Employee recognition is the key to retaining your most talented team members and keeping them engaged. Employees today rightfully value themselves and their talents. If their employer doesn’t show appreciation for what they bring to the table, they’re more than willing to look for a new opportunity where they’ll receive the recognition they deserve.
Creating an exceptional employee recognition program starts with understanding what recognition is and how it can transform the employee experience.
What is employee recognition?
Employee recognition includes any type of appreciation related to work, from a quick thank you in the hallway to an email from the CEO publicly recognizing a team member’s success. Recognition shows employees that your organization values their hard work and appreciates their contributions. Ultimately, employee recognition reinforces your company’s core values, fostering cultural alignment, increasing engagement, and boosting your bottom line.
Recognition often happens spontaneously but making it a key part of your culture takes more than relying on occasional moments of appreciation. Your organization needs to develop an employee recognition program that lets all team members show appreciation whenever and wherever they prefer. Doing this is easier said than done, but adopting a mobile-friendly, centralized recognition platform makes it much simpler.
Once everyone at your company can easily provide social and monetary recognition — the latter in the form of reward points that are fun to accumulate, award, and redeem — you’re on your way to a happy, motivated workforce.
Why does employee recognition matter?
When employees feel appreciated, your organization thrives. Here are just a few ways investing in employee recognition can benefit your organization.
Higher employee engagement
Employee recognition keeps team members engaged and motivates them to work harder by providing a sense of accomplishment. Companies that rate their culture of recognition highly are over twice as likely to see increased employee engagement, while 72% of executives say that recognition has a significant impact on employee engagement. And employees agree, with 90% saying that receiving recognition motivates them to work harder. It’s simple: when employees feel respected and appreciated, they redouble their efforts.
Increased employee retention
Retaining the best talent can be the difference between organizational failure and success. But your most skilled employees need to know that they matter, or you could lose them to the competition.
Employees are more likely to remain with a company where they feel their efforts are valued. Recognition was the top reason 21% of employees surveyed in 2021 chose to stay in their current position, ranking behind only work-life balance as a retention factor. And an earlier survey found that lack of recognition was one of the most common reasons employees gave for leaving their employer.
Improved employer brand
A reputation for valuing your employees does wonders for your organization’s brand. Companies with highly rated cultures of recognition are also 79% more likely to rate their employer brands highly.
When your team members feel recognized, they’ll provide better customer service, further boosting your company’s reputation. Meijer, a family-owned superstore based in the U.S. Midwest, found that increasing recognition from twice a month to twice a week led to a 5% increase in customer satisfaction scores. And organizations that invest in social recognition are twice as likely to see improved net promoter scores.
Better employee performance
When your employees are more engaged, improved performance follows. Keeping recognition specific is a key part of realizing this benefit, as showing appreciation for positive actions makes it more likely that employees will repeat them. Social recognition is again key to realizing this benefit: companies that invest in social recognition are twice as likely to see better individual employee performances.
Who should give employee recognition?
Employees expect recognition from managers, with 28% citing appreciation managers showed them as the most memorable — more than any other type of recognition. Recognition from managers to direct reports validates employees who want to impress their superiors, get a raise, or job promotion.
But managers aren’t the only team members who should provide recognition. When done right, employee recognition is a team effort where everyone participates and contributes to the appreciation cycle. Team members respect the opinion of their peers, so a work environment that encourages peer-to-peer recognition creates a sense of community.
Recognition from executives and other company leadership, unsurprisingly, is incredibly impactful. Twenty-four percent of employees say recognition from high-level leaders is the most memorable, behind only managers. Leadership serves as an example for everyone else at the organization as well. If team members see the C-suite championing recognition, they’ll see that your company practices what it preaches — and they’ll follow suit.
Remember that managers and other leaders need praise too. Your company will benefit from bottom-up recognition, where managers and executives receive positive feedback from their staff. Up to 53% of senior managers and executives want more recognition and including them in the cycle of recognition helps ensure they’ll keep acting as examples across the organization. So, the next time you receive recognition from your manager or another leader, consider returning the favor.
Creating a winning employee recognition program
Follow these best practices to develop a high-performing employee recognition program.
Provide both social recognition and meaningful rewards
Everyone loves more money; a culture of recognition goes far beyond raises and bonuses. Employees value social recognition as much or more than monetary rewards.
Of course, pairing social recognition together with rewards only boosts its impact, and it’s easy to combine the two when using a points-based reward system. Instead of guessing at what reward a specific employee might like — or worse, providing a forgettable, cookie-cutter reward like yet another branded mug or t-shirt — give employees an allowance of reward points they can then award to others.
