Employee Satisfaction Surveys

Five Effective Real-World Approaches to Employee Recognition

Five things to remember when you're thinking about employee engagement and recognition.



Trusted Experience Management Partners


Employee recognition has proven to be an influential factor in employee retention, engagement, and motivation. Organizations that successfully and consistently implement employee recognition enjoy long-term stability and higher profit margins. To better understand effective employee recognition, we've outlined five guidelines for this management strategy, along with real-world examples for each approach.

1. Tailor your recognition program to your organizational culture.

No one company's program should be exactly the same as another's. Your employees are unique and part of a similarly unique culture; thus, they require a culture-specific recognition program.

Example: In Keeping the People Who Keep You In Business, Leigh Branham highlights Henley Healthcare, a Texas maker of non-invasive medical products. Henley Healthcare polled its office staff to learn what kind of reward they would like for working long hours. The results were clear: 42% preferred time off, 22% preferred clothing, and 20% preferred tickets to cultural events. This information allowed Henley Healthcare to create a recognition program that reflects what its employees actually want.

2. Money is not the catch-all solution to employee recognition.

In fact, it should take a backseat to other methods. For instance, time, affirmation, and personally-expressed gratitude are much more valuable commodities.

Example: Buttoned Up Inc., an organizational firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan, rewards its employees with flexible schedules. As Sarah Pierce writes for The Business Insider, “Depending on their job, some employees are allowed to work one day a week from home to save on gas money while others can choose between getting their work done in two days or spreading it out over the entire work week. ‘As long as everyone gets their work done, we're very flexible,’” Buttoned Up Founder and CEO Alicia Rockmore explains.

3. Be specific and consistent.

Employees should know exactly why they are being rewarded. Additionally, they should know exactly which behaviors will elicit recognition. Your employees will quickly discount any program that appears to favor certain employees unfairly.

Example: As described in The 24-Carrot Manager, “Mandy Assi, concierge manager at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, is a passionate practitioner of specific recognition. 'Managers realize how hard it is to find good people, and that it’s even more challenging to retain them, especially in the hospitality industry, where shift work can be difficult. You need to be specific. For example, I [recognize] you because I saw you checking in Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith was upset, and you handled that with immense ease and calmed him down. Mr. Smith left with a big smile on his face. You also stayed late after your shift even though you were tired.'”

4. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition.

Recognition doesn't always have to come from the top. In many cases, co-workers know more about real employee performance than managers do. Create a culture of encouragement and recognition among your employees, and watch employee engagement grow.

Example: As Donna Deeprose explains in her book, How to Recognize and Reward Employees, marketing, travel, and hospitality provider Carlson Companies has a peer recognition program called Bravo. Through their recognition website, CarltonRewards, any Carlton employee can recognize any other employee for a job well done. Furthermore, the system catalogs praise according to company strategies. Employees can recognize their colleagues for actions in the following categories: Build Our Team, Satisfy the Customer, Deliver Our Family of Business, or Work Smarter, Not Harder. The heads of business units deliver certificates to employees who receive peer recognition, and employees also receive redeemable Gold Points. Carlton’s reward program is effective because both executives and peers can easily applaud good work.

5. Be creative continually, not just in the beginning.

No matter how tailored and specific it is, over time, your recognition program will become stagnant. Keep employees on their toes by creating and adapting new methods of reward and recognition.

Example: As described in The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook, Doris Hausser, former director of performance management for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, had a tough job: guide and inspire 1.8 million federal employees in dozens of different departments. Hausser’s technique? Encourage departments and individual employees to be creative with their recognition programs. For instance, as she explains, “One agency has started the Giraffe Award to recognize people who stick their necks out, where you are really awarding risk taking, and that’s the whole idea. The award is symbolic of the nature of the contribution that the employer wants to see.”

~Monica Nolan, Account Manager


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Topic: Employee Experience

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