Employee recognition can look quite different in every company.
But regardless of your methods, it plays a crucial role in keeping your workforce motivated.
That’s why today’s businesses have to constantly adapt how they show recognition and ensure that their employees feel valued and nurtured.
In this article, we’ll explore what employee recognition is and 10 meaningful ways to improve it. Finally, we’ll take a closer look at why employee recognition is vital for your organization.
This article contains:
(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- What is Employee Recognition?
- 10 Excellent Ways to Improve Employee Recognition
- 3 Vital Benefits of Employee Recognition
What is employee recognition?
Employee recognition involves appreciating and acknowledging all the great work and effort your staff put in for the company.
There are many types of recognition in a work environment.
It could be top-down recognition from superiors, peer recognition, or something more elaborate as part of a company-wide recognition program.
The goal of recognizing your employees’ contributions to the organization is rooted in psychology. It’s about rewarding employees for activities that result in higher productivity and desirable outcomes.
When you reward employees for their excellent work, they are more likely to repeat this behavior.
And in addition to improving business performance, recognition also creates meaningful connections with your entire team and boosts employee motivation.
Let’s now explore some of the best employee recognition strategies that you can implement for your staff.
10 excellent ways to improve employee recognition
Here are 10 meaningful employee recognition ideas that you can use at your organization:
1. Recognize exemplary employee performance
Recognizing the top performers may sound simple and like a fairly obvious thing to do, but it requires supervisors to pay close attention to each of their team member’s contributions.
This can be especially difficult when there are numerous valuable contributions every day. And most leaders may just not have the time or energy to recognize everyone’s hard work on a daily basis.
Fortunately, a good way to address employee accomplishments is with periodic employee reviews where your positive feedback is specific and tied to the larger narrative of the business’s operations.
However, keep in mind that when recognition isn’t received in a timely manner, it tends to lose its steam and impact on the employee.
So, it’s worthwhile to focus some energy on the moment-to-moment performance of your team. Then, if you notice a member of your team performing exceptionally well, you can immediately acknowledge it in some way.
2. Written and verbal praise
When you’ve noticed exemplary performance, a simple thing to do is to send an appreciation note or letter by email or Slack. It gives the staff member a tangible reminder of their contributions, and it’s just a nice thing to do.
Verbal praise is the classic, informal way of showing appreciation in a work environment. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from managers and superiors exclusively. A quick shout-out or word of appreciation from peers is an excellent way for employees to feel recognized.
This has a lot to do with company values and company culture. As a manager, it’s essential that you foster such camaraderie between your staff.
3. Monetary rewards
Spot bonuses are a great way to acknowledge your employee’s performance immediately. These are small monetary rewards that are handed out in recognition of an important contribution and can have unique benefits.
The rewards of a recognition program are most effective when the employee’s hard work is still fresh at the top of their mind. This is why spot bonuses can have a considerable impact, even if it’s just a small amount — because it’s more about the immediacy of the employee reward.
Traditional performance bonuses are also beneficial as they recognize the work that employees have put in over longer periods of time. These can also reward staff based on the outcome of their projects and is a good way to increase employee engagement.
4. Share creative feedback
Sharing creative and specific feedback is a straightforward and meaningful recognition strategy to keep employees feeling like their efforts are recognized.
But what exactly does this mean?
Just giving generic, cliched feedback – loosely linked to what the employee actually did – is not enough.
Authenticity is important for employees to feel like their work is paid attention to. It’s also a good way to show them that their managers have a genuine interest in seeing them grow as professionals.
Here are a few key tips to keep in mind when giving creative feedback to your employees:
- Be specific and tie feedback to clear examples.
- Balance the negatives with clear positive feedback.
- Give them a chance to respond to your comments.
5. Celebrate victories
Recognition awards are most effective when closely tied to a specific achievement or milestone.
For example, upon completing an especially noteworthy project, awarding a team trophy would be effective public recognition and a great tangible reminder of what they accomplished.
It would also be a great idea if senior management were to celebrate their best employees.
Frontline employees don’t usually get to hear directly from senior management, which would add a lot of weight to their victory and improve engagement. After all, having engaged employees can have a powerful positive impact on any organization.
6. Variable reinforcement
Variable reinforcement just means that recognition, or reinforcement, works best when the employee isn’t expecting it.
If you have periodic evaluations in place, an employee expects to hear some kind of recognition for their work then. Instead of always waiting for evaluation time to recognize your employee’s work, break out of convention and acknowledge them in a meaningful way immediately when you see good work.
Because the recognition here comes as a surprise, it is even more impactful. The point to understand here is that managers shouldn’t lean entirely on formal recognition.
Spontaneous, informal recognition is a good idea. You can take the whole team out for an impromptu lunch or just informally single out someone in the team for working exceptionally well.
