December 5, 2022

Small Business Advice

Recognizing Employees in a Recession

Jerry Osteryoung | 5/4/2009

While we are focusing on fear, worry, or hate, it is not possible for us to be experiencing happiness, enthusiasm or love.
— Bo Bennett, Year to Success

Recognizing employee accomplishments is so important, and in today’s economic climate, it is even more critical. Most of your staff is fearful for their jobs and their families’ well-being. If there is ever a time that you need to go out of your way to appreciate your staff, that time is now.

Some people are going to say that with cash being so tight, they need to conserve for survival, and they are correct. However, you must make sure that your staff is not being forced to do their jobs under an umbrella of fear.

I recently walked in to one business, and I could just feel the fear from all of the employees. I wanted to walk right out of there as fast as I could. The employees had gone through one staff layoff and were fearful of another one. It is hard for your staff to be cheerful when dealing with customers if they are operating on a foundation of fear. It just will not work having your staff fearful for their livelihood.

One great way to overcome this fear is through a public show of appreciation. Recognizing staff with plaques and awards does not cost money, but it adds value to your company. I cannot imagine a more effective way of dispelling fear than giving a nice plaque to an employee or a group of employees to thank them for a job well done.

Did we have the financial resources to make this happen? Barely, but we all just knew that we had a very high obligation to the staff that worked with us.

Additionally, as salary increases get scarcer this year, recognition will mean even more. An award presented in a public setting says, “I have confidence in you, and I appreciate your commitment to our company.” A message like that trumps fear and lack of salary increase every time.

Some great times to recognize staff are when they meet or exceed important goals, or when they are commended by your customers for doing a great job. I once walked around my office and tried to envision how many awards I could give my staff, and the list was endless. This exercise really helped raise my awareness of the numerous areas that needed rewarding. Going way beyond the call of duty, giving 120 percent effort, always putting the team first and creative approaches to problem solving were just a few of the areas I found to reward.

Now go out and find ways that you can recognize as many staff members as possible over the next six months in order to reduce fear in your organization. Be creative in your approach and give them something tangible to permanently mark the occasion and make it an indelible milestone for the employee.

You can do this!

Jerry Osteryoung is the Director of Outreach of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University, the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship; and Professor of Finance. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 850-644-3372.

Tags: Florida Small Business

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