Recognition has always been an important strategy for employee engagement, but recently we have seen a shift in culture that emphasizes the positive impacts of recognition for business outcomes. According to our 2018 Trendicators Report, 89% of employees believe that strong recognition programs improve engagement. However, there are still gaps between what employees would like to see in their companies’ recognition programs and what companies actually offer. For example, 70% of employees would like to have a choice of rewards, but only 38% of companies offer this option.
Employers can close those gaps by zeroing in on what makes programs effective and how emerging tools and practices can help them reach their goals. Here are six recognition trends that are becoming more prominent:
- Culture-Based Recognition Programs
The workplace has seen a shift toward holistic employee experiences as opposed to top-down engagement initiatives. But for those experiences to be authentic, there has to be a corresponding adjustment in culture. Culture-based recognition programs seek to infuse recognition into daily interactions among team members and managers. Deloitte research found that companies with strong recognition cultures have 31% lower voluntary turnover than those with poor recognition strategies in place. Recognition initiatives must also be tied to specific business objectives if they are going to be effective. In other words, they should reinforce behaviors and achievements that move you closer to your goals as an organization.
- Decentralized and Less Formal Recognition
As workplace cultures place stronger emphasis on recognition, we will also see successful programs becoming less formal and more in-the-moment. Our research has shown that managers have a direct impact on employee engagement. When managers effectively recognize their employees, they can create an environment that encourages people to do their best work. There is still a place for formal recognition, but celebrating individual wins on a more frequent, less formal basis has become a key component of successful recognition.
- Personalized Rewards
Not everyone responds well to public recognition or competitive leaderboards. Personalized recognition programs take employee preferences and past behavior into account when determining the best way to say thanks for a job well done. For example, if you use a point program, you can use recognition software to track how employees redeem their points and use that information to choose personalized gifts or offer better reward options. But recognition doesn’t have to be high-tech to be effective. In some companies, managers keep a list of “favorite things” for each employee and select rewards from the list. They may also take note of which employees love public celebrations and which ones would prefer a handwritten thank you note.
- Recognition for Alternative Workers
The workforce has become much more diverse. In addition to traditional full-time employees, many companies also have gig workers, freelancers, contract workers and remote workers contributing to their daily operations. According to Deloitte, the United States will have 42 million self-employed workers by 2020. As these workers become more closely integrated with all parts of the labor cycle, companies can and should include them in strategic recognition programs. For example, if you use a gamified recognition program, include all types of employees (contract or otherwise) to help motivate and improve engagement. You can also send a quick email or drop a note in the mail to say thanks.
- Less Centered on Top Achievers
Top achievers should be rewarded for their accomplishments, but they should not be the only ones who benefit from your recognition program. In 2020, we expect to see more companies shifting to a focus on personal goals and achievement, and that will be reflected in how recognition programs are structured. For example, managers can choose to reward team members who reach a personal best, go above and beyond to help a client or contribute to a project in a meaningful way.
- Integrated with Experience Platforms
Josh Bersin predicts that employee experience platforms will become central to HR in the coming year. Included in these platforms will be recognition software that helps companies implement and manage their recognition strategies. Many recognition software programs provide social tools for peer-to-peer recognition, track recognition activities, host a rewards catalog and track employee preferences, and monitor engagement analytics. As these capabilities integrate with broader employee experience platforms, both employees and managers will benefit from broader capabilities and more user-friendly features.
Recognition is an important way to strengthen employee engagement. As employees begin to feel more connected with and loyal to your company, you will also see a corresponding influence in productivity and competitive advantage. By taking a close look at the new science of recognition in the workplace, you can identify where your current gaps are and how you can address them for a happier, more engaged workforce.