Recognition doesn't come naturally for everyone. Some managers (usually the best) systematically recognize employees when they do good work; others feel that recognition is unnecessary, perhaps even unimportant.

Fortunately, many companies have begun to realize that they can't leave recognition to the whims of their individual managers. They expect all managers to provide recognition to their employees and some even provide recognition training.

Recognition Training at AlliedSignal An example of a company that provided such training is AlliedSignal Inc. I recently worked with the industrial fibers plant in Moncure, N.C., which makes different types of polyester strands from chemicals, to be used in products such as seat belts and radial tires. I was impressed with how this company approached the challenge of training its managers in the skill of recognition, an integral step in making recognition a key part of the organization's culture.

Top management at AlliedSignal didn't expect recognition to happen just because they had a program in place. They sought to provide a framework for understanding the importance of recognition and a chance for managers to discuss recognition and to practice these skills in a safe setting.

Initially (as with any type of required training activity), some managers resented being pulled from their jobs--especially to take the time to learn such a "soft" skill as recognition. The training program dealt with that concern up front. Early on in the program, participants were asked what was done at the plant to recognize safety, one of the organization's strategic objectives. As people in the class began listing activities (things like, "Don't we give out baseball caps once a year with a safety slogan?"), they realized there were some 18 different recognition activities and programs--all driving the importance of safety in the plant.

Then the instructors asked, "And how is our safety record as a result?" Since the plant's safety record was exceptional--far surpassing the industry's average--attendees immediately began to see the connection between this significant organizational achievement and the recognition activities that helped make it possible.

They then turned to discussing how that same recognition engine could drive other important objectives in the organization. Managers left the training with an invaluable new tool that they could use at their discretion to obtain better results.

Here are a few valuable techniques for teaching the topic of recognition. Use a variety of approaches, since all people learn differently.

Research and statistics--Select statistics from motivation studies (commonly reported in the press) to convince more analytical participants of the importance of recognition. Several of my favorite studies are presented in my booklet, Motivating Today's Employees (published by Successories, Inc., 888/638-7750).

The closer to home the data is, the more credibility it has with attendees. In the case of AlliedSignal, they were able to use their own quantitative data on the effectiveness of past recognition programs to demonstrate its relevance to managers in training.

Stories and case studies--A good story is more powerful than research. This can be from the trainer's own experience, or from that of attendees. I often ask participants to think of the last time they felt appreciated or the best recognition they ever gave to another employee, then to share their experience with a partner and the group.

Activities and discussion--Have participants practice giving praise in a timely, sincere, and specific manner. In group discussions, share recognition techniques that have worked for attendees in different organizations and brainstorm low-cost recognition ideas.

AlliedSignal conducted small group discussions to decide if various situations warranted recognition and, if so, what type (public or private) would be appropriate.

Behavioral modeling--An ideal way to teach a skill is to model that skill. When teaching recognition, it's important to give personal praise to participants during the class, to do live role-playing, or to videotape examples of good and bad recognition. Other ideas:

* Pass around a trophy in class to reinforce certain desired behaviors, such as volunteering for activities.

* Have participants create an award from a piece of crumpled paper and plan what they would do or say to make the award meaningful.

* Provide thank-you notes or certificates for participants to complete and present in class to one another.