Employee Recognition: Everything You Need to Know

Employee recognition is a term for acknowledging your employees’ hard work and accomplishments. It is a communication tool which rewards and reinforces the good behaviors within a workforce, and is beneficial in more aspects than one.

A manager or owner stating the different actions and behaviors of a model employee is beneficial for the work culture and environment as it fosters an understanding of ideal behavior. An employee would likely understand how they would best contribute to the enterprise. This culture and tool also shows the public or outside stakeholders how your business works and what its values are.

Ultimately, employee recognition reinforces the positive image of the business, increases an employee’s self-worth, and lends support in a meaningful way.

Creating an effective employee recognition system consistently and powerfully reinforces positive behaviors and serves as a buffer against the work day’s inevitable negative events.

Finding an Employee Recognition System

An employee recognition system must have more to it than rewards and incentives. The following are some important aspects an employee recognition system should have:

  • Straightforwardness, so a leader will not have much too much difficulty implementing the system.
  • A balance between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.
  • Recognition of important small behaviors and kudos to large accomplishments, so that both may be seen as equally important.

Between recognition of effort and rewarding behaviors, recognition is more effective and low-cost, if any at all. The impact of recognizing teams or giving someone your time and attention is an important way to foster employee happiness at the workplace. Emotions in a workplace are not to be disregarded, as it is a tool for developing positive, friendly, cooperative, and collaborative relationships.

Developing positive and appropriate emotional connections among employees so that they can work to their full potential is all a part of employee recognition. At the end of the day, employees should feel respected and valued.

The Most Important Tips for Effective Recognition

The following is a number of things that should be done or considered in order to implement and maintain an effective employee recognitions system.

  • Establish a criteria on what actions in the workplace constitute as rewardable behavior. The criteria must be attainable and realistic.
  • The system must make all employees eligible for the rewards and recognition. Excluding an employee or a group of employees can be seen as harassment or discrimination.
  • The recognition system should have levels of recognition to motivate employees to try and achieve higher levels each time. 
  • Refrain from picking the same people all the time, and remember to keep track of who has received recognition and reward. Keep an eye out for individuals who are overlooked.
  • Do not have managers give the rewards. It creates an opportunity for favoritism, puts undue pressure on managers, and gives the appearance of promoting fawning.
  • The frequency of the rewards should be something like weekly or bi-weekly rather than monthly.
  • Be specific in naming what behavior is being rewarded. Refer to the values and mission statement of the company, and recognize employees who display this message. This will further enhance the value system that the business stands for and cultivates this culture.
  • If someone does not want to be rewarded or recognized, do not force them. You may also want to offer something that is a little less public.
  • Create surveys so employees can state if they see improvements in the work environment.
  • Elicit feedback from employees that includes suggestions for tweaking the system.
  • Explore various platforms such as social media or web conferencing to increase the positive social interactions among the workforce.

Additional Tips About Recognition and Performance Management

Remembering the work is a process, and a product or service sometimes helps in the development of program. Most often a good employee recognition programs identifies the components of that made a successful product or service. Performance development planning meetings list all the components it took to achieve that level, not the result itself.  

After creating such a program, developing consistency in the managers for applying the criteria is a key component of making it successful. At some point, the owner or investors may want to do some organizational oversight to ensure the program creates the values of the mission statement. The element of surprise in doing so randomly displays vigilance on the part of the management in a positive way rather than setting up traps to catch someone doing an infarction.

As time goes by with individuals and teams consistently successful, the problem arises that rewards become routine and are no longer seen as rewards. Adapting the program for higher levels of success helps employees set individual goals and achieve them.

The Employee Recognition Traps

Employee recognition programs can fail spectacularly if not handled well or managed well. Mysteriously selecting someone for recognition gives the appearance of favoritism. It causes disbelief in the criteria, and the program becomes useless. Influencing the votes will ruin the program. If the program becomes routine and expected, it will no longer work. Possibly basing it on data from products and services should keep it fresh since consumers needs and wants change plus new processes come along. This keeps employees willing to learn and moves it to a continuous improvement model.

When and Why Should Recognition and Rewards Be Linked

More often than not, bad and negative behavior is pointed out more often and with more fervent evidence than positive behavior.

Employee recognition programs are an intentional act on the part of the owner and management to create positive work environments. Reward and praise for a job well done go hand in hand. Most employees leave good positions because of the lack of recognition of jobs well done rather than the money.

The experience of working is as valuable as receiving salary. Research from Bersin through Deloitte found organizations with recognition programs which are highly effective at improving employee interaction have a 31 percent lower turnover (voluntary). Tying recognition to company value statements according to Society for Human Resource Management creates strategic recognition which results in an employee turnover rate 23.4% lower than retention at companies that have no recognition program. Many more such research studies prove the point. Training new employees remains a costly endeavor. At the least keeping good employees in a company lets the company use the money for other areas. Expertise developed in a position takes time and saves a company money. Praising employees in a specific individual manner makes it sincere.

Implement Peer-to-Peer Recognition

As positive reinforcement for work well done becomes the norm, employees begin to give peers positive recognition. In most cases, it has a sincerity. Employees get recognized for their talents in areas and become the “go to” person for that on a project. Peers appreciate it. Owners and managers need to make sure everyone has something they become the “go to”, or else good employees get over worked. However, be wary of fake gratitude. Creating fake gratitude environments develops into just as toxic work environments as negative ones and has been the downfall of many companies.

Rewards need to be specific to the employees in a work area and to that industry. Generate a list and take suggestions from employees. Create a set of criteria for the employee recognition program and then follow up to see if it works. Hire third party vendors in the field such as the Flippen Group to give an assessment of the workforce motivations and climate.

If you need help with creating a legitimate employee recognition program, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel hires only the top 5 percent of lawyers into its site. Most have 14 years of legal service and have worked with small business to corporate. Their level of expertise ensures you the best and latest legal advice.