by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
Think back to the last time someone took the time to thank or recognize you for something you’d done as part of your job. You probably remember precisely who it was, what they said or did to express their gratitude, and how great it made you feel! These are moments that matter in the employee experience.
Employee recognition brings humanity and kindness into the workplace, and there are many ways to do this successfully without maxing out your budget.
An Employee Recognition Program Can Deliver Exponential Outcomes
Employee appreciation and recognition is more than a “feel-good” concept; it can deliver compelling top and-bottom line business benefits:
It Gives Your Employees a Sense of Purpose
We all like to feel that our work matters and contributes meaningfully to a larger purpose. Saying “thank you” to your team members—formally through a recognition program or informally via a telephone call or email—helps them feel a sense of purpose. Employees are energized to perform at their best when they believe they make a positive difference.
It Translates into Happier Customers
Customer satisfaction starts with happy employees. Your people interact daily with your customers, so when you nurture them, you’re also nurturing your customers. Recognizing your employees makes them more enthusiastic about learning, greeting customers with a smile, and going the extra mile, directly fostering customer satisfaction.
It Improves Productivity, Safety, and Retention
Workhuman and Gallup released a report in March 2023, From Praise to Profits: The Business Case for Recognition at Work, which reveals that:
- If a business with a workforce of 10,000 doubles the number of employees who receive recognition or praise for their work, it can realize a 9% increase in productivity, a 22% decrease in safety incidents, and a 22% decrease in absenteeism.
- The same organization, with an already engaged workforce, can save up to $16.1 million annually due to reduced employee turnover.
Types of Employee Recognition Programs
Employee appreciation can (and should) take various forms to cater to work scenarios, relationships, and the personal circumstances of those receiving recognition. Ideally, your recognition and rewards approach should include a blend of the following:
Verbal Praise: Most employees will welcome a face-to-face conversation with their boss or supervisor in which they’re told they’re doing a fantastic job and that their efforts are truly appreciated. In-person, verbal appreciation makes people feel like they’re genuinely contributing to the team.
Physical Rewards: Tangible rewards such as plaques or “employee of the month” certificates can be given to high-performing employees and will regularly remind them of their value. These items don’t cost a lot but instill a sense of pride and appreciation that no money can buy.
Discretionary Bonuses: Say no more! Who doesn’t get excited about an unexpected cash bonus?
Permanent Raises: Often, the best way to recognize an employee who’s been consistently going above and beyond is to give them a salary increase. Such a raise doesn’t need to be huge to make them feel appreciated.
Employee Recognition Program Best Practices
If you’re looking to craft or review your employee recognition program, make sure that your efforts are:
Gestures of recognition won’t be perceived as genuine if they’re one-off and irregular. Recognition also needs to be given fairly across the organization. Nobody should feel that specific teams or departments get more credit than others.
Recognition should be given as soon as possible to ensure employees feel valued and appreciated for their contributions in the moment. Delayed or infrequent gestures of appreciation can be demotivating and may lead to disengagement.
Don’t fall into the trap of a one-size-fits-all approach to employee recognition. Adding a little personal touch can make all the difference. A small dose of extra effort, like the CEO making a recognition statement in a Town Hall meeting that includes some specifics and context about what the employee(s) in question are being recognized for. A word of caution, however: be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is comfortable being the center of attention and may prefer private recognition. As a leader, take time to establish different people’s preferences in this respect. You might also consider tailoring monetary rewards to align with an employee’s current life circumstances; for example, a gift voucher for a childcare supplies store for an employee about to become a new parent.
Aligned with Your Culture
Recognition is about rewarding and encouraging the repetition of attitudes, behaviors, and ways of working that you value as an organization. So, you need to ensure that employee recognition gestures tie into your company’s values and culture. Whatever your form of rewards, the message that needs to resonate is “We appreciate you for living our culture and upholding our organizational values.”
Ignite Your Employee Recognition Engine
Effective employee recognition and rewards programs can significantly impact employee engagement, retention, motivation, and productivity. A thoughtfully crafted, personalized recognition program can help you build a culture that advances your business vision and cultivates a culture of true kindness and humanity.
For more insights on pinpointing cultural shortfalls, defining and shaping cultures that unlock people power, and understanding why recognized and fulfilled employees are the key to customer satisfaction, read Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth.