Employee recognition does have a strong impact on employee engagement and employee performance. Fortunately, it is straightforward to implement.

What Is Employee Recognition?

Employee recognition is, simply put, the act of recognizing an employee for their contributions and achievements. For many, this conjures up visions of “employee of the month” plaques, corporate trinkets, and certificates. This is an approach used historically by many businesses, with intermittent success. More recently, businesses have seen significant results with a simpler approach.

Recognition in a successful business environment does not require an elaborate program or corporate trinkets. Instead, the aim should be to create a corporate culture of appreciation, driven and modeled by business leaders, from the top of the company down.

Employee Recognition Impacts Employee Engagemenand Retention

The most common reason employees cite when leaving a job is their relationship with their direct supervisor or manager. Frequently, the issue identified with this relationship is a lack of appreciation. Taking into account all programming challenges, employees leave their current positions more frequently for this reason than salary. Understanding this should motivate employers to make recognition a priority, but it can often be considered “fluffy” and its impact can be overlooked, particularly in large corporations where the connection between front-line employees and leaders may be limited.

Turnover is expensive – having knowledge and experience walk frequently out the door of a company means ongoing unnecessary spending on recruitment and training. It keeps companies in “storming” modes and can hamper your team’s ability to achieve their goals. Engaging and retaining employees is key to a company’s success.

Some turnover is unavoidable – people move on from a position for many reasons. Ensure you maintain the lowest possible rate of turnover to keep your company healthy. Ensure your employees feel recognized and appreciated for the work they do if you wish to keep them.

How to Run a Workable Employee Recognition Program

Employee recognition and appreciation can come in many forms. For some employees a personal “thank you” or acknowledgment of a personal or work-related milestone is enough to impact their self-worth. This can be achieved with a simple card or even an email. Others respond well to a public acknowledgment. It is important to recognize achievements both large and small. The key is to connect them to, and therefore promote, your corporate values. If you provide effective positive reinforcement in the areas of performance your company wants to promote, this will drive increased employee performance in those areas.

For example, if one of your corporate values is “Courage” and someone stepped up to take on an opportunity such as training new staff or making a presentation if outside their regular duties, send your thank you with this identified:

Ryan, thank you for stepping up to help the team out with this training challenge. You did a fantastic job, and I appreciate the knowledge and competence I’m seeing from our new staff thanks to your efforts. You demonstrated courage in taking on this task.

Keys to an Effective Employee Recognition Program

  • Model the culture from the top down
  • Tie recognition to your corporate values
  • Be authentic – give your leaders some flexibility to be themselves
  • Know your employees
  • Make it flexible, and sustainable
  • Measure it – set goals for your leaders and hold them accountable

Recognize your Employees Strategically

In addition to trying your recognition of your corporate values, you can drive directed performance toward your company’s or department goals via employee recognition as well. For example, if your area has been asked to demonstrate more innovation, be sure to recognize and communicate recognition around achievements in this area. Focus your recognition efforts on your current goals, and positively reinforce behaviors, actions, and achievements that align.

Does Employee Recognition Really Improve Employee and Team Performance?

Employee recognition does have an impact on both employee and team performance. A team that feels recognized and appreciated has better attendance, higher individual and collective self-worth, and higher productivity. A culture of appreciation, modeled and driven from the top, tends to spread peer to peer. The results are what the US Marines refer to as “unit cohesion”.