How Much Recognition Should You Give People?
Posted by Roy Saunderson on Thu, Sep 29, 2022 @ 01:00 PM

When recognition program owners ask, “how much recognition should you give to people?” they are seeking a one-size-fits-all approach to recognition giving. Knowing when and how frequently to give praise can become confusing. Here is what you need to know about how much recognition you provide employees.

Quantity and Frequency of Recognition

How much recognition you give to people and how often may very well depend on your industry and your employees’ professions. The bottom line is that everyone is uniquely different. And that means all individuals prefer different kinds of recognition.

Most organizations have formal recognition programs with earned or nominated tangible awards that only impact 1 to 3 percent of their employees annually. Many companies have informal recognition programs and practices addressing 30% to 50% of employees. For these programs, they give recognition and rewards on a monthly or quarterly basis. And then the most crucial type of recognition is the everyday recognition, which affects 80% to 100% of your staff and should happen daily or weekly.

The secret is finding the right type of recognition that is good for each person. I have never seen a group of employees or heard employee engagement survey results that said, “Stop recognizing me so much!” I doubt you ever will, either; there can never be too much recognition.

Quality of Recognition

Let’s look at a real-world example of an organization and see if we can narrow down on how much recognition you should give people. In this scenario, a healthcare organization was aware they were not doing so well with recognition. Annual surveys on employee perceptions of how recognized employees felt showed poor scores. Interestingly, a Conference Board of Canada’s survey showed that healthcare and education have the lowest investment spending on recognition and rewards.

Gathering as much detail as possible on as many recognition practices and programs is essential. So, we dug deeper and asked how often employees have received recognition through various time ranges.

Here’s what their employees told us:

  • 2% received Daily recognition
  • 11% received Weekly recognition
  • 20% received Quarterly recognition
  • 17% received Annual recognition
  • 29% received No recognition of any kind

Look at how few they recognized on a daily or weekly basis. Even if you add in the quarterly recognition, it still adds up to only one-third of employees.

We can easily see from this display of statistics that this healthcare organization needed to increase the daily and weekly frequency of giving recognition to staff. Another organization asking the same survey question may produce a much healthier level of recognition frequency.

In the Bersin & Associates Research report, Making Recognition and Rewards Matter: Five Practices to Drive Better Business Results, they examined recognition programs and the frequency of recognition given. They found that 71% of highly engaged employees worked in organizations that recognized employees at least once a month.

A research report by Quantum Workplace on Recognition in the Workplace found that 52% of employees want more recognition from their immediate manager. The key here is holding leaders accountable and setting expectations for everyone to give more and better recognition to one another.

Recognition and Career Tenure

Quantum Workplace also found that recognition is a powerful driver of engagement, and their findings show that recognition drives engagement sharply from Year 1 through to Year 5. They suggest employees typically put their organization under the microscope during that time. They will look elsewhere for other career opportunities if they do not feel appropriately recognized for their contributions on the job. Recognition as a strong driver of engagement falls from Year 6 through 9, can pop up from Years 10 to 14, and drop back down again from Year 15 onward.

Another interesting thing occurs over time with longer tenure employees. They require less recognition the longer their tenure is with an organization, so long as there is a positive level of engagement with the organization and total rewards remain fair. Those in leadership positions and high-performing employees require less recognition so long as compensation, rewards, and benefits somewhat match the position and level of performance.

In summary, conducting periodic deep-dive surveys to learn more specific information on the frequency of current recognition practices and employee preference for how often they would like to be recognized is the best way to determine how often you should recognize your employees. In between those survey schedules, you have the opportunity during one-on-one meetings with staff to find out how much recognition they ideally would like to receive from you and others

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