The 50/30/20 Rule

May 16th, 2016
Ann Lyons by Ann Lyons

If you asked members of your organisation about their preferred method of recognition you would receive a diversity of answers. Ask the same group this question: ‘From whom do you wish to receive recognition?’ The answer will be clear: from their supervisor or manager. While recognition is generally of great importance, from whom recognition is received is of paramount importance.

In her book, Make Their Day: Employee Recognition that Works, Cindy Ventrice says her research shows that ‘70% of the most meaningful recognition comes from a manager’ (Ventrice, 55). From this, she extrapolates a useful rule of thumb for organisations to consider in building effective employee recognition.


‘The 50/30/20 Rule’

Employees want recognition from multiple sources. She suggests that they need personal recognition from their manager. They also want formal recognition from their organisation, in the form of awards. Finally, they expect both formal and informal recognition from their peers. There seems to be a preferred mix of these different sources; Ventrice suggests that employees want 50% of recognition from their manager/supervisor; 30% from their peers; and, 20% from their organisation – this combination is the 50/30/20 Rule.

This places the manager or supervisor in the prime position to give ‘real’ employee recognition. They represent the local ‘face’ of an organisation, especially when it is a large, multi-national organisation. Remember the ‘Rule’: the supervisor or manager’s recognition counts for 50% – this means their efforts are very significant.

Ventrice suggests, however, that the manager or supervisor often miss this trick! She suggests ‘almost half of all managers fail to provide any meaningful recognition’ (Ventrice, 58). Resistance is due to a number of beliefs, including:

Pay is the only recognition employees require. The truth is employees want recognition for its own sake;

The manager/supervisor is concerned of being charged with favouritism! While this is a real concern, it can be addressed. First, establish sound recognition criteria; second, consistently recognise employees who meet the criteria;

Previous attempts have failed. Managers and supervisors may not understand what it takes to provide meaningful recognition. It goes back to the ‘criteria’ noted above: setting meaningful criteria and awarding those who fit the criteria helps the manager/supervisor to ‘succeed’ in recognising those who go the extra mile.


The Role with the Most Impact

The supervisors and managers in an organisation are its strategic eyes and ears. They encourage team members to give of their best; they give them timely and meaningful feedback; and when team members meet your organisation’s criteria, they give recognition for their accomplishments.

Ventrice affirms the importance and centrality of the role of the manager and supervisor. However, the ’50/30/20 Rule’ suggests that recognition comes also from peers and from the organisation itself. This suggests that organisations that plan and design recognition programmes that encourage and support this ‘Rule’ will help to reinforce employee recognition and deliver greater benefits to your organisation.

Author: Cindy Ventrice, Book: Make Their Day! Employee Recognition that Works, 2009

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