What is employee recognition? 

Well, it’s pretty simple. Recognition between team members–or between team members and management–is simply the practice of recognizing specific success and positive behaviors in the workplace. 

What’s not so simple is actually implementing workplace recognition–especially between team members. 

Despite producing some pretty impressive benefits to your business (which we’ll get to in a minute), employee recognition is often overlooked and underutilized. In fact, 51% of employees are disengaged at work–suggesting, among other things, that they have never received recognition for their efforts and accomplishments. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at why employee recognition is so beneficial to your business, why it can be challenging to implement (as well as some of the most common mistakes businesses make), and how to implement employee recognition in your own business. 

Get the bonus content: When to Give Recognition to a Team Member

Benefits of Employee Recognition 

As mentioned above, creating a culture of recognition can be enormously beneficial to your business…not just encouraging your team members, but helping you to build a stronger, more profitable business. 

Here are some concrete benefits of employee recognition:

Increased Productivity

One of two key reasons for job dissatisfaction is a lack of recognition, according to a report by Conference Board (The other reason? Opportunities for advancement). Employees who don’t feel that they’re being fairly acknowledged for their accomplishments are not only unhappy; they’re less likely to be motivated to work hard and innovate.

On the contrary, employees that have their accomplishments and successes recognized are generally happier–and as a result, more productive. In fact, one survey found that 37% of employees said they would be more likely to produce great work if they received recognition; another study published by Forbes found that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees.

Lowered Turnover

On that note, happy employees are far less likely to look for alternative positions. Creating a culture of recognition can help you create an environment where employees are far less likely to turn over–motivated by remaining in a positive, healthy culture that acknowledges their successes. 

Not only does high employee retention help you build a more innovative, knowledgeable workforce; it also helps you save on the enormous costs of hiring and training. One estimate is at $4,683 for a single employee; that number can be significantly higher depending on the role of the employee.

Healthier Work Culture

Finally, positive recognition between employees can create an overall healthier work culture, which contributes to an improved reputation, better job satisfaction, and even reduced stress (Higher-stress companies spend 50% more on healthcare costs than their counterparts, according to Harvard Business Review.)

Employee recognition

Challenges to Employee Recognition

If employee recognition is so beneficial, then why don’t companies implement it more often?

The primary reason companies don’t recognize employee success is not that they don’t believe in it; it’s that they don’t know how to do recognition well.

Here are some common mistakes that companies make when it comes to employee recognition:

  • They don’t create a system or process for recognition. 
  • They take a “one size fits all” approach to acknowledging employee success, failing to address specific successes or attributes of team members.
  • They aren’t consistent or fair in their strategy or process.

One or more of these mistakes can cause companies to fail to create a culture of recognition. Instead, acknowledging an employee’s success becomes only an incidental practice that occasionally causes an employee to feel good–still positive, but falling short of intended outcomes.

In the next section, we look at strategies to overcome these challenges..and help create a culture of recognition that boosts work satisfaction, productivity, and ultimately, profits.

5 Strategies for implementing recognition

By now, you may be thinking–Alright, employee recognition sounds like a win. But what does it actually look like in practice?

Here are specific strategies for encouraging positive recognition–between team members and between management and employees:

1. Use Nailted to create a culture of recognition

Nailted can help you create a culture of recognition at your company by making mutual employee recognition part of your regular workflow. At the end of every week, employees have an opportunity to share feedback and recognition that’s then circulated back to the whole team at the beginning of the following week. Nailted’s process makes acknowledging the successes of others easy, fun, and convenient…and helps create a culture where productivity and performance is valued and rewarded. 

Employee recognition

2. Initiate public recognition

Depending on the culture of your company, you may create a space where employees have the opportunity to publicly acknowledge one another for a specific achievement–such as a contribution to a project, closed deal, or new innovation. 

During a daily or weekly team meeting–either in-person or in a virtual meeting –you may want to set aside a few minutes to “open the floor” for positive recognition. As a leader, it can be helpful to first model this kind of behavior for others by giving positive feedback to a team member. Be specific, but brief, and name a “bigger picture” outcome as a result of their positive contribution. 

3. Send a thank you note

It’s a little old-school, but a thank you note–paper or digital–is still a great form of recognition, especially in a scenario where public recognition isn’t realistic or appropriate. The German utility company E.On created a system of sending both physical and digital thank-you notes both between team members, and between team members and management–and saw an increase in motivation, employees feeling valued, and understanding of company vision. 

4. Share it on your messaging channel

Got a Slack channel, or another system for open messaging between team members? Create a regular habit of sharing accolades with the team. This is a quick, easy strategy of bringing recognition to team members for doing a great job–and makes it low-stress and low-pressure for team members to do the same with one another. 

5. Create a rewards system

Everyone loves to be recognized for positive behaviors or contributions….but even more than that, they like to be rewarded. Consider creating a “rewards” system to give employees tangible benefits for doing well. Zappos, for example, has a peer-to-peer recognition program that allows employees to nominate each other for specific rewards–such as a company parking spot. In any case, think creatively about what employees would appreciate–free product? Lunch with the department head? Free access to an online course?

Ultimately, rewards offer employees an additional incentive to garner recognition. Not only do they feel valued and appreciated; they also gain a concrete benefit.

Get the bonus content: When to Give Recognition to a Team Member

Positivity is Contagious

At the end of the day, the most important thing about employee recognition is that it builds positivity–and positivity is contagious. Although it might feel awkward at first to “pat each other on the back” all the time, encouragement eventually becomes normative in the workplace. The result? Your employees thrive–and so does your business.