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Employee Recognition

How To Build A Culture Of Recognition In The Workplace

Autumn Witter

McKinsey & Company surveyed over 800 US-based companies and found that almost 55% of employee engagement is based on non-financial recognition. This included factors like being recognized for your work and having supportive coworkers. 

In other words, a culture of recognition can help with your engagement and increase employee retention, so creating this should be a priority for everyone. 

But you don't build a culture of recognition in a day. Instead, it's a process you work on and develop over time to acknowledge the value of your employees and what they contribute to your bottom line.

Regardless of your budget, you can make small changes that will add to a more supportive environment in which people feel welcome.

In this article, we'll review what a recognition culture is and how you can build this in your company to create a positive impact today.

What Is Recognition?

Recognition is when you explain how an employee contributes to your organization and its core values. 

You can recognize an employee’s achievements, like a great sales quarter and milestones like ten years working at the company, or team efforts like creating a great work environment. 

You can show your employee appreciation with words and rewards, as different types of recognition will resonate with everyone. For example, some employees might prefer a small private shoutout, while others might only feel recognized once the whole company knows about their contributions.

So while you might think the thank you email you sent out to your team last Friday was enough social recognition, chances are some of your employees still don’t feel their efforts have been truly recognized.

A recent Nectar survey of 800 full-time employees found that 40% of employees rank managers as the group that has the most impact on them recognition-wise. Other groups that have a significant impact are CEO/executives (33%) and peers (28%), showing it's not just about that top-down acknowledgment from the boss.

Chances are, even if you think you’re fostering a culture of recognition, there’s more you can do to reward employees.

If you want to inspire a supportive workplace culture by recognizing your staff members' contributions, encourage everyone to support each other. 

By building up this culture of recognition in the workplace, you’ll reap the benefits of a more satisfied workforce with a great employee experience. 

Why Is Recognition Important?

Praise helps your employees feel valued and appreciated rather than another cog in the machine. It shows your company values and proves that you value your workers.

Employees that feel appreciated also perform better at work. For example, Deloitte found that performance, productivity, and employee engagement were 14% higher in companies with recognition programs.

A culture of recognition can help with employee performance and boost engagement.

Recognition also helps with predicting raises or promotions. When the people who are recognized day-to-day receive a promotion, others can see how they have contributed to the company and will more often agree that the reward was earned.

Basically, recognition helps everyone feel better about their work and creates a sense that things are fair in your organization. It also reduces common problems like employee turnover.

In a recent poll, SurveyMonkey found 63% of people who felt they were frequently recognized for their work didn't plan to look for a new job. Conversely, of those who weren’t recognized often, 43% said they were “extremely likely” to look elsewhere. 

Recognizing the work your employees do is such a simple thing, but it can have tangible results.

Not to mention, a culture of recognition is great for employee morale, especially in startups where the budget for higher compensation isn’t always an option. 

But how can you create this culture in your work environment? 

How Can You Build a Culture of Recognition?

Building a culture of appreciation works best when everyone supports it. Unfortunately, one person alone can't change the mindset of the entire workforce. 

But one person can kick-start the cultural shift. Below are a few ideas you can use to spark that change.

Celebrate Wins With Awards That Matter

One of the most straightforward ways employers create a culture of recognition is through awards. A popular award is the Employee of the Month program. 

While this employee recognition program has been made fun of at times because management makes mistakes implementing it, you can bypass those mistakes by setting up guidelines and avoiding using this program as the only form of recognition.

An employee of the month program does a good job of incentivizing workers, especially if the recognition is accompanied by a popular reward or is used to offer employees constructive feedback.

Here are a few other best practices for giving awards:

  • Avoid giving awards to the same person: No one will be excited to see the same person win "Salesperson of the Year" over and over. Instead, you could change the criteria to offer the award to a different person fairly.
  • Hype employees on social media: Sharing team members' award wins on social media can make an employee feel even more valued. It shows you think their win is newsworthy and something you want everyone to know.
  • Use branded rewards to your advantage: Consider including branded rewards like company T-shirts, mugs, or bags to help build a sense of belonging. Even something small, like branded icons for your social media pages, can help.

Frequent Acknowledgment of Achievements

If an employee of the month program isn't something you think could work well with your company culture, frequent feedback is something everyone can benefit from.

It doesn’t cost anything to acknowledge the achievements of your team members. Plus, it'll make them feel better about their day.

Boost employee engagement with frequent and meaningful recognition.

Here are some ways to create a recognition habit:

  • Share messages on tools like Slack to acknowledge a coworker's hard work: You can do this in a public Slack channel or via direct message with an employee who is making a difference.
  • Give feedback every other week via personalized emails: Gallup found that employees are more engaged if they receive meaningful feedback the week before, and a quick email is a great way to recognize your teammates.
  • Use meetings as a chance to share positive feedback: At the end of a company all-hands or department meeting, open up the floor for employees to share their gratitude for each other.

Encourage a Culture of Support Across All Levels

Workplace friendships are a great way to encourage a culture of recognition and support.

Remember when we said that recognition doesn’t need to come solely from a manager to an employee? Support from your coworkers and peer recognition is also imperative. 

That type of interaction and culture should be encouraged. It helps promote a healthy team mentality across every level in your organization. This is especially true when you promote workplace friendships.

In a work satisfaction survey, Gallup found that 32% of the respondents who had a best friend at their workplaces were extremely satisfied with their employer. Only 15% of people with a best friend at work were not satisfied. 

Having friendships and support helps build a culture of recognition where people feel less alone and more connected.

If you’re unsure how supported your employees currently feel, you can ask for feedback and analyze the information you receive from your employees about their current environment. Ask employees questions about how often they receive feedback, if they think it’s frequent enough, and where they receive it.

Consider asking for responses via email or an anonymous survey to get honest feedback. That way, employees can focus more on giving accurate answers than being careful about the feelings of the person speaking with them.

Unless you can get honest feedback from your team, the changes you make probably won't be accurate or meaningful. While making a cultural shift can be scary, it's ultimately a shift that will help everyone feel more appreciated and welcome at work.

Regular Rewards

A culture of recognition doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. It can be about the experience.

Once employees receive recognition from their colleagues and leaders, what's the next step that makes that feedback stand out? If you can afford it, tying praise to a tangible reward can make a big difference.

More than 50% of people belong to at least one reward program as consumers, so working rewards into their lives as employees makes sense too.

You can give regular rewards through experiences, like an extra day of paid time off, a prime parking space at work, or tickets to a local game. You can also give out gift cards, physical gifts, and even company swag.

You should focus on fairness when giving out rewards. Be transparent about what you consider when determining who receives a reward for a specific action. Alternatively, a site like Nectar ties recognition to points employees can redeem on things that matter to them.

Parting Advice: Building a Culture of Recognition in the Workplace

Building a culture of recognition is vital to employee engagement and satisfaction. With a group of happy, supported employees, you'll develop a culture where communication is honest and employees feel more connected. 

But creating this culture of recognition doesn’t have to be super expensive or take hours out of your week. You can build a healthy work culture that recognizes your team's hard work with the help of an employee recognition platform like Nectar. With the right tools and mindset, your team will be on track to a more productive workplace.

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

Author Bio: Autumn Witter

Autumn, a graduate of the illustrious Howard University, is an Associate Marketing Manager and SEO Strategist on HubSpot's Link Building team. When she's not talking about link building, building a brand, or SEO, you can find her in the recording studio making R&B hits, traveling, or studying for law school. Keep up with Autumn on Instagram or LinkedIn.

Actionable workplace tips & insights for fellow people lovers

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