session
  • Attendance at an offsite business lecture/meeting
  • Special recognition posting in the lobby
  • Sporting event with the boss
  • Ice cream party
  • A “superstar” certificate

Samples of “Things” Recognition

  • Gift certificate
  • Movie tickets
  • Plant or flowers
  • Company shirt
  • Balloons that say “Thank You” or “Good Job”
  • Happy hour in honor of the employee
  • Desk accessory
  • “Employee of the Week/Month” trophy
  • Lottery tickets
  • Monopoly money (that can later be cashed in for rewards)

Pitfalls to Avoid

In implementing a Spontaneous Recognition Program for your staffing service, be aware of the following pitfalls which can cause you trouble:

  • Thinking that you are already doing it
  • Thinking that it’s easy to do
  • Not providing variety of “personalized” forms of recognition
  • Failure of senior management to be actively involved in this program
  • Expecting results too soon
  • Rewarding only numbers, rather than behavior
  • Implementing the program only among sales staff, while ignoring support and administrative personnel
  • Not being timely in giving spontaneous recognition
  • Not being specific in announcing the achievement for which a staff member is being recognized
  • Not having fun with this idea!
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