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Ingraining and Sustaining Employee Recognition: A Guide for Leaders

June 28, 2024

Many organizations have a recognition program of some kind, but the majority focus on recognizing tenure. This form of recognition is a dated way of recognizing employees and has less of an impact on organizational performance. Additionally, 81% of organizational leaders do not see recognition as a strategic priority. However, studies show that companies can save up to $16.1M in turnover when recognition is prioritized. Employees who report high recognition are 2.9x more likely to be engaged than those who report low recognition.

Employee recognition is a powerful tool for several reasons:
  1. Boosts Morale: Regular recognition can significantly enhance employees’ morale, making them feel valued and appreciated.
  2. Increases Engagement: Recognized employees are more engaged and committed to their work.
  3. Enhances Retention: Employees who feel valued are less likely to leave the organization, reducing turnover costs.
  4. Encourages Productivity: Recognition can motivate employees to maintain or improve their performance.
  5. Fosters a Positive Work Environment: A culture of appreciation creates a more supportive and positive workplace atmosphere.
Steps to Ingrain Employee Recognition

1. Establish Clear Recognition Criteria

To ensure fairness and consistency, establish clear criteria for recognition. Define what behaviors, achievements, or contributions are worthy of recognition. This clarity helps employees understand what is expected of them and what they should strive for.

2. Incorporate Recognition into Company Values

Align recognition practices with the company’s core values. When recognition reflects the values and mission of the organization, it reinforces these principles and helps embed them into the company culture. For example, if teamwork is a core value, ensure that collaborative efforts are regularly acknowledged.

3. Train Leaders on Effective Recognition

Leaders play a crucial role in employee recognition. Provide training for managers and supervisors on how to recognize employees effectively. This training should include the importance of timely and specific recognition, as well as understanding the individual preferences of employees.

4. Diversify Recognition Methods

Not all employees appreciate recognition in the same way. Some may prefer public acknowledgment, while others might value a private thank-you note. Diversify your recognition methods to cater to different preferences. Options include verbal praise, written notes, awards, and even small gifts.

5. Integrate Recognition into Daily Operations

Make recognition a regular part of daily operations. Encourage managers to incorporate praise into their routine interactions with employees. Regular team meetings can include a segment for acknowledging achievements, and internal communication channels can highlight employee successes.

Strategies for Sustaining Employee Recognition

1. Consistency is Key

Recognition should be consistent and ongoing. Avoid sporadic or infrequent recognition, which can make it seem insincere. Implement a structured program that ensures regular recognition opportunities, such as monthly awards or weekly shout-outs.

2. Use Technology

Leverage technology to streamline and enhance your recognition program. There are numerous platforms and apps designed specifically for employee recognition. These tools can facilitate peer-to-peer recognition, track achievements, and provide a centralized place for recognizing and rewarding employees.

3. Seek Employee Input

Involve employees in the development and evolution of the recognition program. Solicit their feedback on what types of recognition they find most meaningful and effective. Regular surveys or focus groups can provide valuable insights and help tailor the program to meet their needs.

4. Celebrate Milestones and Achievements

Celebrate not only individual achievements but also team and company milestones. Recognizing significant achievements, such as project completions, anniversaries, and major sales, can boost morale and foster a sense of collective accomplishment.

5. Measure and Adjust

Continuously measure the effectiveness of your recognition program. Use metrics such as employee engagement scores, turnover rates, and direct feedback to assess its impact. Be prepared to make adjustments based on this data to ensure the program remains relevant and effective.

Ingraining and sustaining employee recognition requires intentionality and commitment. By establishing clear criteria, training leaders, diversifying recognition methods, and integrating recognition into daily operations, companies can create a culture of appreciation. Sustaining this culture involves consistency, leveraging technology, seeking employee input, celebrating milestones, and regularly measuring the program’s effectiveness. When done right, employee recognition not only boosts morale and engagement but also drives organizational success.


By Dana Weidinger, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner, ASE.  Source: McLean & Company blueprint: Ingrain and Sustain Employee Recognition

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