As with most problems, the first step is to admit there is a problem.
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, there is, in fact, a problem. Now, take a deep breath — you’re not alone! Virtually all HR and team leaders are grappling with similar challenges.
Contrary to what you might expect, employee recognition is a powerful way to address these obstacles. We conducted a recent study of 2,000 employed or active job seekers in the U.S. to understand how recognition in the workplace impacts employee engagement and retention. Here are a few insights we found:
- 63% of participants reported feeling unappreciated at work on a daily basis.
- 46% of respondents noted that they have left a job because they felt undervalued.
- 65% stated that they are more likely to stay at a job with an unappreciative manager if they are recognized for their work by colleagues and peers.
(Download our white paper for an in-depth look at the results.)
In a different study that surveyed over 7,000 employees, results uncovered a clear link between burnout and employee appreciation. Nearly 75% of employees who felt unappreciated at work reported that their workload was too heavy compared to only 40% who felt appreciated.
So we know that employee recognition and appreciation are valuable. However, there’s a right way and wrong way to recognize employees.
Let’s start with how not to recognize your employees.
Employee recognition: what not to do
- Provide no employee recognition. This may be obvious but it’s worth mentioning. If you’re a leader and you aren’t prioritizing positive feedback in your organization, your employees are likely only getting critical feedback.
- Only recognize employees during annual reviews. Annual reviews are a great time to look back on employee performance and recognize hard work. If this is the only time your employees are receiving recognition, that’s a problem.
- Provide vague recognition. “You’re doing great.” “Thanks for all of your hard work.” “You’ve really improved over the last month.” While statements like these are better than no recognition, it’s hard for staff to understand exactly what they’re doing well and what actions they should repeat.
- Keep recognition a secret. Are you only sharing recognition with your direct reports? Like popcorn, jokes, and great articles, recognition is best when shared with others.
- Recognize staff without understanding how they prefer to receive it. Similar to love languages, it’s important to learn your team’s “appreciation” languages to know how they would like to be recognized.
Now that you know what not to do, let’s move on to the right way to recognize employees.
How to give employee recognition the right way
At Bonusly, we believe that employee recognition should be:
- Timely: Recognition is most effective soon after a contribution is made; this helps employees feel valued and reinforces positive behavior. Recognition loses its value if you wait days or weeks after an employee’s accomplishment to show appreciation. Don’t wait until annual reviews, Employee Appreciation Day, or work anniversaries to recognize your staff.
- Frequent: While major milestones and goals achieved are cause for celebration, it’s important to appreciate the small wins too on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Regular employee recognition increases employee engagement, reduces turnover, and even improves employee performance.
- Specific: Detailed recognition comes across as more genuine. Plus, it helps employees understand which actions contribute to team goals and what kind of behavior they should repeat.
- Visible: Recognition that is easily seen by peers and management offers significant benefits. First, it brings work to light that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. This alone can help your employees feel more valued. Second, it provides examples of positive behavior for other employees. When work becomes more visible through public recognition, it can open opportunities for improved collaboration and communication between multiple teams or departments.
- Inclusive: In a recent Bonusly study, 41% of participants said that employee favoritism by management made them feel most unappreciated. It’s important to ensure that each team member is being recognized to promote a culture of equity and inclusion. Another way to foster inclusion is to encourage peer-to-peer recognition so recognition isn’t only coming from the top down.
- Values-based: Are company values truly valued when they’re never discussed and only hang on a plaque in the office? Recognition brings your company vision to life when it reinforces your core values.
See our specific examples of employee recognition that illustrate the characteristics above.
Employee recognition is extremely valuable yet underutilized in ensuring employees feel valued. Effective employee recognition can reduce burnout, increase engagement and retention, and help teams feel more connected.
To see the program that makes employee recognition timely, frequent, specific, visible, inclusive, and values-based for small to enterprise-sized businesses, visit bonus.ly.