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Employee Recognition

10 Ways To Create A Consistent Recognition Program

Amanda Cross

Over the last few years, employee expectations have increased. HR leaders and managers have had to step up and create a better work environment for workers. Part of this is fair pay, but pay alone isn't enough. Workers want to work for companies that inspire and motivate them. Increasing employee recognition is one easy but often overlooked strategy companies can use.

In a recent Nectar recognition survey, we found that 83.6% of employees feel that recognition impacts their motivation to succeed. On top of that, 77.9% of workers admitted they would be more productive if recognized more frequently. There is a business case for acknowledging the work that your people do.

So, how can companies provide the consistent recognition that employees crave? First, we must understand how recognition has changed in recent years.

Recognition 1.0 Vs. 2.0

At Nectar, we have identified two trends. Recognition 1.0 vs. 2.0. As employees expect more consistent and customized praise, companies are moving to technology to help them create the experience their team wants.

Recognition 1.0 focuses on major touch points like birthdays and work anniversaries. Recognition 2.0 creates more consistent engagement through the employee lifecycle.

Understanding Recognition 1.0

With Recognition 1.0, there are a few distinct places to recognize an employee throughout the year. You make a big deal of a worker joining your team, praise them around their birthday, and then celebrate their one-year anniversary. If they are lucky, you might throw in an employee of the month award, but that's not likely (especially if you have a large team.)

Recognition 1.0 is a great start, but it leaves a lot of room for disengagement and complacency. There’s a better solution that keeps workers engaged throughout the year.

How Does Recognition 2.0 Differ?

Recognition 2.0 builds on the momentum of its predecessor. This recognition style still celebrates significant milestones like joining the company, birthdays, and service anniversaries. At this point, those celebrations are table stakes and are essential for companies to observe.

So, how can you make recognition better? Recognition 2.0 is about increasing frequency and participation. Employees should be appreciated frequently, and more people should be involved in the process.

Peer-to-peer programs are a big part of this. Recognition can and should come from every person in the company. Managers, executives, and peers can all provide helpful positive feedback to an employee.

In the same Nectar survey on recognition, we found that while 40% of employees valued manager praise the most, other validation was still necessary.

  • 33% valued recognition from CEOs/Executives the most.
  • 28% valued recognition from their peers the most.

40% of employees value recognition from their manager most.

When recognition is coming from several directions, it gives employees a chance to feel valued for their work year-round instead of on specific occasions. Recognition 2.0 requires a different level of participation from your company. Instead of putting pressure on your HR team to deliver fantastic results with three major touch points, you can use the power of frequent recognition and get your whole team involved.

10 Tips For Being Consistent With Recognition 2.0

So, you've heard our passionate take for more praise, but how do you make this work day-to-day? Here's how to make Recognition 2.0 work in your organization (no matter the size.)

1. Set Goals Behind Frequent Recognition

Before you increase company appreciation, it's important to set goals behind it. The impact of your recognition program can be measured, but it's up to a company to select the right goals.

Your goal could be as simple as increasing your employee engagement score on a question related to recognition. When Proplogix implemented Nectar, they saw a considerable increase in their recognition score (it went from 83% to 98%.)

Other goals to consider:

  • Program usage: Are people actually giving out shoutouts using your program?
  • Retention scores: While your recognition program isn’t the only thing contributing to this, try comparing retention to a different timeframe when you didn’t praise your team as much. Are you retaining more people now?
  • Time-saving: Manual recognition processes can take a lot of time. If you switch to software or get more people involved in the praise process, does this reduce the time it takes one person to run the program?

2. Rethink What Core Values Mean To Your Organization

One of the best parts about Recognition 2.0 is how you can use praise to reinforce your company's core values. Unfortunately, companies don't always live up to their core values. You might value integrity, but what are you doing to showcase that value daily? Are your core values aspirational, or are they exhibited daily?

Using a tool like Nectar, companies attach recognition to their core values. Every shoutout sent through Nectar has a company core value attached to it. There is also a space on your company's Nectar profile that lists your core values with room for a detailed description. Employees will immediately know the importance of values and how they relate to the recognition given to colleagues.

Create a culture people won't want to leave with Nectar

3. Get Peers Involved In The Praise Process

As we shared earlier, 28% of workers value recognition from their peers the most. Managers and executives can't see every good thing an employee does. Peers know the value their colleagues bring to the job, and there should be a way for them to voice that frequently.

