Recognize Employees in the Ways That Matter

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Employee recognition is the act of acknowledging company staff for exemplary performance. The goal of employee recognition is to foster particular behaviors, practices, or activities that result in better performance and positive business results. Recognition does not have to be expensive or complex. It can be as candid as a pat on the back, a genuine compliment, a simple thank you, or a friendly greeting. The smallest gestures can have a big impact on your team. Employee recognition should also be inclusive. Everyone in the company should be eligible for rewards, and recognition must serve as an innate part of company culture. Now is the best time to recognize your team. When you say, ‘congratulations,’ or ‘job well done,’ the employee associates the recognition with the behaviors that resulted in their exemplary performance, which fuels continued good work.

Why is employee recognition important?

Being held in high esteem by their peers is one of the biggest motivators for employees, and one of the best ways to earn respect is to be acknowledged for good work. Recognition should be an effort that goes beyond typical workday objectives. Give shout outs to employees who take initiative and exceed their goals.

While employee recognition has endless potential benefits for your organization, there are four primary benefits:

  • Employee Happiness – Happy employees are more productive. Recognition fosters a feeling of job mastery, giving the employee to the sense that they are a great fit for their role within the company. Strengthening this sense through acknowledgement can improve productivity, enhance loyalty, and promote collaboration. Positive reinforcement should be promoted, and constructive feedback should be embraced.
  • Employee Retention – Hiring only marks the beginning of your employee life cycle. You also need to train, develop, and motivate your team to retain them. Recognizing and rewarding your employees is a key aspect of retaining your top talent. Control your costs of employee turnover, by making them feel appreciated from the start.
  • Culture of Self Improvement – Recognizing employees is foundational to cultivating a culture of self-improvement. It is important to provide staff with opportunities to learn and make themselves better at what they do. Incentivize learning by recognizing and rewarding those who have taken the time to focus on self-improvement in the workplace and beyond.
  • Boost Morale – Letting your team know their hard work is appreciated can help to motivate your company’s most valuable assets: your people. A simple greeting at the beginning and end of the day may seem obvious, but is an often-overlooked form of recognition. Sincerely saying ‘thank you,’ and apologizing for misunderstandings are subtle ways of showing appreciation and respect. Small gestures can seem trivial; however, these are some of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to recognize your employees. In turn, boosting morale will improve your overall culture.

How should I recognize employees?

It’s not always what you do, but how you do it. Strive to recognize your employees in a more meaningful and personal way. Here are some ways you can get started with showing employees how much you appreciate their hard work.

Wall of Recognition

Set up a recognition wall or a ‘Wall of Fame,’ for a creative and fun way to promote peer recognition within the workplace. Set up a board somewhere in the office and have your team fill it with sticky notes of congratulatory messages for their exemplary coworkers. The wall will inspire those who did well to continue doing better, and challenge those who did not find their name on the board to work harder to be recognized. Sometimes, photos paint a picture that words just can’t. The wall of fame is a fun way to highlight accomplishments of both individuals and departments within your team, and it is a special way to put your culture on display! Snap photos of your employee accomplishments or take candid shots of your team at work. Encourage employees to post notes of gratitude for the featured employees around their photos.

Suggestion Forum

Start an anonymous suggestion forum where your company will address legitimate ideas or concerns, and everyone can equally contribute ideas. Survey your staff. It is crucial to not only recognize your employees, but to ensure they feel heard. A suggestion forum is a powerful tool to give to your staff, because it provides a safe avenue to communicate concerns they may not normally feel comfortable addressing. It also demonstrates that you appreciate them and their input. Engage your employees and ask for their feedback on what types of rewards might motivate them. Ask how they would like you to show appreciation, and remember that everyone is different! Have them complete this quiz to identity how they best like to be appreciated: Languages Of Appreciation Quiz. You might be surprised by the results, and you’ll feel confident that you are rewarding your team members in ways they will value.

Celebrate Life (beyond work)

The average individual spends more waking hours at work than anywhere else, but it is also important to realize that your employees also have thriving lives beyond the perimeter of their cubicle. Make an active effort to recognize your team for more than just their stellar working habits. Don’t forget to recognize life beyond work. The next time someone experiences a milestone, give them a shout out so everyone can celebrate their win together! This can include birthdays, work anniversaries, new additions to the family, and other noteworthy life occasions. 

Social Media

Take advantage of the digital shift by sharing outstanding team accomplishments on company social media platforms. Take to your company’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or website to recognize your employees in a more public setting. Social media recognition is a great way to share how proud you are of your employees, while helping to strengthen your employer brand by putting your culture and values on display. This will foster positive results beyond the scope of one employee, while attracting talented candidates who witness the positive work environment. When you recognize your team on social media channels, be sure to highlight who they are, what their role is, what they have done to deserve recognition, and how they have impacted the organization. Some people don’t like do be the center of attention, so be sure your employees are comfortable with this type of public recognition beforehand; Then, go public with your appreciation. See how Big Fish recognizes our employees on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & LinkedIn.   

