5 Ways To Take Employee Recognition To The Next Level

November 1, 2021
The Culture Equation
5 Ways To Take Employee Recognition To The Next Level

Research suggests that 82% of employees consider recognition an important part of their happiness at work. Employee recognition is paramount to a thriving culture and is a critical tool for reinforcing the behaviours you want to see more of.

This resource discusses the benefits of effective employee recognition in businesses and shares 5 practical ways to improve recognition in the workplace

Why is recognition important?

The landscape of the workforce has changed and is continuing to change, largely due to seismic shifts to lifestyle and expectations during the pandemic, meaning that employee expectations and habits are different too. We are living during the threat of ‘the big quit’, with research published by Microsoft in 2021 finding that over the last year, 40% of the workforce is considering leaving their employer.

Research conducted in 2020 by MetLife Australia found that 56% of Australians were struggling with the ‘always-on’ nature of today’s work world. The pandemic has increased the amount of work-from-home time, often increasing productivity, but also creating issues with work-life balance and a blurring of boundaries. Burnout and exhaustion are prevalent, especially due to the nature of non-stop communication platforms and channels, sometimes accommodating teams operating across a variety of timezones. 

Recognition, a critical human need, is increasingly important in the changing landscape of today’s work-world. Employees who feel seen and appreciated by their leaders, managers and team, are more inclined to find meaning in their work and be loyal to the business they are employed by. 

Quantum Workplace (2021) investigated the links between recognition and engagement, and found that recognition is one of the key drivers in employee engagement, in fact employees that are recognised are 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged. And we know that highly engaged employees are 125% more productive than satisfied employees. The connection between recognition, happiness and productivity is as evident as it is intuitive.

Highly Engaged Employees

Ritualising recognition in your business, can give you an opportunity to live your business values and translate them into behaviours. It could be anything from delivering exceptional work, being a real team-player, excelling in customer-centricity or even for demonstrating community-mindedness. Use the Values pillar in your business as a strong starting point to actualise effective employee recognition.

As Simon Sinek, the leadership expert says,

when people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.

It can be tough though in the busy pulse of growth and expansion, to remember to give this recognition, which is why we’ve compiled a guide of 5 easy-to-implement tactics to apply to your team. Good team and company culture starts at the top with strong leadership, but this trickles down and impacts the whole organisation positively if done right.

Practical ways to increase employee recognition

Keep in mind that to really recognise your people, you have to take some time to truly understand them, and get to know what they love, appreciate and value, as well as understand what personally motivates them. By taking this time, you will know in what way to effectively and successfully recognise their contributions and achievements.

#1 Take praise a step further

A few encouraging words said to one of your employees can have a huge impact, but when done in front of your team or even company-wide, can be even more effective. 

On a regular basis, whether this is done in your Monday morning strategy meeting or your Friday afternoon team get-together, try acknowledging exceptional or hard-working efforts of members of your team. Even showing some of the small tasks the individual or group of individuals has been working on could be even more rewarding. Projects which have been particularly drawn out and finicky may be something to be aware of here, as ongoing work can sometimes fall to the background.

#2 Make recognition a collective effort

Although it is always great to hear positive feedback from your team leader, it is equally as rewarding to hear it from peers. Start a forum for people to submit thanks, praise, and acknowledge achievements, and have a time to share these with the whole team. This will also increase feelings of cohesion and warmth amongst the group. You could also set this forum up in a more structured way by categorising your team values on the forum, and getting submissions to select which value the team member excelled at; or you can keep it casual and open, where anything a team member finds noteworthy of a colleague can be sent in.

#3 Send thoughtful appreciation gifts with handwritten notes

Thoughtful is the key word here. If you want to send a member of your team a gift to show appreciation or recognise an achievement, buy them something you know they will like, and if possible, accompany the gift with a handwritten note. Whether you send tulips because you know it is their favourite flower, dark chocolate because you know they are dairy-free, or a voucher to a restaurant you know they love – these little touches will show you have taken the time to truly listen and get to know your team. Handwriting the note that accompanies the gift relays a personal warmth which will boost feelings of recognition in the recipient. 

#4 Public recognition – the LinkedIn kind

Did your team member do something exceptional? Why not shout it out on LinkedIn. But instead of simply writing a post and tagging them, try accompanying the post with a visual component that demonstrates the depth to the achievement. This could be done with visuals of what they were working on, the journey of their thought process or even with a short video interview where your employee can explain what the achievement is and how they approached it. This method really acknowledges the unique contribution of the individual, as you are celebrating their particular way of working and achieving successful outcomes, making them feel genuinely valued. This style of public recognition can boost an employee’s feelings of accomplishment and appreciation. It also helps them to strengthen their public professional image, which can in turn increase confidence and result in continuous quality work product.

#5 Celebrate life moments that matter

Although you likely already have a calendar of birthdays and work anniversaries in your team, have you ever thought about personalising each occasion to the individual? Find a way which will be appreciated by that person, instead of a standard birthday protocol. Whether it is leaving that favourite snacks on the desk in the morning, choosing a favourite restaurant of theirs to eat at as a team, decorating their desk or paying for their coffees at their go-to cafe for a week. Even consider just giving them the day off to enjoy the day with friends and family if they would like it.  Marking these moments and milestones can increase a culture of sharing in the organisation and give people a platform to talk about the important things happening in their lives, thus boosting connectivity and cohesion amongst the group.

A start-up doing recognition right (Zappos)

Some companies already thrive in this area and are always helpful to look at for inspiration.

This multinational e-commerce chain understood the power of personalised employee recognition. As part of their strong culture focus, they have an independent entity called Zappos’ Insights designed to share the company’s values globally.

They have a rewards program that’s tied in with their strategic employee recognition philosophy, based on a peer-to-peer format. In their program, employees share low-cost, high-frequency rewards with each other, and earn “Zappos Dollars” for training participation, either as learners or volunteers.

They can then redeem these Zappos Dollars in the office via branded vending machines and can also donate these dollars to a Zappos partner charity.

But perhaps the best part about their recognition program is it factors in personalised needs according to the office location. So, if you’re in their Las Vegas office and finding a covered parking spot is a challenge, employees can nominate their peers for a special parking spot as a “reward.”

Key Takeaway

Employee recognition is a key driver to the success of your business and a great employee experience directly correlates with a great customer experience. As a Founder or Head of People & Culture, your role is to be creative and develop recognition programs or initiatives that truly communicate to your people how much you appreciate them being part of your journey.

There isn’t one way to go about recognising your people. But going over and above can create magic within your business.