Have you ever been in a leadership meeting when the word “morale” is mentioned and everyone looks at you? Recognizing employees for work well done is a rewarding and important part of HR.

Implementing an effective employee recognition program can improve retention, employee satisfaction, production quality, finances, work ethic, company culture, morale, and even more. Let’s look at how and why to create an employee recognition program, even on a small budget.

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What Is Employee Recognition?

Employee recognition is when an employee is visibly or tangibly appreciated for their contribution and effort. This recognition can come in many forms, like a thank you, a shout-out during a meeting, or even prizes and money. Showing gratitude through employee recognition helps the workplace feel more inclusive and personal while simultaneously motivating employees.

Employee Appreciation vs Recognition

It can be hard to understand the difference between appreciation and recognition. Both are extremely valuable in their own ways, and can provide different results. Appreciation is the act of expressing feelings and thanks, usually focusing on the employee. Giving a bonus at the end of the year, thanking for a year of hard work, is appreciation.

Recognition is publicly calling attention to results or performances, focusing on the employee’s specific qualities or accomplishments. Acknowledging or rewarding an employee or team for a new analytics method is recognition.

Benefits of Giving Your Employees the Recognition They Deserve

All humans want recognition and positive affirmation, even in the workplace. Recognition programs make 92 percent of employees feel appreciated. When you give employees recognition, you will see benefits in many different areas.

  • Deeper motivation – Many employees have more motivation to reach their goals when they are recognized for past accomplishments.
  • Increased engagement – Employees will become more engaged in the company and in the work of their team.
  • Higher performance – As employees are more motivated and engaged, they will reach more of their goals and increase performance.
  • Greater retention Retention rates will go up, specifically with your top employees.
  • Inclusive culture – Employees will recognize each other more, helping the company culture to grow more personal and inclusive.

Who Should Give Recognition?

Ideally, recognition would come from everyone in the company. There are two types of recognition systems: top-down recognition and peer recognition.

Top-down recognition is when an employee’s supervisor or manager recognizes their efforts and contributions. This recognition is beneficial because it is a supervisor who can help the employee move up in the company, whether by giving them raises or opportunities for promotions.

Peer recognition is considered more powerful. It is almost 36 percent more likely than top-down recognition to have a positive impact on the bottom line. Peer recognition drives commitment and engagement more than top-down recognition.

How to Give Impactful Employee Recognition

There are many different factors that will help employee recognition succeed. Small factors, like what you focus on or how quickly you provide the recognition, can make a large difference in helping employees truly feel recognized and motivated.

1. Give Timely Recognition

The longer you wait, the less meaningful the recognition you give will be to the employee. Give timely recognition, even in a thank you, to help the employee feel more motivated and appreciated.

2. Be Specific

When you recognize the employee, be specific. Tell them what you are thankful for. Instead of recognizing just the end results, also acknowledge the actions and qualities that achieved those end results.

3. Be Genuine and Personal

How you give recognition, as well as what you say, should be personal and genuine. Each individual likes to be recognized in different ways. Some may prefer being recognized in a meeting in front of their peers. Others may prefer to be recognized just by you, not in front of other employees. Take the time to learn how your employees appreciate being recognized. Focus on the person, not just their job.

4. Establish a Program

To establish a recognition program, define the purpose of the program. Determine who will be eligible—ideally all employees, even leaders. Establish the guidelines, like rewards and program rules. Decide what behavior and actions are eligible for recognition. Determine who is responsible for the administration of the program and the budget they have to work with.

Employee Recognition Ideas

In today’s workforce, receiving gifts and words of affirmation are the best and favorite ways to be recognized. There are ways to give recognition with or without spending money.

Free Recognition

There are many ways to express appreciation and give recognition without spending money.

  • Say thank you – This sounds easy and obvious, but most supervisors do not say thank you enough. 70 percent of employees say that motivation and morale would improve with small actions from managers, including just saying thank you.
  • Team shout out – During a team meeting, set aside a time to give recognition shout-outs from both supervisors and peers.
  • Employee recognition wall – Have a board or wall where employees post sticky notes that contain messages to exemplary co-workers.

Paid Recognition

While free recognition is great and should be used as much as possible, it can be even more effective when paired with recognition rewards and prizes.

  • Gift card – Gift cards are one of the top rewards employees love to receive.
  • Prizes – There are numerous prizes companies can give, like movie passes, dinner vouchers, sporting tickets, technology, company gear, etc.
  • Employee recognition events/days – One well-known and popular example of this is the Employee(s) of the Month program. Everyone loves a premium parking spot!
  • Charity of choice – some companies allow the employee of the month to pick a charity to donate to for the company’s monthly volunteer day.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Recognition

They absolutely do! Statistics have shown the many positive effects of employee recognition programs. 40 percent of employees put in more work, 85 percent of employees are more satisfied, positive financial results are 36 percent more likely, absenteeism has decreased by 27 percent, and more.
The desire to receive recognition and positive affirmation is innate in every human, and this applies to the workplace. Employee recognition allows employees to feel appreciated, which in turn motivates them and engages them more in their work and company. Peer-to-peer motivation especially increases engagement, helping employees to interact with and recognize each other.
You may be interested in using an already-existing platform for your rewards programs. This would automatically track the costs for you, as it would be an allotted amount. There are many different options out there, such as Motivosity or Bonusly.

Katie is currently studying at BYU, with a HRM major and Statistics minor. She works there as an HR research assistant and also works as an HR Generalist at a local company, and both jobs provide her with a wide variety of experiences. Katie’s passion lies in HR and People Analytics, where she can discover and use data to help everyone understand and improve the workplace for a universal benefit.

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