The Power of Employee Recognition

When used effectively, employee recognition is an incredibly powerful motivational tool.

  • The Cicero Group has found that 53% of employees said their work relationships would improve if they were recognized more often.
  • Glassdoor found that 81% of employees said they were motivated to work harder when they get appreciation from their managers.
  • Recognition is a critical tool for helping employees feel valued. CareerBuilder has found that feeling valued is a top reason employees stay in jobs – and not feeling valued is a key factor in dissatisfaction.

A real world example of Effective Employee Recognition

Promethean World, an education tech company, used YouEarnedIt’s Employee Experience platform for employee recognition. Some of their results included nearly 13,000 pieces of recognition sent in first 8 months, they saved approximately $10,000 in labor costs to administer recognition and they boosted global engagement across teams and locations.

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Employee Recognition Approaches Based on Science

Motivation science has proven that positive recognition works. It reinforces positive behaviors. And – done right – giving that quick acknowledgment builds an employee’s internal motivation to do a good job.

However, not all employee recognition works to build internal motivation to move company goals forward. It may not resonate. The glass trophy or employee of the month plaque that doesn’t reflect anything specific that the employee has done have the effect of demotivating employees. Or it may reinforce the wrong goal.

For example, Wells Fargo had a reward system that asked employees to get new accounts – but didn’t have it tied to corporate values or an accountability system. As a result, employees gamed the system to make new accounts. As a result Wells Fargo is paying billions in class action lawsuit settlements and federal fines.

But science tells us that recognition can work. Read on for science-based best-practices for employee recognition.

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Employee Recognition Best Practices

#1: Make it public.

Use a platform for public employee recognition. Having a single place for public recognition sets the foundation for embedding recognition and appreciation into your company culture. It also ensures that individual pieces of recognition will resonate with employees across the company.

#2: Tie recognition to company values

Our research shows that core values matter to the employee experience. In a survey of more than 2,000 employees, 92% of the respondents who said that their leadership lived out clearly communicated core values also reported a good to excellent employee experience – nearly double the number who reported a positive experience without this.

When an employee can see how their work directly supports company core values, it adds meaning to day-to-day work. Tying recognition to core values gives them this meaning. It guides them towards behaviors that support values. And, as a bonus – it provides proof that the company is living out its core values. It turns out that this matters to employees – a 2015 Society for Human Resource Management report showed that 86% of values-based employee recognition systems increase employee happiness.

#3: Be Timely and Specific

Each time an employee gets a piece of recognition – it’s an important communication that they’ve done something well. Giving specific details of the action or behavior that you’re recognizing ensures that employees know exactly what they did that’s valuable. (And if recognition is public – then this message is amplified to other employees.

However, if the specific piece of employee recognition comes weeks or months after the behavior – the impact of that recognition may be lost. The employee will have moved on to other projects and other work – so reminding them of a behavior that happened months earlier may fall flat.

#4: Make Employee Recognition Authentic

When it comes to recognition – or the rewards attached to them – being authentic and personal matters.

Many employees have gotten a belt buckle or a glass trophy as a generic thank you for a project. Then there’s the giant thank you for something that feels like sharpening a pencil, or (more often) the gift of a mug to show thank you for work on a months-long project. Finally, there’s the ‘employee of the month’ reward that isn’t tied to any company goal or value.

Inauthentic recognition doesn’t resonate. Make it personal and heartfelt – so that the employee receiving recognition knows that it matters.

#5: Recognize Frequently

If recognition only happens once or twice a month—or worse, once or twice a—it’s hard to tie it to a specific behavior, skill or value. So, it’s virtually impossible to make it timely, specific, or authentic.

If managers and employees send recognition one to three times per week to other employees – then employee recognition quickly becomes an organic part of company culture. Our research report, the Employee Experience Quantified shows that having recognition embedded in the employee experience can boost six key KPI’s: revenue, retention, earnings, customer experience, productivity and absenteeism.

With manual recognition programs – frequent recognition quickly becomes unwieldy. However, an automated platform simplifies this task to minutes. See a demo of how YouEarnedIt’s Employee Experience platform embeds recognition into your company culture.

#6: State the Impact

Gallup claims that only ⅓ of employees can link their personal goals to company goals. And those that could perform dramatically better. In our market research for the Employee Experienced Defined, we found that 94% of employees crave to know the impact that their work is having on the company. Detailing why a specific action matters to the team or company shows employees how their daily work is moving the company forward.

#7: Recognize the Everyday.

It’s easy to send recognition for heroic actions – staying late to finish a project or working over the weekend to fix a bug. But what about the people who are performing well on a day-to-day basis? They often go unnoticed. Yet, double-checking work so that a product runs effectively before it’s released or being efficient on a day-to-day basis may be critical to long-term business performance.

It may feel like recognizing the everyday is giving people a bonus for just doing their job. However, companies don’t just run on heroic behavior. Recognizing important everyday actions reinforces these mission-critical daily behaviors, motivates employees, and builds overall performance.

#8: Make it Peer-to-Peer

In our research for Rewards and Recognition that Work, we found multiple studies that show employees perform better when they can reward their peers. They work harder. The team flows better. And the results are dramatic. But on top of that, having a public peer-to-peer recognition system is a critical management tool. Managers can look at an employee’s recognition before going into a one-on-one and talk to the employee about behaviors that they might not have had time to notice in advance.

#9: Lead from the Top

Glassdoor’s 2015 appreciation survey found that most employees would stay at jobs longer and work harder when they get appreciation from their manager. When managers either give recognition – or even amplify recognition from a peer – it reinforces the importance of the behavior that’s being recognized. And it encourages employees to recognize each other. If that recognition comes from senior leadership, the amplification is even stronger.

Key Takeaways

Effective employee recognition programs can transform companies. Following these 9 best practices will make sure you will get the most out of your employee recognition program. See a tour of YouEarnedIt’s Employee Experience platform to see how you can build effective employee recognition into your culture.