Creating an Army of Recruiters Through Recognition with Sarah McVanel

A paycheck alone isn’t enough anymore. Workers are speaking with their feet. Meaningful compensation, recognition, and flexibility are as important, if not more.

So how can you show your people appreciation to both attract new employers and retain the talent you have?

In this episode of Geeks, Geezers, Googlization, Sarah McVanel, a leading recognition expert and author, exposes some myths that get in the way of acknowledging others. Sarah also breaks down how practicing recognition can help you create an army of recruiters. As you listen, you’ll hear simple ways to recognize your employees and understand what meaningful compensation looks like.

Getting to know Sarah McVanel

Sarah McVanel carries an impressive portfolio. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Master of Science Degree in Family Relations. With about twenty years of Organizational Development experience at her disposal, Sarah’s work is directed toward making recognition a key pillar of retention strategies.

In addition to her degrees, she holds valuable certifications in Human Resources, Organizational Development, Coaching, Speaking, and Healthcare Administration. She has authored several books, publications, and journals and is a frequent Vlogger.

Sarah left her senior management role five years ago to launch her boutique firm, Greatness Magnified. Through her dedication and contribution, she helps leaders leverage the exponential power of retaining top talent.

Meaningfulness at work

The importance of employee satisfaction has long been recognized. Unfortunately, many organizations and their managers failed to really master the art of rewards and recognition or just ignored their value. Even as employee satisfaction evolved into employee engagement and more recently, employee experience, many businesses just gave it lip service.

But the COVID-19 pandemic ripped back the curtain and exposed a vulnerable labor market infrastructure, undergoing significant disruption due to a combination of demographic shifts, advanced skill requirements, and growing labor shortages. While still using money as the solution for recruitment and retention, millions of workers each month are quitting their jobs in search of feeling valued.

So how does one find meaningfulness at work? What influences employees who stay on the job?

Head over to this podcast at the Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization Show, and listen to this captivating and crucial conversation between Sarah McVanel and hosts Ira S Wolfe and Jason Cochran. Familiarize yourself with the essence of recognition and equip yourself with a powerful tool that will help you in building lasting connections.

Dr. Laura is a founder of Vocal Impact Productions. She has trained and coached executives at IBM, US Department of Commerce, Women against Abuse, as well as politicians, business owners and non-profit leaders from all around the world. She has spoken at thousands of conferences, including Special Business Women of California Conference & Pennsylvania Conference for Women.

Beyond the paycheck

The idea that good pay will keep workers in their jobs is becoming increasingly ineffective and even dangerous. Research has shown that workers are more likely to stay with a company if they feel appreciated and rewarded for their hard work, not just compensated well. In fact, many workers who have jumped ship for lucrative compensation packages and greener pastures now regret their decisions. Companies that focus exclusively on pay tend to neglect other important factors such as employee engagement and development.

What workers want is time for a personal life, the opportunity to experience a career journey, and work that leads to something meaningful.

Research and survey after survey clearly suggest that the number one reason why most people quit their jobs in 2021 was a need for more flexibility or a lack of recognition from their boss.

So why does recognition matter so much. How does it differ from rewards and compensation?

Living the spirit of recognition

Recognition doesn’t require approval or a budget line item. You don’t need to make grand gestures to recognize others. Ninety-five percent simply want an acknowledgment, a simple thank you. Others may require an act of gratitude or service. Ninety-two percent prefer something specific about what you did or what the recipient values about you, even if it’s just one sentence.. Sarah also suggests words of affirmation are remembered long after the moment of delivery and build resilience, especially if shared as a written note or email.

The Platinum Rule

While everyone appreciates the recognition, one size doesn’t fit. For those not familiar with The Platinum Rule: Treat people as they would like to be treated, not like you would like to be treated (The Golden Rule). The humble or shy person might be embarrassed by a public acknowledgment while the extrovert might feel slighted by a sincere and yet non-public text or email.