Many companies use peer reviews during an annual review, but that only happens once a year around an employee's work anniversary. Sharing great feedback soon after the event takes place (instead of waiting for an end-of-year review) will make a huge impact. Positive reinforcement works best when the event you are praising happened recently.

4. Recognize Efforts, Not Just Outcomes

Praise shouldn't be withheld for the big things. Yes, companies should recognize employees for big projects like exceeding quota or launching a new product, but how can you expect workers to accomplish a goal if you never praise the steps it takes to get there?

For example, to exceed quota, sales professionals must:

  • Organize their sales pipeline.
  • Hold tons of great demos.
  • Build rapport with their clients.
  • Follow up to make sure that sales get closed.

Each step to exceeding quota could be recognized and rewarded. When you take the time to praise employees during their journey, you have a better chance of seeing the desired result. So, consider the overall objectives of an employee's job. What must they do to move the needle and complete their goals?

5. Offer Various Recognition Methods

Public praise is a large part of Recognition 2.0, but it isn't the only way to share the love with your team. Private praise in one-on-one meetings and direct messages/emails with your team members can also be helpful. Some of your team may enjoy private recognition more than being praised publicly.

It's important to consider other public praise methods as well. You might praise an employee in front of their team, in a small cross-departmental meeting, or even with the whole company watching. You could write your statement and post it in a Slack group or say it at the end of your company's all-hands meeting.

Above all, figure out what works for your people and company. If you want to be consistent, you can't always be flashy. Consistent recognition isn't about spectacle; it's about ensuring people know you love their work.

6. Put A Consistent Budget Behind Your Rewarding Efforts

Recognition and rewards often go hand-in-hand. However, some companies struggle to consistently reward employees for their efforts. Some of your managers might go out of their way to reward top talent, while others don't.

At the very least, managers should have a monthly budget to reward their employees. In Recognition 2.0, peers are also encouraged to recognize peers, and companies can also put rewards behind that praise.

The problem with creating a consistent reward budget is the tax implications it creates. Often, employees need to pay taxes when they receive certain rewards. Each state/country is different, but employees should expect to pay a tax on their rewards.

Many companies use software like Nectar to track employee reward spending. Otherwise, it can be challenging to keep track of who is getting rewards and how much they are receiving. 

With Nectar, recognition is given using points. Points can then be turned into gift cards, company swag, and custom rewards. Often, gift cards are taxed, and we have robust financial reports that give your finance team all the data they need to make sure employees are taxed appropriately.

7. Utilize The Right Technology To Help With Automation

Running a recognition program without technology can be cumbersome.

From an administrative perspective, a ton of work goes into being consistent with recognition. Creating a consistent program relies on your entire organization, so companies end up being inconsistent if they aren't using a platform to track progress.

One of the best parts of using a platform is automating birthdays/work anniversaries and sending reminders to your team members.

At Nectar, we sync with many HRIS platforms. Once the sync has been established, we can easily pull your employee's birthday and start date. Administrators can use this information to send out birthday and work anniversary messages on behalf of the company. Companies can choose to add Nectar points to these messages. Birthdays get a flat amount. Service anniversaries can be customized to have a flat amount, and companies can set varying amounts for larger milestone years. Do you want to go all out to celebrate an employee's 5th anniversary? You can do that within the Nectar platform.

Nectar is a point-based system. Each month, employees/managers get certain points based on the company's budget. Employees and managers are prompted to use their points throughout the month with a few specific automated messages. This helps the program run more efficiently without a ton of administrative support. We also have reports that administrators can look at if they want to take a more proactive approach to encouraging usage.

Do you want to learn more about using technology? Check out our in-depth guide to employee recognition software selection and our breakdown of the top 15 employee recognition platforms.

Keep your remote team connected and engaged with Nectar

8. Encourage Leaders And Managers To Give Positive Feedback Frequently

Building a consistent employee recognition process can be quite challenging for your team, especially if they feel alone in making it happen. The best companies understand the power of executive and management involvement in employee recognition.

So, how do you make this happen? Here are a few quick tips for getting managers and company leaders involved in your positive feedback initiative:

Create A Recognition Expectation From The Start

If you want leaders to get involved, you must set expectations from the start. During the interview and onboarding process, you should give guidance about how leaders should interact with your praise program.

