In Part One of our series on developing a people-centric culture of recognition, we talked about what it takes to create a culture that values recognition, incorporates it from top to bottom and includes all employees.
Today, we’d like to take those ideas a little further. Consider these statistics from our 2019 Trendicators report on recognition in the workplace:
- 72% of companies provide tenure-based recognition, while only 27% provide recognition for productivity.
- 62% of companies recognize workers for above and beyond performance.
- 89% of employees say recognition for performance improves engagement.
- 45% of employees have not received any recognition in the past six months.
- 16% of employees have never been recognized at work.
Let those numbers sink in.
Nine out of ten employees say they would be more engaged at work if someone acknowledged and appreciated the work they do. But most recognition efforts are aimed at two groups of workers: top achievers and those who stick around a long time. And what about the 16% who never, not once, receive a thank you from a manager?
Recognition has the power to boost morale, help employees feel more confident in their work and encourage behavior that is valuable to your company. But tenure-based recognition programs aren’t going to get those results.
What does work, however, is creating an environment where everyone feels valued. Let’s look at two ways to do that.
Decentralized, Less Formal Recognition
We all know what formal recognition programs look like. It’s the company event where 10-year plaques are handed out, or the departmental meeting where the top achiever gets a gift card and everyone applauds. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but when that’s all you do, you miss out on recognizing the vast majority of employees.
Research also shows1 that you get better results when recognition flows freely throughout the company. Decentralized recognition programs focus on celebrating individuals on a more frequent, less formal basis. They also encourage many different kinds of recognition. Here’s what that might look like:
- Recognition from immediate managers – Recognition from immediate managers is often more effective than quarterly or annual awards from higher-ups in terms of engagement. That’s because managers see what employees are doing every day, and they can give more feedback on behaviors and results at the ground level. Recognition from managers is also a great way to build relationships with employees, and that’s a key predictor of engagement and retention1.
- In-the-moment recognition – In-the-moment recognition shows appreciation in the daily context of work by providing immediate feedback for behaviors that contribute to organizational goals. For example, when an employee goes the extra mile, a manager sends a quick email to say thanks. This lets the employee know that someone noticed his or her effort, and it creates goodwill with the manager.
- Peer-to-peer recognition – While manager feedback is important, managers should not be the only ones offering recognition. Peer-to-peer recognition allows people to give positive feedback to their colleagues, creating a social environment where everyone feels valued. Peer-to-peer recognition is so powerful that one company saw an 88% increase in employee satisfaction2 after implementing this type of program.
If recognition is less formal, more frequent and more fluid, then it makes sense that rewards should be tailored to the individual receiving them. Personalized recognition takes employee preferences and past behavior into account as you determine the best way to say thanks. Rewards may be as simple as a hand-written note, a quick word of thanks after a presentation or a simple gift like a favorite candy bar. They may also be larger monetary rewards, gift cards or public acknowledgements.
The key is knowing what each employee prefers and tailoring recognition to that employee. Not everyone enjoys being the center of attention, and not everyone flourishes in a competitive environment. But every employee wants to know that his or her efforts have been noticed and that they are valued.
Strong cultures of recognition are built on understanding what motivates employees and how that benefits the organization. Once you have those foundational elements in place, the next step is to apply your strategy broadly using both technology and person-to-person connection.
That will be the subject of our next post, so stay tuned!