Blog post

Here’s what ‘recognition’ actually means in the workplace

What we want from our jobs – aside from the paycheck – is changing. Before the pandemic, remote working wasn’t as high on the list. Perhaps childcare or a stationary stipend wasn’t either. 

One thing that’s stayed the same, is our desire for recognition. We all want that feeling of approval, acknowledgement, and appreciation. We’ll probably always want it from our jobs- even when the aliens visit and we all drive spaceships. 

With that in mind, you might expect to see employee recognition programmes at the top of every employer’s list. After all, it’s one thing your people are guaranteed to want – and few other rewards can stake that claim. 

The truth is, that 36% of employees cite a lack of recognition as their number one reason for considering a job change. So clearly, employers are still getting it wrong.

Before we talk about what recognition actually means in an organisation and how you can do it better, let’s define it. 

 

What is employee recognition? 

Employee recognition is the acknowledgement of an employee’s contributions to the company. It doesn’t have to be linked to their day-to-day role; perhaps they set up a learning group to share knowledge or planned a fantastic social event to bring colleagues together. 

Employee recognition can take many forms – a simple thank you from a manager or an award presented at a public event. Your employees may prefer public or private recognition (more on that later), so you’ll need to be aware of their preferences.

Employee recognition is the bedrock of a great total rewards package. It’s easy to implement, often overlooked, and critical to motivating and incentivising employees.

 

Why recognition is important

Where recognition programmes are in place, teams are more engaged and productive, and companies experience lower turnover. We explore the psychological need for recognition much further in our white paper, but for this article, all you need to know is that recognition makes your people feel great, and when they feel great, they do amazing work. 

Total Reward(s), Recognition and Management Whitepaper

It’s not just the person receiving recognition who benefits. Imagine you’re at your employer’s awards ceremony, and one of your team members wins an award. Seeing them rewarded for their contributions can be motivating and inspiring. Chances are, you might want to experience the same thing. 

 

Recognition also provides employees with a gauge for how good they are at their jobs. If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome, you’ll know that it can make you doubt your abilities in an instant. 

Providing employees with recognition reminds them that they’re good at what they do. If they receive lots of it, they’ll keep doing the things that trigger praise. We could all use a gentle steer sometimes, and recognition is a great vessel for doing that. 

Individual recognition has its place, but recognition of teams has also been shown to inspire success. According to Gallup data, praising teams encourages collaboration and deters information hoarding. Over half of the people who are on teams that are recognised believe that they share knowledge, information, and ideas openly. 

What’s more, recognition can reconnect teams with their sense of meaning and purpose. Research from Gallup identified that 74% of people whose teams receive praise also agree that they feel their work is valuable and useful

 

How to do it 

Some people want public recognition, others prefer to have it privately. It’s your job as an employer to ask them how they want to be recognised. 

While public recognition can have the knock-on impact of motivating colleagues who are not being recognised, some people would prefer not to have this attention. A handwritten thank you note, or even a video message where you express gratitude and give praise could work well in this instance. 

Recognition doesn’t need to be a team leader to team member exchange. In fact, it’s better if recognition and appreciation come from everyone. You can cultivate this in your own workplace by asking teams to share peer to peer feedback, writing thank you messages, and generally making time to express gratitude on a day to day basis. 

That could look like a five minute round of thank yous at the beginning of your weekly meeting or sharing one act of kindness from your peers that made a difference to your week. Making recognition part of your culture means that when team members move into leadership roles, they’re already primed and prepped on how to show gratitude to their teams. 

Two girls happy at work

You can recognise teams and individuals for different reasons. Praising individuals will encourage them to pursue their individual goals or KPIs. Praising teams will encourage them to continue working together effectively (and inspire other teams who want the same praise). 

The logistics of delivering praise at the right time to the right people can be handled by the right tech. Take advantage of smart HR platforms that allow you to schedule performance reviews, record feedback, and track KPIs. And don’t forget to record employee preferences for recognition in your HR software so you deliver every thank you in the right way to the right person. 

Many of these systems flag when individuals meet targets, so leaders won’t need to keep checking up on who should be recognised. Two-way systems, where both leaders and team members can see their performance and recognition at a glance, enable individuals to take ownership of their own progress. 

While the act of sharing gratitude should always feel human and not robotic, HR systems can help you monitor and manage your recognition programme so that no one falls between the cracks. 

 

Employee recognition is one of the few features you can add to your total rewards package today. Isn’t it time you got started on yours?

Here’s what ‘recognition’ actually means in the workplace was last modified: April 28th, 2022 by Beatriz Araujo

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