Roy Saunderson on Recognition, Vistance Learning, and People Artists

Here is an interview with Roy Saunderson on recognition.  Roy’s course on Vistance Learning was used as the basic structure and format for People Artists: Drawing Out the Best in Others at Work

Roy Saunderson

What got you personally so involved and passionate about recognition?

I saw the profound difference giving verbal feedback the right way had on patient performance as a former practicing Speech-Language Pathologist. I knew I could help hundreds and thousands of employees feel valued and perform better with getting recognition right in the corporate world.

Can we learn to be good at recognition or does that just come naturally?

There will always be those who are the born naturals with great interpersonal skills who are good at giving recognition. But for most of us giving recognition is not easy and has to be a learned. We can hope that praise and recognition starts in the home, is fostered at school, and becomes a honed and mastered skill in the workplace. That doesn’t happen too often. People have to be shown how to give the right kind of recognition the right way at the right time. Which is why workplace leaders must help develop this important skill with everyone in their stewardship.

You have developed some online learning for managers to improve recognition, tell me about that.

Yes, David, we have. We are excited about our Vistance Learning modules, which address specific behaviours experts have deemed essential for giving effective and meaningful recognition to employees. Each module comes from one of five behavioural domains or categories, namely, Appreciative Listening, Recognition Talking, Praiseworthy Actions, Rewarding Giving and Acknowledging Intent. Through a Recognition Skills Assessment, we can evaluate each learner’s strengths with recognition giving and prescribe and prioritize the learning modules they need to improve.

You identified about 40 recognition behaviors and distilled it to 20, how does this benefit managers.

With the content validation work we conducted with a team of outside experts, we were able to prioritize the most important skills managers need to be effective recognizers. This gave us the exact skills people find hard to do and need to do that are the most important. Managers no longer need to research what they need to do to improve recognition. We’ve already figured that out for them.

What is micro-learning in regards to recognition? Can you give an example?

Micro-learning is any form of online learning that is short in length, bite-size in content focus, and most likely drills down to one behavioral skill-set. Our learning modules are typically no longer than 10 minutes long. Consider, for example, how to give someone genuine recognition.  This requires respecting a person’s individual preferences. A micro-learning module under Praiseworthy Actions drills down on giving recognition that is perceived as authentic.  One suggestion includes sitting down with the recognition recipient ahead of time and learn how they like to receive recognition. Some people like public recognition while others want to receive things privately. Several others ideas are presented to support the need for giving authentic recognition to a person.

What do you see as the connection between Vistance Learning and People Artistry?

Vistance Learning is the science and skills behind giving effective recognition. People Artistry is literally the art and attitudes needed to value people first. The two dovetail together perfectly. People need to understand the human heart and mind of feeling valued which comes in the People Artistry philosophy. Vistance Learning helps provide the essential skills for becoming more proficient and confident in giving recognition the right way.

What could managers do right after reading this interview to improve recognition where they work?

Managers should make time to ask their employees how well they think they as a manager are doing at recognizing them and valuing their contributions at work. Take notes and then take action on improving anything employees feel comfortable to tell. Follow up in one or two months and find out if and how you have improved. Of course, I would highly recommend managers getting a copy of People Artistry and studying it and putting into practice what they learn. And if managers really want to improve their recognition giving skills they might want to receive a free demonstration of Vistance Learning for their company by visiting

Any other thoughts you’d like to offer about the future of work and recognition?

When managers and employees get recognition right people are more engaged and deliver their best efforts because they feel valued and appreciated. The future of recognition will need to tread carefully as we continue to blend technology with delivering recognition from the heart. Automation and the demand for human analytics can never be at the expense of valuing people for who they are and what they do.

Roy Saunderson is the founder and Chief Learning Officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute, an education and thought leadership consultancy that helps leaders from around the world with how to get recognition right. He has written some of the “most read” online columns for Incentive Magazine on how to get recognition, incentives, and rewards used the right way. Roy is the author of GIVING the Real Recognition Way. Notable clients Roy has worked with include: American Electric Power, Boeing, Canadian Federal Government, Credit Suisse, Intel, RBC Financial Group, 3M Canada, TransCanada, and Warner Brothers Games.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert, he co-authored People Artists: Drawing Out the Best in Others at Work with Peter W. Hart.

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