by Roy Saunderson | August 19, 2011
With the 2012 presidential candidates making campaign stops at Sal's Pizza locations across New England, it's no surprise employee morale at the pizza chain is high. But even in non-election years, 44-year-old CEO Sal Lupoli has been successful in motivating his workforce, which includes employees at 42 restaurants and Riverwalk Properties, his real estate complex. Lupoli believes effective employee recognition begins from the top down. He works to engage everyone from waiters and cooks to managers and marketers, not to mention franchisees, property contractors, and senior-level execs. Here are his top tips: 
 
1. Remember your employees are human beings first and workers second.  
Every manager-employee interaction must be person to person, rather than boss to subordinate. Titles and responsibilities may be different, but the goal of making your company the best it can be is universal.
 
2. Foster empowerment through accountability. 
Make sure employees know exactly what is expected of them. Give them latitude to do their jobs while holding them accountable to "get the job done." Help them know how to exceed expectations and prevent inappropriate actions: an uncertified employee should not attempt to do the work for someone who is certified, for example.
 
3. You don't have to be the smartest guy in the room.  
Just because you're the boss doesn't mean you have to be a know-it-all.  When you don't know the answer, say so—and invite your team to find it out for you. Wise leaders hire people who are better than themselves.
 
4. Encourage initiative—and be ready for it.  
While your organization needs to run under guidelines of corporate and industry compliance, Lupoli says it's important to encourage employees to bring their Big Idea suggestions to the table, everything from potential customer promotions to new ways to grow. Set up a system to collect ideas and explain to your employees how they could make an impact.
 
5. Cultivate an environment for advancement.  
Put your money where your mouth is with employee recognition. If you have team members who repeatedly demonstrate initiative, purpose, and exceptionalism, help them get to the next career level. Creating upward mobility programs for employees to grow and prosper within your organization will not only help with engagement, it will improve retention.
 
6. Lead by example, but don’t phone it in.  
Delegation is critical for an organization to operate, but teamwork requires participation from the top. Whether it's filling in for someone when short-staffed or during an unexpected circumstance, or using your SUV to help car-pool workers on snow days, being in the trenches and helping out is the best way to show employees you care.
 
7. Plan out your recognition strategy. 
Whatever your recognition strategy is—regular thank yous, calls from the CEO, plaques on the wall, established programs, or quarterly goals with a fancy reward at the end—communicate the details of your programs to all staff members. If they understand what it is they're working toward, everybody wins!
 
8. An "open door policy" means keeping all doors open.
We often think if it's in the handbook, it must be so. It isn't. Help employees know who to talk to in their departments and beyond, since for many of them, opening up to direct supervisors may be intimidating. Invite employees to share their ideas, growth plans, and even disappointments with next-level managers, so they feel heard and issues get resolved.

9. Acknowledge the positive, but voice concerns.
Don't take positive behaviors and results for granted. Recognize and appreciate an employee for a job well done, but address shortcomings, as well. Recognition is also a chance to help an individual improve and grow.

10. Celebrate successes.  
Lupoli reminds us that when milestones are met—from years-of-service awards to corporate achievements to the excellent execution of an employee idea—a celebration is in order. Hold off-site ceremonies, use social media communications, have your CEO send handwritten notes, or make announcements during company-wide calls. Whatever your culture dictates, make an announcement of a victory happy and exciting for everyone! 

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Recognition Way and president of the Recognition Management Institute, www.realrecognition.com, which consults companies on improving employee motivation that leads to increased productivity and profit. He can be reached at [email protected] Also, tune in every Tuesday to his radio show, Real Recognition Radio