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Employee Recognition Ideas: 3 Research-Backed Tips

Employee Recognition Ideas: 3 Research-Backed Tips

Failing to recognise your employees for their great work is a surefire way to leave them unengaged, uninterested, and unfulfilled.

So how do you make sure your team feels celebrated and acknowledged? 

In this short guide, we’ve laid out some simple and effective employee recognition ideas to help you get there.

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is when an organisation acknowledges its people for who they are and what they do for the organisation. This includes anything and everything that celebrates your team and encourages more of the behaviour you want to see from them, from an annual awards ceremony to a simple “thank you” from a manager. 

But beware: not all employee recognition is created equal. A Gallup survey revealed the most meaningful feedback comes from a person’s line manager – followed by an acknowledgement from a senior leader or CEO – and is honest, authentic and tailored to how they like to receive recognition.

This means the most effective employee recognition programmes are heavy on top-down praise. Of course, recognition from their peers also has a big impact on an employee’s job performance – and we’ll dive into how to encourage a culture of recognition that will lead to employees recognising each other on a daily basis later.

Why is employee recognition important?

Recognition is one of the most effective tools in the HR toolbox when it comes to improving employee engagement, productivity, and retention. 

In fact:

  • 40% of employed Americans say they’d put more energy into their work if they were recognised more often.
  • 70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve “massively” if managers simply said “thank you” more.
  • 37% of workers believe the most effective thing their employer can do to cause them to produce great work is to recognise them.
  • Recognition drastically outweighs performance-based rewards such as “pay me more” and “give me a promotion” as ways people say their say their employer could get the best from them.

We’re so hard-wired to crave acknowledgment that we even respond to recognition from a robot. When electronic systems were installed that immediately praised hospital employees for using hand sanitiser, the number of staff who regularly washed their hands rose from 10% to 90%.

Employee recognition ideas

Cracking the employee recognition code can transform your company culture.

Here are few ideas for how to get it right in your organisation and start reaping the rewards:

1. Focus on unconditional praise

Want to make sure each and every one of your employees feel truly recognised? Focus on giving them unconditional praise

This means celebrating them for who they are, independent of what they’ve done. For example, you might highlight their attitude, the way they interact with their colleagues, or the way they approach their work. 

Conditional praise, on the other hand, is recognising someone for something they’ve done, like hitting a tight deadline, achieving a KPI, or making a sale. This is important, too. But nothing says “I appreciate who you are and what you bring to this team” like unconditional praise.

And the key to unconditional praise is to recognise people’s traits – their conscientiousness, their friendliness, their desire to always learn – not the fruits those traits bear. 

Everyone has their own unique set of strengths. Whether they’re outgoing or introverted, organised or creative, empathetic or disciplined, there’s always something there to be celebrated. 

Organisations thrive when they’re a mixing pot of diverse personalities. You need great strategists and great executors, people who can motivate their colleagues and others who can pick them up when they’re down, and teammates who love to take the lead in meetings and others who are happy to let others have the limelight. So, make sure to sing the praises of all your team’s attributes. 

This will let your colleagues know they’ve got your full permission to be themselves, which is essential for a happy and engaged team.

2. Be timely

Studies have shown that recognition is most effective when it happens immediately, regularly and consistently. In fact, organisations that double the number of employees that receive recognition for their work on a weekly basis experience a 24% improvement in work quality and a 27% reduction in absenteeism.

But respondents to one survey reported an average of 50 days since they last felt recognised in any way at work – while a Gallup poll shows that 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for good work in the last year.

Make employee recognition a daily occurrence across your organisation and you can transform your company culture. 

Don’t fall into the trap of letting your employees go unnoticed for too long by keeping your eyes peeled for examples of them exhibiting a trait you love about them and then praising it straight away. 

This is bound to make them feel seen in a way few people are in the workplace – especially if you pick out moments for praise that aren’t attached to specific outcomes.

3. Praise them in the way they respond to

Some people get a huge boost from having the whole of the office’s attention drawn to their good deeds. Others are uncomfortable with being the centre of attention, but a private thanks from their manager would mean the world to them.

There are as many ways to show appreciation as you have employees, but a few that always go down well are:

  • A company-wide shoutout in the next all-hands meeting or annual awards ceremony.
  • Leaving your teammate’s favourite treat on their desk alongside a heartfelt, handwritten note.
  • Taking them out for lunch on the company for a one-on-one catch up with their manager.
  • A team trophy for a department that deserves special recognition.
  • A shoutout on the company social pages.

Learn how each of your employees likes to be praised and be sure to recognise them in the way they respond to.

Creating a culture of recognition

Your people are bound to get a boost when their manager recognises them for who they are, but it can be even more powerful if that recognition comes from their peers. 

In fact, peer-to-peer recognition is 36% more likely to have a positive impact on your organisation’s bottom line than manager-only recognition. 

And employees want to appreciate each other. When offered a simple tool to do so 44% of all workers will provide peer-to-peer recognition on an ongoing basis. 

Encouraging your employees to sing the praises of their colleagues’ strengths – and give them the tools like Hive Fives which make it easy for them to do so – is a simple way to create a culture of unconditional praise that leads to a happy and productive team.

Hive Homepage Hive Fives 2020 Cards

The key to unlocking the benefits of employee recognition is to make it a cornerstone in your company culture.

And the best way to quickly get an idea of how recognised your people are feeling is through employee surveys that include questions like “I receive praise and recognition when I do a good job” and “People are well recognised for their contributions here”.

Once you’ve run a survey and the results are in, Hive makes it easy to segment the results by seniority level, department, and personal characteristics. This makes it easy to pinpoint the particular areas of your organisation where people are feeling least appreciated and create a clear action plan for boosting employee recognition where it will matter most.

Employee recognition is one of the most powerful – and most misunderstood – tools in every HR professional’s toolbox. Grab your free copy of The Handy Guide to Hive to see how our intuitive platform makes it easy to bake acknowledging employees into your company culture.

This is a simple way to help ensure your staff are happy in their jobs, engaged with their work, and well aware of how much you value them for who they are and what they do.

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