Leading people

How to use recognition to boost employee engagement

Recognition can make employees feel valued and, as a result, contribute to great employee experiences. Here's how to do it right.

When was the last time you were recognized at work for a project or something you did?

There is a powerful link between recognition and engagement.

Simply by recognizing and acknowledging employees for their work, companies can generate a strong emotional commitment to their organization.

Recognition can make staff feel valued and, as a result, contribute to great employee experiences.

But how much thought do you and your company give to showing your employees the appreciation and recognition they deserve?

Here are our top tips for using recognition effectively.

1. Provide instant gratification

Recognition needs to be immediate, or as close to the achievement occurring as possible. This will reinforce the behaviour the employer wants to encourage.

Waiting for mid-year and year-end reviews is too late, and even monthly recognition is too infrequent for most organizations.

On-the-spot rewards or weekly recognition will have a higher success rate at boosting employee productivity and engagement.

2. Reward with relevance

Managers need to take the time to get to know their employees and what makes them tick so they can acknowledge and reward them in the most suitable way.

It needs to be personalized for the individual.

For instance, one employee may respond really well to a verbal shout out in the office. Another may prefer private one-to-one praise.

Meanwhile, someone else may feel better being rewarded via written results-driven feedback.

3. Link it to the company values

Recognition programmes tied to organizational values outperform other programmes on every level, according to the annual WorkHuman and Gallup report.

Their survey results showed that companies with values-based recognition schemes were more likely to deliver a strong return on investment, instil and reinforce corporate values, and maintain a strong employer brand.

In 2022, it was found that programs which recognize employees which exemplify a company’s core values are 70% more highly adopted.

4. Make recognition inclusive and open to all

Recognition should be available for all employees.

You should never exclude any employee or group of employees. It needs to be deemed a fair programme, and everyone should be eligible.

You should also think about what work you are rewarding – is it output and results-driven, or effort-focused?

If you’re constantly recognizing a team member who, for example, brought in the most money and its often the same person – think about the impact this could have on the rest of the team.

Maybe sometimes it could also be the biggest increase on the previous month or quarter? Or a really interesting new customer brought in.

Recognizing the same individuals can lead to unnecessary competition.

Recognition may go a lot further if the person receiving it has made greater strides than others in their efforts, even if they’re not the team’s highest money earner.

Who knows – with the right recognition and encouragement, maybe they could be in six months.

5. Don’t skimp on spending

A 10,000 organization can save up to $16.1 million annually by investing in recognition and making it embedded in the company culture, according to the latest WorkHuman and Gallup report.

This investment doesn’t necessarily have to be a bonus or a higher salary – maybe it could be new technology, or money that an employee can spent on a team activity.

Think about how this investment can continue to drive engagement.

6. Use company-wide communication

For maximum engagement and morale boosting, recognition of an employee should be shared company-wide, explaining what the recognition is for and what the positive impact is to the business.

If the recognition remains at a team-level or just between the manager and employee, it has less of an impact for the individual and won’t contribute to raising that person’s profile within the company.

Good people management software enables users to give shout-outs to colleagues for peer recognition across the company.

Acknowledgement, appreciation, praise – whatever you call it – recognition works because it provides the reinforcement and praise that gives employees purpose and meaning, while empowering individuals to perform to a higher standard, and do their very best.

Fostering a culture of recognition and appreciation could be the most cost-effective way to maintain a happy and engaged workforce.

Creating a positive workplace experience where people are thanked and respected for their contributions, as well as being aligned with the corporate values and business goals, will help build great employee experiences, driving stronger results and boosting staff retention.