A modern employee recognition solution both streamlines the process of awarding points and allows employees to include messages of appreciation when they give points to a coworker. They can even customize these messages with fun images, gifs, and more.
Make recognition specific to employee actions
Reward actions that represent the values and ethics you want team members to represent. This approach is one of the best ways to change your culture for the better, as 92% of employees indicate they are more likely to repeat behavior they’re recognized for. Give performance-based recognition when employees perform actions that lead to business success or reflect your organization’s core values.
Give recognition frequently
Employee recognition isn’t a one-and-done deal — at least not if you want to establish a true ongoing cycle of recognition. Employees want to be recognized frequently and in real-time. The longer it takes for employees to receive appreciation after they’ve achieved a milestone or a business win, the less impactful that recognition is.
Frequent, timely recognition is also an important part of creating a true culture of recognition. Organizations with highly rated cultures of recognition were 2.25 times more likely to give frequent recognition. When providing recognition becomes a daily occurrence, employees take notice, and they’ll make showing appreciation part of their own work routines.
Use an employee recognition platform
A successful employee recognition program has a lot of moving pieces, but choosing the right employee recognition software can simplify administration and boost impact. When evaluating potential platforms, ask yourself these questions:
- Does it integrate with other HR tools?
- Can it support both monetary and social recognition?
- Does it offer real-time reporting capabilities?
- Are points-based rewards built into the platform?
- Does it include features to make recognition engaging for employees, like commenting capabilities and the ability to award additional points to others’ recognitions?
- Are robust security features included to protect your employees’ data?
If the answer to these questions is yes, you’re on the right track.
Measure the impact of your recognition program
Your recognition program should start with the needs of your team. What do they value? How do you want to celebrate your success? Gather feedback in real time as you launch and further develop your recognition program to ensure you’re recognizing employees the way they want to be recognized. Implementing an employee survey platform lets you gather feedback anonymously using tools like pulse surveys and intelligent HR chatbots. You can then track the impact of recognition on other key parts of the employee experience like culture, engagement, and more.
Apart from employee feedback, measure the success of your recognition program by identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your organization’s recognition goals. These may include activation rates, the number of recognitions sent and received, and the number of participating team members.
Real-world examples of employee recognition
Employee recognition looks different at every organization. Here are a couple examples of companies that are getting it right.
The Kellogg Company
For over 100 years, the Kellogg Company has committed to fueling families worldwide. But with more than 31,000 workers worldwide, it was becoming harder to maintain connections between team members. After a company survey revealed that only around half of employees felt they received enough recognition, they knew they had to do something.
With the help of a new employee recognition platform, Kellogg gave all team members the ability to recognize their employees and peers, no matter their location. They also used the platform to reward the winners of internal contests to engage employees further. As a result, Kellogg saw a double-digit increase in the number of employees who agreed with the statement “I regularly receive appropriate recognition when I do a good job.” Kellogg even leveraged their recognition platform to boost employee connection during the pandemic, providing all employees points to award to colleagues who were personally helping them stay connected.
CHRISTUS Health is a non-profit healthcare system that includes more than 600 centers and 45,000 physicians. At one point, each hospital within CHRISTUS Health had their own separate recognition strategy. CHRISTUS needed a unified platform to better fulfill their program goals of engaging associates, standardizing the experience, and celebrating the moments that matter.
CHRISTUS centralized its recognition program using a modern employee recognition solution. Following the success of a pilot program that saw improved engagement and reduced turnover, CHRISTUS rolled out its new platform to all its U.S. hospitals. Now 90% of CHRISTUS Health Associates are active participants, and more than half engage in peer-to-peer recognition on a monthly basis.
CHRISTUS was even able to leverage its recognition program to increase the rate at which its Associates reported “near-misses” — incidents that were prevented but that otherwise had the potential to harm patients. By providing additional points to Associates who filed reports, CHRISTUS saw a six times rise in reporting, helping patients stay even safer.
Build a culture of recognition with Achievers
What do both CHRISTUS Health and Kellogg have in common — along with other brands like General Motors and McDonalds? They all use Achievers Recognize, a science-backed, easy-to-use recognition solution. Achievers Recognize is mobile-friendly, so employees can provide social recognition backed with reward points anywhere, anytime. It even integrates with Achievers Listen, an employee engagement solution that enables employee voice and makes it easy to gather feedback in real time.
With Achievers’ team of experts standing by to assist, your company can drive meaningful, frequent recognition by adopting Recognize as the foundation of its employee recognition program. There’s a reason Achievers can boast 98% customer satisfaction and 95% customer retention, and why Achievers’ customers are 2.5 times more likely to see increased employee retention and 36% more likely to see an increase in employee engagement.