Appreciation is a fundamental human need. Employees respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms their work is valued. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work. This article explains how to communicate to encourage employee recognition.
Individual performance→Recognition→Increased productivity→Increased value to the organization
Employee recognition is the timely, informal or formal acknowledgement of a person’s or team’s behavior, effort or business result that supports the organization’s goals and values, and which has clearly been beyond normal expectations.
Despite the unquestioned benefits arising from employee recognition, one of the mysteries of the workplace is that recognition invariably is done badly, if done at all. Few organizations have well-established and accepted formal or informal employee programs in place. Therefore, employee recognition remains an undervalued management technique.
This article will help your understanding of key organizational principles for effective employee recognition.
Data helps you gain support for employee recognition by senior management
Data will get senior executives on board for implementing a unified, effective social recognition program. Data changes social recognition from a nice-to-have to a smart business decision. For instance:
- A 2021 Harvard Business Review article reports on new research on the power of symbolic awards such as thank you notes, public recognition, and certificates. They find that these simple interventions can significantly improve employee motivation.
- Appreciation goes both ways. A 2021 World Economic Forum article reports that bosses perform better when they are appreciated by their staff, according to a new study.
- A Gallup article in 2021 referred to a study that found a 32% boost in engagement for those who feel “appreciated” at work. Also, there was a 26% increase in employee engagement when employees are encouraged to “give appreciation,” and that recognition can reinforce a team’s sense of meaning and purpose.
- The same article said that Gallup also finds that 74% of those who say their team receives praise also strongly agree that they “have the feeling that what [they are] doing at work is valuable and useful.” Feeling that your company’s mission makes your job important is fundamental to engagement.
A Globoforce 2018 article lists a series of data points you can use to put the business case to senior management:
- Best place to work – Organizations that invest 1% or more of payroll are 3X as likely to be identified as a “best place to work”.
- Globoforce found that customers who invest more in recognition programs see higher productivity. Investments of 10% more per employee showed an average higher productivity of $3,900 per employee. And that translates into an annual benefit of $58 million compared to industry peers.
How you can communicate to encourage employee recognition
Communication is important in the recognition of good achievements in the workplace by peers, managers and supervisors. As a communicator, you can encourage the awarding of recognition for work well done throughout the organization when you become aware of suitable situations. Such opportunities tend to arise while gathering information for employee publications and other typical communication tasks.
Communicate about good achievements and their long-term benefits
- Offer employee recognition ideas to help to drive formal and informal programs of employee recognition.
- Supply articles and photographs in employee publications, including the intranet, emails, social media, and occasionally in external media about high-achieving employees.
- Arrange informal recognition functions, such as during the morning coffee break, in which the supervisor or manager thanks the person for their work.
- Directly encourage managers and supervisors to spontaneously recognize employees for their efforts (giving employees a ‘pat on the back’).
- Arrange photographs and certificates of the employees and their awards or similar, in common areas.
- Mention employee recognition activities in your workplace and elsewhere at your regular team meetings.
- Model the desired behavior by giving recognition to your staff and also to your peers (especially if you aren’t a manager yourself).
Highlight long-term benefits to high achievers
You can communicate about the long-term benefits that come to high achievers in the workplace:
- Conduct interviews with the staff who manage your organization’s career advancement programs, with the aim of publicizing the opportunities for advancement. (But first think about the risk of other employees seeing the public recognition and trying to snaffle the person away.)
- Include high-achieving employees in special features in print, online publications, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that outline ways to get ahead. (You will probably find government departments are reluctant to single out individuals, but you can persist because this is an important issue.)
- List employees who have been promoted, proving that career advancement is possible from achieving good results in the workplace.
- Include a career management section on your organizational intranet and Facebook, which summarizes all information and resources about career advancement.
- Ensure that senior managers reinforce positive messages about high achievers and career advancement opportunities when they speak to employee groups.
You can play a valuable role by training or arranging training in presentation skills to assist supervisors and managers to improve the way they recognize their staff for work well done. Many managers have never had such training, and because good communication skills are expected as a ‘given’ in a job, some are reluctant to admit they need assistance in this area.
Research has found it is more effective to recognize employees face-to-face. You can inform participants of the findings of a US survey by Survey Monkey & Bonusly in 2019 that found the most popular way to receive positive feedback is in 1:1 meetings with managers (38%) followed by team meetings (25%), annual reviews (16%) and public messaging channels (11%).
Clearly, the COVID pandemic has led to much more recognition via digital channels. Time will tell how effective digital options compare with in-person recognition. Although various apps have become available to praising employees, digital media is generally not a great substitute for face-to-face recognition because it is an indirect, less personal way to acknowledge someone for their good work. In the meantime, vary your approach to keep everyone happy.
The concept of employee recognition is basically simple, but most managers are poor at it. They need reinforcing and coaching. They need a program, principles and procedures to help them apply recognition effectively within their area of responsibility. You can communicate to encourage employee recognition and adoption of this impressive workplace practice in your organization.
Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. His wide-ranging career includes roles as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer and business manager. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.