7. Employee appreciation events/days
Appreciating employees in the presence of their peers can really magnify how appreciated they feel. You can make a small event out of having an employee of the month/year award, and it would also work as a great form of social recognition.
Small gestures on special life occasions can go a long way too.
Celebrating your employees’ work anniversaries, years of service, and birthdays is a great way to show appreciation and recognize them as individuals.
What’s great about appreciating employees this way is that it makes recognition a part of the company culture and can lead to more team cohesion.
It encourages all employees to recognize each other and avoids the trap of it all being just a top-down process.After all, recognition doesn’t have to be solely dependent on leaders and managers.
8. Employee wellness programs
Showing care for your employees’ wellness and putting incentives in place for them is a great employee recognition strategy.
Here are a couple of programs that you can consider for your organization:
- Fitness center at work.
- Quitting smoking initiatives.
- Access to mental health services.
- Gift cards for yoga classes.
Employee wellness perks are also directly associated with greater workplace engagement and productivity. A healthy workforce is more likely to consistently put out their best work and can significantly impact company success.
Check out this excellent article for more on employee wellness programs and their benefits.
Another excellent recognition system that you can introduce is philanthropic activities for employees.
Creating space for your team to work to benefit a social cause that they’re passionate about is a really meaningful way to offer recognition.
Most people have a cause that they are passionate about. Inquiring about what each of your team feels strongly towards shows that you’re invested in their growth beyond the professional setting.
Here are a few recognition ideas that implement philanthropy at work:
- Volunteering days during work hours.
- Company-sponsored fundraisers
- Pledging donations to an employee’s charity of choice
- Give As You Earn schemes where employees can donate straight from their gross salary.
By putting a recognition program into effect, not only do you elevate employee happiness and morale, but you are also supporting many good causes.
10. Professional development opportunities
A successful employee recognition program isn’t limited to just praise and bonuses.
Sometimes the most effective way is to open up new opportunities for them in the organization or as individuals.
Here are a few ideas for effective employee recognition platforms that you can use:
- Lunch with a leader: This is a great way to expose employees to the big picture perspective and keep them actively engaged with how the company performs.
- Share new ideas with senior management: Organize an event where employees can share their frontline insights with the organization’s leaders.
- Role shadowing: Allow employees to shadow someone from another department of their choice to expand their knowledge and understanding of roles and functions outside of their own.
- Sponsored programs for higher education: Having an educational assistance program lets you directly invest in your employee’s talents and encourage them to stay for the long haul.
- Memberships for online courses: Give employees the opportunity to learn entirely new skills or keep their skills updated.
These are some popular examples of an employee recognition program. They can show your faith in your employees’ abilities and how you’re invested in seeing them progress and excel in their careers.
3 vital benefits of employee recognition
Let’s now explore some of the most important benefits of employee recognition and why you should make recognition a part of your company’s core values and organizational objectives.
1. Improving retention
Many employees decide to quit their jobs due to a lack of recognition.
When their efforts aren’t adequately appreciated, it’s likely to result in lower employee satisfaction and commitment to their work.
With nothing keeping your top talent from leaving their jobs for better opportunities, employee turnover will inevitably increase.
Employee turnover costs can be substantial. You’ll need resources for creating new postings, screening candidates, etc. Then you’ve also got to consider the cost of training new employees, lower productivity, and lower employee morale.
The bottom line is that losing employees is a costly problem. Thankfully, employee recognition is a time-tested method to help employees stay committed, motivated, and more likely to stay.
2. Increased productivity
Productive employees are a key indicator of success in every modern company.
This is important to note here because employee recognition can directly and positively impact productivity. They’re more likely to go the extra mile when they know their efforts won’t go unnoticed and will be praised.
Additionally, employee recognition in the form of constructive feedback can help foster a company culture of recognition and constant improvement. Such a culture is bound to have a positive impact on productivity.
3. Boost morale
Employee morale links to every aspect of the employee experience within your organization and should always be prioritized.
Morale has a direct effect on things like:
- Job satisfaction which in turn improves retention.
- Employee engagement, which can bolster productivity.
Low morale amongst your team members is likely to hurt almost every facet of your team’s work.
Boosting morale can raise feelings of camaraderie as well as contribute to a greater sense of meaning in what your employees are doing. They will also be happier and less inhibited at work, so creativity and innovation skills are likely to flourish.
Employee recognition is an incredibly vital area to focus on in any organization.
It doesn’t have to be very complicated or expensive and yet can still ensure that your work environment is healthy and conducive to high productivity.
Go through the methods we covered here to determine how you can improve employee recognition in your organization. With the right systems in place, you can ensure that your team members always feel valued and appreciated.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.