Putting Recognition Out to Pasture?

By Derek Irvine

CowsRecognize This! – Research often helps to expand our understanding of interactions at work and the impact on productivity, even if it does come from dairy farms.

First, for all of the skeptics: this is not an April Fool’s Day post. You’ll understand the reason for that disclaimer in a moment, but I thought today would be a good opportunity to look at the lighter side of recognition.

Sometimes in the hunt for research, you come across a study that is too good to skip, regardless of how tangential the headline is to what you are actually looking for. The study in question from a few years back: “Happy cows produce more milk.

What does that have to do with recognition and improving the work experience?

As it turns out, researchers with Newcastle University decided to investigate the relationship between dairy farmers and their herds, particularly in terms of how different “best practices” or behaviors would relate to milk yield. Of all those practices, farmers who “call their cows by name” and treat them as individuals experienced statistically significant gains in milk production of 3.5% compared to farmers that do not.

According to the researchers, “cows like being treated nicely by humans”, which reduces fear/stress and the resulting biological impacts that has on productivity and interactions with the farmer. Happiness with how the cows are treated is related to productivity. The parallels to human work experiences aren’t exactly one-to-one, but they aren’t all that far off either. Check out the video below that discusses some of these parallels in more detail (email subscribers may need to click through):

Recognition and improvements in individual treatment are part of this larger fabric of interactions at work, apparently whether they take place in a pasture or an office.

I don’t think we’ll see much uptake in social recognition among farm animals (for one, the research on peer-to-peer relationships among cows is lacking, but at least researchers will soon be looking more closely into “assessing an animal’s state of mind”); nevertheless, it’s an entertaining thought for first Friday in April.

What lessons on recognition have you come across in unusual places?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

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