What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is the acknowledgment of an individual’s work accomplishment by expressing gratitude or praise. Employers often recognize employees for:

  • Working for an extended period (generally beyond five years)
  • Exemplary work performance
  • Innovation or achievements
  • Notable personal development
  • Workforce or system improvement

According to Gallup research, employees find these methods of employer recognition highly impactful: 

  • Publicly acknowledging employees through praise, an award, or a certificate 
  • Private acknowledgment from a boss, coworker, or customer
  • Receiving an extremely positive evaluation regarding accomplishments
  • Receiving a monetary award or compensation 
  • Earning a promotion, greater autonomy, or increased work responsibilities

Why should HR leaders care about employee recognition?

Recognizing employee accomplishments is a simple, natural, and cost-effective way to enrich the work experience. Employee recognition also incentivizes employees by imbuing meaning into their jobs and helping them feel valued. Employee recognition is key to boosting:

  • Engagement
  • Motivation
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Collaboration 
  • Retention
  • Overall profit

Thanking employees for their work nurtures employee-manager and peer relationships, thereby building a unified, supportive work community. 

What can HR leaders do to implement employee recognition?

Integrating the following practices can effectively infuse employee recognition into an organization:

  • Design recognition standards. The recognition guidelines should align with the company mission and promote the desired work culture. Leaders should give credit to those who genuinely deserve it; praising employees for the wrong reasons could undermine the whole system and diminish the employer’s credibility. The recognition standards should specify the award approval procedure, the types of awards, and the frequency of giving them, so they’ll effectively motivate individuals. 
  • Frequently thank employees. Positive reinforcement can encourage employees to continue demonstrating desirable behavior or quality work. Managers should regularly acknowledge achievements and actions they value. For example, recognizing an employee for overtime hours on a project, or praising an individual for exemplary teamwork, spurs them to want to continue working hard, simultaneously inspiring others to follow suit.  
  • Speak from the heart. Addressing employees by name and thanking them for their specific achievements or actions shows that someone noticed their exceptional work. A handwritten note that expresses sincere gratitude can leave a lasting impression on an employee, inspiring their motivation for years to come.  
  • Say thank you in different ways. Employee recognition can effectively manifest in various forms such as online kudos, saying thank you on social media, writing a heartfelt card, a recommendation for an award, or acknowledging the employee’s accomplishment during a team meeting. It’s essential to say thank you in a manner that each individual will find meaningful.  

How can employee recognition improve company culture?

Regularly practicing employee recognition strengthens interpersonal relationships, and ultimately the entire company community. This healthy custom enhances the work culture by making space for everyone to earn acknowledgment for their hard work. Incorporating employee recognition cultivates positive values such as appreciation, empathy, gratitude, and a good work ethic, encouraging employees to celebrate their successes as well as their peers.