It is the duty of management to ensure that the human capital they are responsible for are working productively. Appropriate recognition of excellent work by employees is a huge part of having a happy and productive workforce with less turnover. If employees are starting to work less efficiently, it may be time to reinvent management practices to rejuvenate your company culture.

The ideal execution of a strong employee recognition program takes some work. It is vital for management to have a solid understanding of why and how to recognize employees and then to have a consistent and effective plan to follow. This solid understanding will lead to meaningful appreciation that will boost morale for the whole company.

You might be wondering what the point of employee recognition is. Why does it matter? Showing employee appreciation through an employee recognition program can have serious impact on your overall business success.

It’s a compounding effect where appreciation builds happiness, and happiness builds quality work.

A major reason is that you will have happier employees. When your employees feel recognized for their efforts, they will continue to work hard for you and will likely work even harder. It’s a compounding effect where appreciation builds happiness, and happiness builds quality work.

They are also more likely to feel like a true part of the team, leading to a stronger and more unified culture. Unappreciated employees will feel isolated as they get the sense that the work they do is not valued or needed. This will have a downward spiral effect, degrading performance as it slides down. In contrast, employee recognition will unify team members and improve overall performance.

Finally, proper employee recognition leads to significantly less turnover and makes it much easier for you to retain top talent. Feeling unappreciated will cause employees to start looking around for places where they do feel valued. To keep employees, recognize their great work.

There is no one right answer for how to recognize employee efforts and contributions. Employees are unique humans, not machines, so they need unique solutions to feel appreciated. While there is no “fix-all” solution, there are some guidelines that if followed will help bring recognition to any employee.

First, try to catch exemplary work when it happens and recognize it in the moment. Sometimes just the verbal acknowledgement makes a major impact. Recognizing great work in the moment shows that the recognition is sincere and genuinely appreciated. Spontaneous appreciation isn’t contemplated or premeditated, so that sincerity will be felt by the recipient.

The recognition should always be appropriate in scale to the situation. Don’t overdo it on the small stuff and make a big deal out of efforts that have a big effect on a major project goal. Most importantly, be authentic! You want it to be real and to feel that way to the employee. This is about human recognition of human effort, not about a robot automatically spitting out a gold star to one of the many tiny moving pieces in the big machine.

You want it to be real and to feel that way to the employee.

Finally, get some actual feedback from your employees. What would they like to see in an employee recognition program? What would help them feel appreciated? What kinds of rewards are most motivating? You might be surprised by their insights.

One of the most important parts of a great employee recognition program is knowing when recognition is needed. Some of the most important times when employee recognition is needed includes:

  • Constantly! This is the simplest form of recognition, but it can be the most important. Management needs to smile and SEE their employees. Regardless of rank or place in the company, every employee needs to see that they are a respected and appreciated member of the team. This is often as simple as a smile or greeting them by name.
  • When truly superb work is done. Work that is above and beyond should always be recognized.
  • Important milestones. Celebrate employee anniversaries at the company. A card or something simple every year and then make a bigger deal for employees at the 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, etc. year marks.
  • When great things happen outside of work. Celebrate things in employees’ lives. New babies, kids graduating high school or college, getting honored for something in the community, etc.
  • Volunteer efforts. When employees do great volunteer or activist work either on or off company time, make sure it’s recognized.
  • When they are praised to you. When management receives any kind of praise related to a certain employee, make sure to pass it on to them. Announce it in a team meeting, put it in the company newsletter, or at least send them a card or a letter for their files.
  • Teamwork. When a group of employees works well together and achieves a goal, celebrate it! Make sure they understand that quality group efforts are noticed and appreciated.
  • Birthdays. Celebrate employee birthdays. It can be a cake or small party at the office, but something simple like a card with a personal note sent to the employee’s home is often even better.
  • Peer-nominated. Ask employees to tell management when a co-worker deserves recognition, for doing great work or even just for being a really kind and considerate co-worker.
  • Embodiment of company values. When an employee does something that truly embodies one of your company values, acknowledge and celebrate it.
  • Big goals and milestones. When an individual employee or a team reaches a significant milestone or hits a major goal, make sure it is recognized. Be careful to only make a big deal out of the really big goals and milestones, though. Always use appropriate scale. Breaking an all-time sales record, for example, deserves a different response than hitting a quarterly production goal.

Recognition should never be considered as “fluff” or secondary in importance. The human capital at work for you are what keep your business going. Take care of them and they will take care of you. Neglecting recognition will cause for decrease in performance, morale and overall effectiveness. Review over the elements discussed above and see what could be implemented where you currently are at. Most importantly, what can you, yourself can do to make a change.

By JP George

About the author

JP George grew up in a small town in Washington. After receiving a Master’s degree in Public Relations, JP has worked in a variety of positions, from agencies to corporations all across the globe. Experience has made JP an expert in topics relating to leadership, talent management, and organizational business.

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