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Employee Recognition

How Can Companies Best Recognize And Motivate Managers?

By
Rebecca Noori
Last Updated June 13, 2024

Entry-level employees often dream of the day they become managers. But the reality is that leading a team is hard. There are endless meetings to host, strategic initiatives to design, departmental squabbles to sort out, and the responsibility of employee development. Managers with the right qualities are a must for organizations.

In return for the complexities of the workload, managers receive more compensation than their direct reports. They may also have better benefits, their own office, and even a coveted parking space to call their own. But beyond these part-and-parcel rewards, are they truly recognized for the work they do on their particular rung of the organizational ladder?

This guide explores the relationship between recognition and managerial status. We'll also look at 15 ways company leaders can acknowledge their managers for their essential work, backed by fresh data and expert insights.

Are Managers Recognized For The Work They Do? 

Nectar has surveyed full-time US employees to learn more about the mechanics of recognition in the modern workplace. Recently, we asked a group of 1,000 employees, "Do you think the following groups get the recognition they deserve at your company?” 

The results show that: 

  • 77.9% of employees believe managers are recognized appropriately, compared to 22.1% who don’t. 
  • 77% of employees believe their executive leaders receive adequate recognition, compared to 23% who don’t. 
  • 68.6% of employees believe that individual contributors are appropriately recognized for their work, compared to 31.4% who don't. 

Do employees get the recognition they deserve?

How Often Are Managers Recognized?

While the majority suggests that manager recognition isn't a problem, another survey we conducted also revealed that 28% of employees never receive recognition from the company CEO or executive leadership team. It may not be realistic for an entry-level employee to connect with senior leadership in this way, but we hope that leaders have ample opportunity to praise their company's managers.

Unfortunately, we found similarly troubling numbers when we isolated managers (middle managers, senior managers, HR managers, product managers, supply managers, project managers, and supervisors) in the same study. Nearly 25% of the 274 employees we surveyed shared that they didn't receive recognition from the company executive team.

How often do managers get recognition from CEOs, managers, and peers.

Other Interesting Manager Recognition Statistics

Finally, let's wrap up with a few more manager recognition statistics:

  • 61% of managers agree that companies do a good job of recognizing everyone on the team, while 24% disagree.
  • 87% of managers say meaningful recognition impacts job satisfaction, while 4% disagree.
  • 69% of managers share that they wish their colleagues had told them "thank you" more, while 13% disagree.

Other important manager employee recognition statistics on recognizing the team, job satisfaction, and more.

Why Should Leaders Commit To Manager Recognition? 

Let's look closer at some of the specific benefits associated with recognizing managers for the crucial role they play in leading your organization's teams:

Recognition Boosts Manager Success 

Motivated employees are critical to your company culture, and this is especially true for those in managerial roles. When your managers are excited by their work and the company’s mission, this vibe spreads like wildfire among their respective teams.

Recognition has a powerful impact on managers, with Nectar’s research suggesting that 83.6% of people report it affects their motivation to succeed at work.

Recognition Boosts Manager Engagement 

When managers are recognized positively by their leaders, peers, or team members, they feel more connected to their work. They understand that their actions are meaningful to those around them and are crucial to achieving organizational goals.

According to Nectar's survey, 81.9% of employees agree that recognition for their contributions improves their engagement.

Recognition Improves Manager Turnover 

Managers who are applauded for their work are more likely to want to remain at the company. Nectar’s research reveals the extent of this human nature—71% of workers say they'd be less likely to leave the organization if recognized more frequently.

Recognition Pinpoints Future Leaders  

Companies committed to succession planning must identify leaders early and develop them for future roles. Recognition can form part of this identification process; when leaders actively examine their managers' contributions, this reveals employees with the most potential.

Recognition Encourages A Ripple Of Appreciation 

Managers who receive praise may be more liberal in recognizing their own team members. Managers often channel this feeling down through their teams when gaining appreciation from above. This creates a culture of recognition that cascades throughout your entire organization.

Recognition helps create a culture of appreciation.