  • How often should recognition be given?
  • How do you structure a shoutout so that it’s most motivating?
  • What actions should be given positive feedback?

If you are using software like Nectar, you can give new leaders a tour of the platform and provide guidance on how to use it at work.

Overall, the goal is for leaders to feel comfortable giving great feedback from the start. Some of your leaders may have to adopt this mentality after leading teams for a while, but new leaders should be given the training during the first few weeks of their employment.

Give Leaders The Time To Make It Happen

Many leaders have a full plate of tasks on their shoulders. It's rare to see a leader who just leads a team in 2023. A recent McKinsey study uncovered, “that the average middle manager spends two days a week on individual contributor work.”

While individual contributor work can be rewarding because it keeps them close to the job they initially fell in love with, it can also make it more challenging for leaders to take the reigns on big initiatives like consistent recognition.

With so many tasks on their plate, some things fall through the cracks. Giving good feedback can often get put on the back burner in favor of other pressing to-do list items.

As an HR leader, you have to ensure that managers/leaders have the right-sized workload that gives them time/energy to provide employee feedback.

Reach Out To Leaders Who Aren’t Participating

Recognition works best when everyone is reaping the benefits. When some leaders opt-out, they make their direct reports less visible and less motivated. Why would a colleague do her best when she receives far less feedback than someone in another department?

It's up to the administrator of your program to ensure that all managers are participating. Nectar has a built-in manager report that gives administrators a look into who's giving consistent feedback on the platform. This report makes it easy for administrators to reach out to managers who aren't recognizing their teams effectively.

It's important to come at this conversation with curious intentions. There may be a reason that employees on that team isn't getting consistent recognition. If so, starting a deeper performance conversation with the manager and their team is required. More than likely, recognition may have slipped that manager's mind, and the conversation will be a great reminder to give positive feedback.

If you want to open this conversation, try something like, “Hey, I noticed you haven’t been using our recognition system much with your team. Is there a performance issue that we should be aware of? If not, how can I support you in shouting out your team more consistently?”

Recognize Leaders/Managers For Their Work

If you want leaders to give more feedback, give them a reason to get involved by recognizing them. Giving feedback to your managers and leaders will make them use your feedback platform. While they are there, it makes sense to use their points to send a shoutout too. Once they send a shoutout, it becomes a ripple effect with their direct reports who want to use their own points.

Ensure that managers and leaders get consistent shoutouts, even if it comes from an HR leader or another executive.

9. Focus On Creating An Environment Where Good Work Is Praised Promptly

Does your company rely too heavily on quarterly or yearly performance reviews and praise? If you want to create consistent recognition, you'll need to work with your team to shift their mindset on recognition.

In a recent Nectar survey, we found that employees felt more valued by their employers when they received more consistent recognition.

While 94.44% of employees who receive weekly praise feel valued by their employer, only 68.18% of those who receive quarterly praise feel valued. These numbers dwindle significantly when workers get yearly recognition, as only 37.19% feel valued by their employer.

When employees receive weekly recognition, they feel most valued by their employers.

As we mentioned earlier, Nectar is a point-based system that resets monthly. This monthly reset makes creating a more consistent recognition experience at your company easy. As employees and managers receive recognition and automated reminders to use their points, we give them cues to get back into the system and recognize more often.

10. Promote Your Program To Ensure It Stays Consistent

It's common for programs like this to have a few dips. People get busy, and sometimes, giving recognition falls by the wayside. This doesn't have to mean the death of your program. Instead, you should find ways to get your team excited again after a lull.

Here are a few ideas you can use to promote your employee shoutout program:

  • Read the best shoutout during your all-hands meetings.
  • Use positive feedback to create an employee of the month program with great perks.
  • Display shoutouts around the office.
  • Add a shoutout section to your company newsletter.
  • Use recognition on your social media to praise great work.


As more companies move to Recognition 2.0, employees will begin to see the value they bring to companies, motivating them to put their best foot forward. There's no need to save praise for the big moments or hold out for a yearly performance review. Workers need a way to engage with your company consistently, and recognition provides those moments of joy that keep work meaningful.

If you want to make praise more consistent in your workplace, sign up for a demo of Nectar. During your demo, you'll see how we handle recognition, awards, milestones, challenges, rewards, and more.

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