How can you get beyond the one size fits all conundrum? Sarah McVanel says it’s simple: “Just ask them.” She provides a recognition checklist on her Cool Stuff page on her website (along with a lot of other cool stuff!)

You heard it here first!

Sarah revealed, for the very first time, her most recent recognition hack: embedded video. Everyone has a webcam and many video recording apps are free. Sarah uses Send Out Cards, but offered Loom and Cloud HQ (a Chrome extension) as alternatives. “Just hit record,” she suggests, “and leave a short message.” It’s a great way to develop deeper connections because people can actually here and see you say it, especially with so many of us working in hybrid and remote settings.

Why is recognition so hard?

Preconceived notions regarding the benefits and dangers of recognition cloud our judgment. The result is that many people struggle to offer recognition, even when they feel someone deserves it. It is definitely worth listening (around the 14:00 mark) to how she describes and handles three common struggles she sees:

Recognizing employees will make us look fake.


It will create a degree of expectation that more is coming.


If we compensate and pay people well, we don’t need to perform other acts of recognition.

Recognition at every phase of the employee experience

An employee’s lifecycle begins when they first submit an application at your company and ends after their departure. (One might argue today that the employee experience might live on past departure as many workers seem to be finding their way “home.”) It is important to view the employee experience as a continuum and assess how we recognize employees at each stage of their lifecycle, from the first inquiry to post-termination. It is safe to say that money isn’t going to be the primary motivator throughout the employee lifecycle and recognition may be the gift that keeps giving. Doing something meaningful for your employee, what makes them passionate about your business and job, is what helps create an army of recruiters. “The paycheck is dead. [It is] table stakes.”

A complaint is a poorly worded request

So often complaints from the squeaky wheel are dismissed. But reframing your perspective from it’s just another gripe to it’s a plea for help, that something isn’t working. The complaint becomes an opportunity for recognition … and a chance to respond in a positive way, to extend a thank you for bringing it to your attention, maybe heading off a problem or even another resignation.

Ghosting candidates says “you don’t matter”

The lack of recognition is not just an employee problem. It’s a recruitment and hiring problem. Ghosting candidates is still rampant with many organizations with long delays or even silence when it comes to acknowledging the candidate who submitted a job application. Recognition is just another way to say “you matter” and the lack of it suggests you don’t. Sarah encourages companies to not just acknowledge receipt of the application, but after each interview. And if testing is part of your process, send a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for the candidates who complete it. Even if the candidate doesn’t get the job, you can likely avoid a case of bitterness and create some positive feelings.

Unconditional recognition: FROG

Inspired by Carl Roger’s concept of unconditional positive regard, Sarah reveals her theory of unconditional recognition represented by the acronym FROG: Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness. She hesitated to publish it because it’s easy to praise people when things are going well, as planned. The real work starts when things aren’t going well. She noted that the athletes who finish fourth at the Olympics are often demonized as failures. And yet they are among the very best athletes in the world, maybe of all time. Then it hit her. She realized the truly great people all shared major life failures and it was how they acknowledged their own failures and lessons learned that led to greatness and the ability to offer unconditional recognition. The art of recognition, therefore, begins with acknowledging your own accomplishments and failures before you do so for others. After all, if you can’t see yourself, how will you see others authentically?

Are you all set to connect with people around you on a deeper level by learning the art of recognition with Sarah McVanel? First, click play to listen. Then stop the recording. Turn off your device. And write a thank you, acknowledge a co-worker, recognize a friend for being a friend.

What to listen for

[03:59] How Sarah became a recognition expert

[05:22] Simple ways to show recognition

[13:22] Why we struggle to show appreciation

[15:23] Revaluating what ‘compensation’ means

[17:14] “Complaints are poorly worded requests”

[23:34] Recognition at every phase of the employee experience

[29:49] Showing appreciation is contagious

[33:40] The concept of unconditional recognition