There’s no denying that your employees are among the most important resources your business has. However, part of the danger here is to treat them simply as tools. Basing your relationships with employees on the idea they can be used until they are spent and then replaced isn’t going to achieve positive results for anyone. However, if you respect and nurture your workers, there are opportunities for engagement and innovation.
A vital part of this is demonstrating recognition. Your employees are talented and skilled people. Receiving appreciation that shows you value their efforts is an important part of their employee experience. The approach you take to this can’t be improvised and superficial. A bottle of wine once a year isn’t going to cut it. You need to be intentional and consistent.
There are a few different ways you can approach effective employee recognition. Let’s take a look at some of the types you can consider as you develop the appropriate approach for your business culture.
When talking about employee recognition, tangible rewards are often the first consideration for businesses and workers alike. It’s certainly true that it’s not the only valid form of recognition and in many cases it may not be the most important. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t play an important role in a recognition program. After all, this type of appreciation can represent everything from giving workers a small motivational boost to actively improving their quality of life.
This makes pay rises and bonuses among the most important forms of employee recognition. They help your business to reinforce that the actions of workers have a direct influence upon success. In providing monetary rewards, this is a sign you are keen to share the outcome of joint success in a meaningful and fair way.
Not only is this a motivational incentive to contribute to continued innovation and success, it can be a factor in long-term employee retention. These bonuses and pay rises don’t need to be huge to make a difference, either. Rather, they should be commensurate with workers’ efforts and achievements, while also being applied consistently.
Alongside pay rises, the occasional gift can be a useful boost in recognition. There is a tendency, however, for businesses to think some candy or a team night out is an effective way to go. Worse, some enterprises think giving employees some company-branded swag equates to a great recognition reward! To have an effect on worker satisfaction, there needs to be some evidence that genuine thought has gone into these gifts. As such, it’s worth providing managers or direct supervisors with a budget so they can source the most appropriate gifts for their teams and individual employees.
You also need to consider the working environment of your employees. Recognition rewards for in-office workers are not always practical or appropriate for remote employees. Just because they’re not in the office to receive a gift or are too geographically distant to join the team on a night out, this doesn’t mean they’re undeserving of tangible recognition. Rewards here could include online gift certificates, having healthy treats delivered, or access to recreational experiences in their area. It can be wise here to include some questions in your remote employee engagement surveys on this subject. This can help you to ascertain what gifts and rewards are most meaningful to these teams.
Praise from leadership is good, but there is a tendency for this to have a limited impact. While management and executives represent the top level of the company, they may not have a great deal of micro-level insight into the talents, energy, and sacrifices the average worker commits every day. As such, peer-to-peer recognition can be a more meaningful approach. After all, it comes from the people your workers spend the most time with and who have a real understanding of the challenges that have been overcome.
Implementing a culture of peer recognition isn’t difficult, but it still requires some planning. You need to make it a central part of company life. Make sure it is discussed during interviews and onboarding sessions so new hires see how important it is to the business. Include effective peer recognition activities as part of initial and ongoing training. You workers need to understand that simply giving empty affirmations are not particularly helpful. Encourage them to be specific in their praise so their colleagues see there is genuine recognition of the skills and talents applied to their contributions.
This doesn’t have to begin and end with work achievements, either. Employees are far more than the role they represent in your organization. They live full, rich lives outside of work and it’s vital to acknowledge this. Make sure teams celebrate one another’s personal accomplishments and milestones. Show that your company has a culture that recognizes the whole person, not just their value as a worker.
It’s important to recognise how vital inclusivity is in peer-to-peer recognition, too. When done well, this form of praise can help strengthen colleague bonds. However, if a worker feels frequently overlooked and excluded in recognition, this can cause severe rifts. This is where managers and supervisors can be effective in monitoring the balance of praise in their teams. It doesn’t mean praise should be given where it isn’t earned. However, in noticing unintentional gaps, they can lead the way in directing some peer recognition where it is currently lacking.
Career Progression and Development
Effective recognition does more than make an employee feel they’ve achieved on behalf of the company. There also needs to be a sense you’re collaborating in mutually positive outcomes. As such, it is increasingly important that while your employees are working to develop your business, you must show commitment to supporting them in their personal and professional development. Indeed, a recent study found that 94% of workers will stay at a company longer if it invests in their learning. This means that career progression and skills development can be a powerful form of employee recognition for everyone involved.
Clear paths to growth within the company must be in place from the outset of employment. This helps to set expectations for the presence of recognition. It also acts as an incentive to engage in a more committed and meaningful way with the company. Direct supervisors and managers must make discussions about the development program a part of regular one-to-one meetings with workers. This reinforces the presence of this form of recognition and gives clear goals to work toward.
Perhaps most importantly, this progression and development as recognition shouldn’t be limited to company-focused career development. Too often, businesses limit the skills they provide workers and the paths available purely to the needs of the company. This generally isn’t effective as worker recognition. You need to provide support to workers in areas that are of personal and professional interest to them, too. Even if their goals are outside of your company’s primary area of expertise, rewarding them with development opportunities in these areas means you gain workers with diverse interests and skill sets.
Remember, to demonstrate recognition, there needs to be evident investment. This shows you recognize how valuable they are to your company no matter what path they want to take. Wherever possible, subsidize their formal education. Send them to events and networking opportunities they will gain from. Reward them with paid time off to further their personal, professional, or philanthropic interests.
Structure can be valuable when it comes to employee recognition. When businesses improvise their reward behavior, this can leave employees feeling uncertain. They can’t be sure whether their hard work is going to be met with any form of acknowledgement from leadership or their peers. As such, this can be disruptive to their work satisfaction and even consider seeking opportunities with businesses that consistently offer recognition. As such, creating a formal and transparent recognition program can be a key tool.
Transparency is an important aspect here. You can’t set clear expectations if your workers can’t see how recognition is replied and under what conditions. The program doesn’t necessarily need to be as prescribed as listing every possible reward for every goal that can be reached. Rather, outline what types of behavior the company considers worthy of recognition so workers fully understand what is valued by the business. Provide examples of types of reward provided at different levels of achievement, innovation, and commitment.
This transparency and structure doubles up as a tool for equality. Providing clarity on how and when recognition is provided means employees can expect all workers to be acknowledged and rewarded fairly. Indeed, the visibility of the program also allows employees to see when there are imbalances in the system and hold the company accountable. You’ll find that this not only supports an effective recognition program but also builds trust within the workforce.
Employee recognition isn’t a single activity. There are various forms it can take, each with a specific impact on worker satisfaction and retention. Wherever possible, your company needs to adopt a combination of appreciation types that are most relevant to your workers. While there are significant benefits your company can gain from effective recognition, your efforts need to consistently put workers’ interests and priorities first. Take the time to learn about what your talented employees value and create a program that is structured and transparent.