Employee recognition is a critical aspect of performance management. A recent employee engagement study on creating a culture of recognition, conducted by O.C. Tanner, found that 37% of respondents felt that employee recognition was the most important driver for great work. Given the increasing importance placed on employee experience, it's vital to investigate and identify what is costing you in terms of talent and resources. If you're looking to improve your employee recognition program, there are many effective strategies you can implement.
How to make employees feel appreciated
There are many ways to recognize your employees and empower them to succeed within your business. Recognition can be as small as a simple "thank you" for doing a great job or as big as an established recognition program. The most successful companies use a combination of recognition strategies. Here are five tips for making your employees feel appreciated.
1. Set up a formal recognition program.
Organizations can benefit from having a formal recognition program that's implemented fairly across each department. One way to do this is through gamification – employees can earn points based on specific actions or accomplishments and then spend those points on things like company swag, activities, trips and other prizes. Your formal recognition program should also consist of some form of public recognition, such as awards and public verbal acknowledgments.
2. Conduct weekly check-ins.
Recognition and performance discussions shouldn't be limited to an annual performance appraisal. This type of performance management doesn't allow for fluid communication between the manager and employee, and it's not conducive to a trusting relationship. Instead, implement regular check-ins between employees and their managers. According to Workhuman, workers with weekly check-ins are more than two times as likely to trust their managers, see a path for growth within their organization, and feel a sense of purpose and belonging at work.
3. Encourage positive informal feedback.
Informal feedback is a cost-free way to effectively recognize employees and make them feel good. You can integrate this into your company culture by having managers provide employees with frequent informal feedback. You can also encourage informal peer recognition, as thank yous and shoutouts are sometimes more meaningful to employees when they come from their peers.
4. Offer promotions, raises and bonuses.
Employees may place a high importance on non-monetary recognition, but that doesn't mean you should forget altogether about using money to recognize employees. Professional development is an important factor in employee happiness and retention, so it's important to recognize an employee's achievements by way of promotions, raises and bonuses when they deserve it. This shows employees that you are invested in their continued happiness and success.
5. Personalize employee recognition based on employee needs.
The most effective type of employee recognition is individualized and honest. People are unique in how they like to receive recognition, so it's important your recognition plan accounts for that. Survey your employees and discuss recognition with them to see which actions are most meaningful to them, and then use that information to create an effective employee recognition program that still caters to individuals. [Find the best HR software to help you improve the employee experience.]
The benefits of employee recognition
Recognizing your employees isn't just the right thing to do for your team; it can also benefit your business. Here are some key advantages of successful employee recognition.
Employee recognition improves engagement levels.
Many sources will attest that recognition is a fundamental human need. In order to feel engaged at work, we need to know that what we're doing actually matters and that it's appreciated. Without this knowledge, employees consider their role purposeless and employee engagement levels within your organization will plummet. In fact, recognition has consistently shown to be a key driver in high employee engagement.
Employee recognition boosts satisfaction, motivation and productivity.
Recognizing employees for their hard work increases job satisfaction and motivation; and if there's one thing satisfied and engaged employees are likely to do, it's work harder. After all, if an employee is more likely to be praised and rewarded for their efforts, it makes logical sense that they would put in extra effort to receive further recognition. Additionally, the O.C. Tanner research showed employees who feel recognized at work are 2.2 times more likely to say that innovative thinking is embraced in their workplace.
Employee recognition builds trust.
It's already widely known that the employee-manager relationship has a huge impact on employee engagement levels and performance management in general. Employees need to be able to communicate with their managers, preferably in regular one-on-one performance meetings that allow relationships to develop. The foundation of this relationship is trust, and the exchange of honest recognition fuels levels of trust.
In fact, a survey by Workhuman found that employees are twice as likely to trust their company's leadership team to make the right decisions for their company and its stakeholders when an employee recognition program is present.
Employee recognition reduces absenteeism and employee turnover.
A Deloitte survey found that employee recognition was among the top three most effective nonfinancial factors for retention. Organizations with employee recognition plans tend to see lower absenteeism and employee turnover. An employee who feels valued, appreciated and supported typically feels more inclined to remain with a company than one who feels unneeded or unwanted.
How to tell when employees feel underappreciated
When an employee feels unappreciated or underappreciated, it tends to show in their behavior and output. Here are some signs that an employee may feel unappreciated.
- Decrease in morale or job interest: An employee who feels unappreciated may experience low morale or a loss of interest in their job. You might notice the employee contributes less to team meetings, doesn't offer feedback on projects, or is frequently tardy or absent from work.
- Decrease in productivity and performance: Employees are less inclined to work hard when they feel their efforts aren't being valued. As a result, you may see a decrease in their overall performance or productivity.
- Increase in resistance or conflict: An employee who feels unappreciated may also start to feel resentful. If left unmanaged, this can present itself in physical ways. For example, the employee might become less agreeable, make passive-aggressive comments, or initiate arguments with other co-workers or managers.
An employee will likely leave your company if they feel their hard work and achievements continue to go unnoticed. This is why it's important to frequently recognize your employees and keep an open line of communication about employee recognition with them.
Stuart Hearn contributed to the writing and research in this article.