Rotating Trophy

In professional sports, champion trophies travel from one winner to the next. Create a trophy of sorts (it can be an actual trophy, or something more humorous) that is recognized as a symbol of staff appreciation, and pass it around the workplace to staff members who display exemplary behavior. Identify a fun trophy, stuffed animal, or figurine that will mean something to your team, and pass it around the office to shout out your top performers. Let employees keep it on their desk for a week, and write them a note explaining what it stands for and why the employee earned it! During your next team meeting, let that employee follow a similar procedure and hand it off to the next person who deserves the award. This is a great way to build a culture of recognition, and include your staff in recognizing those team members they believe have gone above and beyond.

Wins of the Week

Track team wins by conducting ‘Wins of the week’ at the start of every team meeting. If an employee landed a huge new client account or nailed a demo of a new feature, encourage them to share it at the start of each meeting. Allow the start of your meeting to be a time to recognize and support members of your team. This is a great method to not only recognize high performers, but to also allow the entire team to be in the know on important milestones that are being reached within the company.

Just Say it!

There is no better way to recognize and show appreciation for your employees than to just say it! Take it back to the tried and true methods of an email, handwritten note, thank you card, or even verbal recognition.

A handwritten note goes a long way. Leave a handwritten thank you on an employee’s desk. When they come in the next day, they will arrive to a pleasant surprise. Struggling with where to start? Here are 50 compliments to get you started—and remember that the more personal the note, the more impactful it will be. Be timely and specific with your message. By recognizing specific actions, you can promote positive behaviors.

Thank you notes are not dead! Try sending a thank you card to an employee’s home. Snail mail has become a lost art, and receiving a card from a fellow leader or employee holds a special touch. An actual physical piece of paper, thanking an employee for their work, can go a long way in the digital era. Whether it’s a quick sticky note or a full-blown thank you letter, try out the age-old practice of thank you notes. When was the last time you simply said a meaningful thank you? This is one of the simplest ways to show appreciation. You may not think it matters, but there is a noticeable attitude difference between staff who are recognized and appreciated and those who are simply expected to do their work.

Physical Gifts

Most employees love to be surprised with a physical form of gratitude: something they can hold and show off as a result of their hard work. There are many options to treat employees for doing a phenomenal job: money; gifts; and food, to name a few.

  • Monetary Bonuses: Money can show employees they are valued and make them feel that their hard work is paying off (literally) and the company values them. While this is the typical form of employee recognition many might initially think of, monetary rewards are less tangible in nature, and other forms of recognition come across as much more personal than monetary rewards. Try pairing another form of recognition with a monetary reward to make it feel personal.
  • Gifts: Give away fun items like company-branded gifts or tokens when employees are doing a great job. Gifts are a great way to recognize high-performing employees, while also spreading your brand message.
  • Food: Let’s be honest—who doesn’t love food? Have a free lunch once a month to celebrate everyone in the office for the great work they did that month. Bring in a box of donuts or bagels and start everyone’s morning off right! Or, after an employee has left for the day, put their favorite snack on their desk – they will start off the following day on the right foot with a tasty surprise.

Point System

Another way to engage and recognize your team is to implement a system that awards and tracks points for various actions during a set period of time. Tally up points and recognize your company’s top performers, and consider including some of the physical rewards mentioned above. The point system will help to motivate your employees to achieve top performer status in order to receive recognition from leadership and their peers.

Unique Outings

Who says that employee recognition can only be done in the office? Reward and recognize employees with random acts of fun! These outings will also help strengthen your positive company culture. Offer your team offsite days and events, where you praise your best employees in front of their coworkers. These unique outings can help to boost employees’ self-esteem, and your team will do their best to be recognized. Implement an Employee of the Month/Quarter/Year celebration for your team’s top performers. Strive for a change of scenery during these outings, and treat them to sporting events, barbeques, paint nights, happy hours, etc. Sometimes teams need a change of scenery to help boost engagement and productivity. Plan an off-site day! Of course, with social distancing in place for the time being.

Ultimately your methods for employee recognition need to be about one thing: making your team feel valued. What works extremely well for Company A, may have no impact whatsoever on Company B, so explore various avenues to discover what works best for your company and your people. Employee recognition should be an integral part of your company culture, and something that is adopted by the entire team. Employees are your most precious asset, so let’s make sure that they feel valued and appreciated! This may result in what our founder Justin Dignam liked to say, “we like sticky, happy people.” Click to watch a little bit about our team here at Big Fish, and learn how we promote a culture of employee recognition.

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