15 Ways Leaders Can Support And Provide Meaningful Recognition To Managers 

Recognition often involves praising someone for their efforts—identifying their contributions and acknowledging them in public or private to demonstrate you've taken notice. However, in the context of motivating managers, recognition is also about anticipating their needs and helping them support their teams. Here are 15 ways employers can do that:

1. Providing A Flexible, Supportive Work Environment 

Tired, strung-out managers who are juggling professional and personal commitments won't bring their best selves to work. Leaders who are invested in supporting their managers and the teams beneath them must provide a nurturing environment for them to do their best work. In most cases, this means trusting managers to take responsibility for their own schedules, tasks, and deadlines. 

Financer.com’s Chief Operating Officer Paw Vej explains why he considers flexibility key to motivating his company's managers:

“For us leaders, flexibility is one of the most powerful tools for helping managers manage stress and anxiety. I am a strong advocate of the idea that life events and family priorities take precedence. By being flexible and supportive, we strengthen our connections with managers and build greater trust. This may involve accommodating non-standard work hours, condensing workweeks, allowing for personal or mental health days, or enabling early departures for family responsibilities or events. I grant my managers the discretion to manage their schedules to suit their life needs.”

Our own research confirms the importance of schedule flexibility. Above working remotely or in an office, 88% of employees consider schedule flexibility an important work arrangement.

Recognize your managers by empowering them to take ownership of their schedules and prioritize their workloads. Be open to flexible work arrangements and trust that they'll still deliver the results expected of their positions.

2. Treating Managers As People 

Continuing this supportive theme, employers must also recognize that every manager in their org chart is an individual. Sometimes, it's easy to see someone's managerial title and the expectations associated with their role and forget there's a living, breathing human underneath. Each manager comes with unique life experiences, personality traits, and intrinsic or extrinsic motivators. 

We spoke to Matthew Sanjari, Founder and Business Coach at PRIME Consulting, who explained why it’s essential to get to know each manager as a person rather than their work.

“I love recognizing managers not only for their accomplishments but also for their attitudes and who they are as people. It can become very easy to create cycles where our recognition is solely merit-based, and I've come to learn that I get the best out of people—and see immense gratitude across the board—when people regularly feel appreciated, seen, and heard for who they are AND what they bring to the table.” 

Recognize your managers by taking the time to get to know them personally, beyond their job description. Use team-building activities and icebreaker sessions to express genuine interest in their lives and accomplishments outside of work. This will make them feel valued for who they are as individuals, not just as employees.

3. Providing Ample Restorative Time 

Manager burnout is prevalent, with 40 to 50% of employees in supervisory or managerial roles experiencing symptoms, according to Future Forum Pulse research. For those managers who led teams through the pandemic, it's understandable that the past few years' events and uncertainties have impacted their morale, engagement, and overall health and wellbeing. 

Like any other type of employee, managers need to pause and recalibrate regularly, something which COO Paw Vej believes in. He shares:

“I am an avid supporter of setting boundaries. It's important to back our managers in establishing times to disconnect from emails, officially conclude their workday, step away from their laptops, and truly take time off without the compulsion to continually check their devices. It's also vital to encourage them to take proper lunch breaks, ideally incorporating some physical activity.”

Recognize your managers by creating crystal-clear internal communications about your company culture, the importance of rest and self-care, and leading by example. This will show your managers that you value their mental health and wellbeing, even if it means taking time away from work.

4. Prioritizing Open Communication 

Managers can learn from honest, constructive feedback from those around them. They’re also in the unusual yet beneficial position of being able to give and receive valuable insights from multiple directions, including:

  • Upward feedback from their direct reports and from themselves to senior leadership 
  • Peer feedback from manager colleagues in adjacent departments 
  • Downward feedback from senior or executive leaders 

When this feedback is delivered thoughtfully, it can foster a culture of transparency and open communication, as Steven Mostyn, Chief Human Resources Officer at Management.org, has described. 

“Promoting a culture of open communication and feedback is essential. Encouraging managers to share their ideas, challenges, and feedback creates a supportive atmosphere that values their input and fosters a sense of belonging and team cohesion.”

Recognize your managers by designing effective feedback loops that allow companies to gather and act on data. Use one-on-one meetings and regular pulse surveys to gather insights on improving and supporting their work environment.

