5 Strategies to Improve Staff Recognition

If you’ve been to a Club Director’s Academy or a Youth Development Institute, then you will know (and love!) today’s writer, Issa Prescott. I’ve been hounding him for a blog post because I know he is full of SO MANY good ideas! 


I was delivering a training recently where we were discussing the power of recognizing your staff. I led an activity where managers had to help each other brainstorm ways to recognize their employees for specific actions in their Club. We weren’t 5 minutes into the activity when I noticed an otherwise eager Club Director with a puzzled look on her face. I walked over to help because she looked like she was stuck. She couldn’t understand why or how she should recognize her staff for doing things that were a part of their job description? I replied with 2 simple questions:

Is youth development challenging work? She said yes.

Do you think staff should be recognized when they accomplish something that is difficult?

She said yes again, and I could almost literally see the light bulb turn on above her head as she processed my questions. It was in that moment that it clicked for her. Nodding her head, she said “I never thought about it that way!”

I was no different as manager of a Boys & Girls Club in Metro Atlanta. I would go long periods of time without formally recognizing my staff for their contributions. One day, I was lucky enough to have an honest staff member tell me that she felt like she wasn’t receiving the credit she deserved for all of her creative ideas that were implemented in the Club. It was at this point that I realized that I HAD to spend more time and energy intentionally recognizing my staff.

I know you are wondering “Is recognition worth the extra time and effort I have to put in?” Well, if your goal is to impact the Club Experience of members in a positive way, then it most certainly is! When managers are thoughtful about implementing recognition, staff members are more likely to put forth their best effort into their work. It also serves as a model of how your staff can recognize youth! Based on the NYOI and  National Staff Survey, when staff report that their supervisors consistently recognize them, the percentage of members who report an optimal Club Experience is 13 points higher than Clubs where supervisors do not. I’m not a finance guy but I know that 13 percentage points is a great return on investment!

Most people aren’t actually against recognition. Instead, we usually just don’t make time for it or we assume that we have done it enough already. The truth is, we have to make the time for it on a daily basis, and we have to be consistent. Adults are no different than youth in that they need to be regularly acknowledged for their hard work.

One of my favorite quotes is from Zig Ziglar, who said “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Here are my top 5 strategies to keep in mind when recognizing your staff:

  • Learn the preferences of each staff member to ensure staff know that you are being thoughtful. There is nothing worse than receiving a gift you don’t want for a job well done. Ask staff how they like to be recognized, whether in public or in private, whether through a gift or maybe just a handwritten note.
  • Don’t just give empty praise – be specific when providing verbal recognition. People want to know not only that they did a job well done, but what was specifically good about it? So instead of “Great job!” say “It was really effective when you started the activity with a community builder because it got the members engaged right away.”
  • Be consistent. Create a routine and put it on your calendar to hold yourself accountable to recognizing each of your staff members.
  • Create a culture where staff are constantly recognizing each other. Incorporate team recognition activities in your staff meetings. It can be as simple as holding a place for quick shout-outs on the agenda!
  • Be authentic. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. People know when they have put forth their best effort. If they are getting recognition for low-quality work, it diminishes the value of the recognition technique you are currently using.

Looking for a place to start? Check out the Recognition tag here on the ClubX Blog.


Issa has been in the Movement for 7 years, and is a Club Alum! He follows in the footsteps of his late Grandfather Herman S. Prescott, a Master of Mentor and Pioneer for Boys & Girls Clubs. Issa is a passionate healthy food enthusiast and a vegan blogger who loves to travel the world. If you see him in the field ask him about his international travel adventures!

What are your best tips for staff recognition? How do you recognize youth at your Club? Send your best ideas to ClubXBlog@bgca.org and YOU could be featured in an upcoming post!

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