Companies have long known the strategic benefits of employee recognition and managers want to make recognition part of the company culture. However, some companies don’t know where to start or don’t know how to improve their culture of recognition.
Most companies start by creating a recognition program but they face challenges along the way since they felt it is just a one time activity. Great companies regularly update and evolve their recognition programs and how they reward employees. This ensures they make their programs relevant to their employees and to the external talent market.
In this blog, we will discuss a brief background on employee recognition, strategic areas to consider for an effective recognition culture, and examples of successful companies.
Let’s take a quick look at what employee recognition means and why it matters.
What Is Employee Recognition?
Employee recognition is intangible but priceless in value. It creates and builds an emotional connection between employee and the organization. This makes recognition critical in keeping talent. Employee recognition is a psychological experience of being appreciated and valued by the company. It can bring out the very best in people and make them highly motivated.
Why Employee Recognition Matters
- From childhood to adulthood, being appreciated and recognize is something everyone wants to receive and experience. This continues to hold true as we move into the workplace. Employee recognition helps to:
- Retain top talent
- Increase employee engagement
- Encourage high performance
Great Place to Work-Certified™ company O.C. Tanner studied employee engagement and how managers can tailor their workplaces to promote it.
In their employee survey they asked, "What is the most important thing that your manager or company currently does that would cause you to produce great work?"
Respondents answered in their own words, providing a variety of responses, but a clear pattern emerged. 37% of respondents said that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work more often. Recognition was the most common theme from responses. The study showed that affirmation, feedback, and reward are most effective for motivating employees to do their best work.
See the complete results in the chart below:
How to Create a Meaningful Employee Recognition Culture
Many companies including those certified by Great Place to Work® still face challenges with employee recognition, including those companies who have a strong culture and have lasted for several decades. Below are five key elements of meaningful employee recognition shared by Great Place to Work® that you may find very helpful..
1. Be specific, be relevant
Recognition is more meaningful when it is tied to a specific accomplishment or business objective.
When recognizing employees, explaining what the recognition is for helps employees relate the recognition to their behavior. This encourages continued strong performance.
2. Be timely
Recognition that arrives months after the fact isn’t nearly as meaningful as recognition received promptly.
The longer it takes for managers to recognize employees, the less likely employees will see the affirmations as authentic. Make employee recognition a priority and have formal systems in place so you can strike while the iron is hot.
3. Remember recognition comes in many forms
There is a great deal of research that indicates people are motivated by more than just cold hard cash. It is also important to note that everyone has their own preference or style when it comes to giving and receiving appreciation.
Beyond a bonus or a raise, consider customized gifts, taking them out for dinner, or other acts that show employees their reward is personalized to them.
4. Look out for the little things
While it's crucial to recognize major accomplishments, every day thank-yous can motivate employees just as much (and sometimes even more).
Writing handwritten notes, or using the intranet to promote the good behaviors of individuals, can help instill a regular culture of employee recognition. These thank-yous and shout-outs do not have to come from managers alone; some employees may find recognition from peers even more motivating.
5. Connect to the bigger picture
Recognition helps employees see that their company values them and their contributions to the success of their team and the company overall.
This is particularly key when organizations grow or change. It helps employees build a sense of security in their value to the company, motivating them to continue great work.
Regularly share news about how the company is striving to reach the mission, and explain how individual employee goals relate to that vision.
Here are some recognition ideas and examples of how these winning organizations recognize and reward their employees in meaningful ways:
Employee Recognition Examples and Ideas
1. Make it easy for managers to celebrate employees
Global hotel chain Hilton provides managers an annual Recognition Calendar that features 365 no- and low-cost, easy-to-implement ideas to thank employees.
The calendar includes reminders and tips for enterprise-wide, brand, and department recognition programs; appreciation best practices; important dates like International Housekeeping Week; and recognition quotes to share with employees.
It also allows users to add employee service anniversaries and local events. Users can download a print-friendly PDF or import an Outlook-friendly file into their personal calendars.
2. Make recognition a red-alert event
When clients of professional services firm Crowe respond to a satisfaction survey with the names of individuals who have gone above and beyond during projects, the survey generates a "Recognize Alert."
Crowe takes Recognize Alerts one step further with a "Pay It Forward" program. Individuals who were recognized can "pay it forward" to other colleagues who played important roles in serving clients but weren't mentioned in the survey response.
Crowe shares the names of both Recognize Alert and Pay It Forward recipients in Crowe Newswire On Demand so others can learn from their examples and the individuals feel appreciated.
3. Meaningful gestures of gratitude
Health care system Texas Health Resources recognizes employees' milestone years of service at five-year increments.
At every milestone, honorees receive a beautiful customized celebratory yearbook. When the honored individuals receive their digital yearbook, each one opens with a personalized congratulatory message of appreciation from the CEO, and includes messages of thanks and appreciation from their manager and coworkers, and photos of the employee at work with their team, having fun, and contributing to the mission.
Recognition is absolutely essential in a great workplace, and it doesn't need to be complicated or expensive.
Ask your employees what type of recognition is most meaningful to them. You may be surprised to find how much simple, genuine expressions of thankfulness inspire them to do their best.