A Guest Post by Nelson Scott
It seems at times that receptionists “don’t get no respect,” to paraphrase the late comedian Roger Dangerfield.
To some eyes, the job just consists of answering the phone, directing visitors to “have a seat” while waiting for their appointments, and maybe a few other tasks.
This is why the second Wednesday of May each year is designated as International Receptionists Day (IRD). According to information on the website www.internationalreceptionistsday.com, the purpose of IRD is to “foster a recognition of the importance of a receptionist's role.”
Being a receptionist is about much more than dealing with telephone calls or offering visitors coffee while they wait. Receptionists are often the first people visitors and callers encounter, and as such are the people who create initial impressions of the organization.
First Impressions Matter
Outsiders form an opinion of the organization on what the receptionist does and says. Receptionists are the face of the organization to the world.
If that first impression is negative, it will take several positive experiences to overcome that perception.
Some organizations get this. Rather than relying on the generic title “receptionist,” one company designated the person in this position as the “Manager of First Impressions.”
Recognition All Year
Hopefully, the focus on the contributions of receptionists will continue beyond this single day. The danger of designated days that pop up on the calendar throughout the year is that they create the impression that having acknowledged the contributions of receptionists, administrative professionals (fourth Wednesday in April) or teachers (October 5) on their designated day, we can check “recognize the receptionist” off our to-do list for another year and move on.
Bob Nelson, who initiated Employee Appreciation Day (first Friday in March) in 1994, shortly after publication of his book 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, described the concept of a designated day to recognize staff as “silly” in a 2015 article in Business Insider.
“I’m a big advocate of using recognition on a daily basis,” he is quoted as saying. “But I did want to have one day where we could call attention to the topic and have conversations about its importance.”
Designated dates are reminders that recognition is important and they create focus on specific positions.
The 3-F Approach
When looking for ways to mark IRD and other designated days, organizations frequently default to what I describe as the “3-F” approach: Food, Flowers and Fudge (and other Fattening treats). While there’s nothing wrong with expressing appreciation by taking receptionists to lunch, bringing them flowers or leaving a box of chocolates on their desks, I challenge you to be more creative when planning to celebrate your receptionist(s).
Make it Personal
Here are a few ideas to kick-start your creativity (you can likely come up with better ideas):
- Leave a note of appreciation on the receptionist’s desk, where it will be the first thing that person sees in the morning.
- Receptionists often bring coffee and tea to visitors while they wait. Turn things around by delivering a drink purchased from the receptionist’s favourite coffee shop to his/her desk.
- Invite other staff to answer the question, “How does our receptionist support your work?” Have them write their responses in a card or a poster-sized sheet of paper which will be presented to the receptionist. Remind the staff that the more Explicit the description of the contribution, the greater the impact of their words.
- Is there a job title that better captures the value that these individuals contribute to your organization? Ask other staff to devise titles, such as “Manager of First Impressions” that describe the essence of what receptionists do.
Recognizing receptionists—and all other staff members—is a good place to begin, but recognition should be ongoing. Recognition is a task that should never disappear from our to-do lists.
Nelson Scott – Guest Author
Nelson Scott is an Edmonton-based speaker, trainer and author who provides tools, tips and techniques to enable managers and supervisors to hire, engage and retain the right people. For more tips and articles about hiring and recognizing staff, subscribe to his newsletter Briefly Noted.
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