5 Tips to Bring Employee Recognition into Your Workplace Culture

Employee recognition is vital to a successful workplace. Without it, productivity will slump and employees won't feel valued by their organization. By bringing recognition into your workplace culture, you create stronger foundations for your business.

Good job! Two small words packed with powerful benefits for your company.

Acknowledgment and recognition are vital human needs. So vital, in fact, that 76% of employees who don’t feel valued at work are currently seeking other job opportunities. (Yikes!) So important that productivity is 12% higher when employees are happy.

Employees who are regularly recognized aren’t just happier, they’re also more engaged.

“Knowing that they are respected as individuals at work can have a significant impact on how employees view their overall lives.” – Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report

Not to mention, these engaged employees are 21% more profitable than their disengaged counterparts.

All this to say: not only will your employees be happier, but you’ll also be saving money. A new hire costs as much as $3,500 for recruitment and as much as $1,200 and 32 hours per year in ongoing training.

According to employment happiness guru Alexander Kjerulf, there has never been a stronger focus on happiness at work in organizations all over the world than there is right now.

“Happy workplaces are more profitable and innovative, attract the best employees and have lower absenteeism and employee turnover rates. Simply put, happy companies make more money.” – Alexander Kjerulf

Employees thrive on regular positive reinforcement, and a recognition program that highlights their everyday achievements can put an additional spotlight on their good work.

Not sure where to start? Here are 5 tips on adding employee recognition into your work culture

1. Recognize excellence, often

“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.” - Pat Riley, president of the Miami Heat

The key to creating an environment of recognition is to make it a habit. Take a moment every day or even every week to recognize excellence on your team.

It can be as simple as highlighting a small achievement or as big as creating a program where employees nominate each other for work done behind the scenes.

Jacob Dufour

“I think that the frequency of recognition and rewards should vary so that they don’t become something that is routine and mundane. You can achieve this by rewarding employees by project or milestone in addition to monthly or annual recognition and rewards.” - Jacob Dufour, HR consultant at HR Nola

But keep in mind you should create a safe space for recognition, where every employee feels comfortable participating. It’s no secret that sometimes only the loudest people in the room are heard. And they often only recognize the other extroverts. But introverts also make major contributions and should be recognized as well.

And it’s also important to recognize that generations are motivated and engaged differently.

“Older generations tend to prefer more formal recognition and monetary rewards, while younger generations tend to prefer social recognition and rewards such as flexibility and feedback.” - Jacob Dufour

2. Simplify employee recognition with technology

Save time (and headaches) by using an application or software that already exists to help create your employee recognition program.

Considering using Slack integration tools, like Kudos, an employee recognition app that will engage and align teams for easy peer-to-peer recognition.

Or use a platform like Award Force, a robust cloud-based software for managing staff excellence programs with features like streamlined entry and judging tools, and custom configurations that align with your brand.

“Our every day is focused on helping clients identify and recognize excellence because we love what we do and we get to play a part in recognizing extraordinary achievements.” - Richard de Nys, founder and managing director of Award Force

3. Make it social

Whether you use Slack or another internal communication tool, it’s a great idea to recognize a job well done in a public setting when appropriate.

You could create an “Employee of the Week” post that shows a photo and bio and share it publicly on your social account where that employee can then share it across social and their LinkedIn profiles.

This public recognition can provide a powerful social currency for your team members, build a stronger employment brand, and offer the public a peek into your healthy company culture

4. Encourage participation and feedback

A key to successful employee recognition is cultivating a receptive environment, and that means asking for regular feedback.

Include your employees in the staff recognition program from the start. Ask questions like:

  • How do you want to be recognized?
  • How often should we recognize success?
  • What should the reward be (if any)?
  • Should we create a peer-to-peer recognition program?

From the very beginning, they’ll feel like a part of the process and will be more likely to engage throughout the program.

“Communication, particularly with managers and supervisors, is key to the success of a [recognition] program. Managers and supervisors need to understand how the program works, how it motivates and engages their employees and, ultimately, how it brings value to the organization.” - Jacob Dufour

5. Train management to cultivate recognition

To truly create a culture that recognizes achievement, you need a management team that wants to recognize achievement.

Shannon Bullard

 “Without management’s buy-in, your program won’t be able to gain the traction it needs to succeed. Once you have the C-Suite on-board, you need to have a well-thought-out plan that’s easy for employees to navigate and understand.” - Shannon Bullard, HR manager for SunBelt Furniture Xpress in Hickory, North Carolina

A few questions to ask:

  • How will the plan work?
  • Will employees be nominated for recognition, will it be based on achievement (i.e. years of service, customer feedback, etc.) or a combination of both?
  • How will you make it achievable by all departments and positions?           
  • Will there be a physical award? A monetary award?

Starting a program is easier than you think

Recognition programs don’t necessarily need financial incentives to be successful. In fact, many studies even report that monetary incentive programs fare worse in terms of participation. 

Take this program, for example, that Shannon Bullard experienced while working for a TV news station. It was called “The Hot Tamale Award,” where employees would nominate others for going above and beyond. The general manager would choose a winner then go through the office shaking maracas along the way so everyone could clap and recognize the employee. The recipient would win a box of Hot Tamale candy and get their photo taken wearing a large sombrero hat. The photo was then shared via company email.

“The program was wildly popular because it was easy, everyone knew how to participate, and it was a lot of fun. Recognition programs just don’t have to be fancy or expensive to have the desired effect.” - Shannon Bullard

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  • Recognize employees in weekly team meetings. This writer’s company starts every team meeting with weekly “Force Awards,” a quick verbal “good job” to someone on the team for a task well done in the past week.
  • Train and remind managers to provide positive reinforcement and regular feedback to their teams.
  • Create a #woot channel in Slack that recognizes everyday excellence and encourages peer-to-peer praise.

An employee recognition program can create a happy, healthy work culture. When your employees are happy, your clients will be too, as the positive spirit will shine through customer service, the commercial teams, and even the product itself.

So go forth, recognize often, and create an environment where everyone strives for excellence.

Author: Lindsay Nash is the content marketing manager at Award Force, which works to recognize excellence worldwide through management software for awards, grants and employee recognition programs. She can be reached at lindsay@awardforce.com

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