5. Ensuring Collaboration Across Departments 

Managers significantly impact the employee experience, with a Gallup study reporting that managers are responsible for up to a 70% variance in employee engagement rates. With much focus on how managers can recognize their team members, it's easy to pay less attention to critical cross-departmental relationships.

Recognize your managers by encouraging them to collaborate with other departments and workers outside their immediate teams. Manager roundtables, team bonding, and peer support will help them develop and strengthen relationships, build rapport, and better understand company-wide goals and processes.

Ensure manager collaboration across departments.

6. Thinking Strategically About Task Assignments 

Part of recognizing managers as the individuals they are is to delegate relevant tasks and projects that complement their personal skill sets, experience, and interests. Garrett Ham, CEO of a property rental company, explains how he has used this tactic at Weekender Management:

“Leveraging my diverse background, including military law and law enforcement, I've applied a strategic approach to task delegation. By aligning managers' tasks with their expertise and professional aspirations, we've achieved a more motivated workforce. For instance, giving a manager with a keen interest in technology the lead on a project to implement new software for short-term rental listings. This resulted in a successful project outcome but also in a highly motivated manager who felt their skills were being put to good use.”

Recognize your managers by paying attention to their performance reviews. Analyze their self-appraisal, seek peer feedback, and use this information to match their skill sets and interests with relevant tasks to help them grow and excel in their roles.

7. Supporting Managers With Ongoing Development 

Becoming a manager isn’t the end game for your employees—those in managerial positions still have professional ambitions and need room to grow. Proactively supporting them with their career development goals and investing in their ongoing education can be the difference between a manager who remains engaged and one who becomes disenchanted. 

Uku Tomikas, CEO of a business text messaging platform, describes how managerial development works at Messente

“Our managers are encouraged to take courses and qualifications relevant to their role, with full support from the company. This makes them feel appreciated, and also gives them new skills to face new challenges in today's global messaging environment.
By incorporating these strategies based on our own experiences and achievements, businesses can create a positive culture where managers feel genuinely valued and empowered to deliver their best work.”

Similarly, Alari Aho, CEO and Founder of time tracking platform Toggl Inc., reminds us of the importance of investing financially in manager growth: 

By allocating a dedicated budget for each manager’s professional development, we’ve seen a remarkable increase in engagement and leadership quality. Managers bring fresh insights and skills back to their teams and are also more invested in their roles, seeing a clear path for growth and advancement within the company.”

Recognize your managers by creating clear paths for advancement within the company with development opportunities and incentives to encourage ongoing growth. This could include financial support for courses or conferences, leadership development programs, or mentorship opportunities within the company.

8. Involving Managers In Decision-Making 

Managers see what's happening at the ground level and can feed key insights back to the boardroom. Respect their role by giving them a seat at the boardroom table and allowing them to contribute to crucial organizational decisions. Pat Schirripa, CEO of labor hire company People 2U, explains why:

“By involving managers in discussions, soliciting their input, and acknowledging their ideas, companies show appreciation for their expertise and encourage active engagement. This fosters a sense of ownership and belonging, motivating managers to perform at their best and driving overall organizational success.”

Recognize your managers by providing opportunities for them to be involved in decision-making processes, whether it's through regular meetings or by seeking their feedback and ideas on important company initiatives. Be creative: consider forming a manager advisory board or inviting them to attend executive meetings to share their valuable perspectives.

9. Granting Managers Autonomy 

Managers feel empowered when they're allowed to follow their leadership style rather than one prescribed to them. Employers can recognize and respect their managers by giving them autonomy over specific projects or teams. Toggl Inc. CEO Alari Aho says, “It's about providing them with the end goals and trusting them to navigate the path there.”

CEO Serhii Antoniuk, describes how software company LITSLINK accomplishes this: 

“We grant them full autonomy for a month. Every year, we choose a month during which managers make decisions on their teams and projects as they deem fit. Granting them autonomy empowers them to make conscious decisions that will best serve their team and the company. It shows we value their skills, judgment, and ability to lead.”

Recognize your managers by designing a strategy for autonomous work and communicating it clearly across relevant levels to align expectations.

10. Showcasing Managers’ Expertise 

Managers who are celebrated for their expertise and unique strengths are more likely to stay motivated. By recognizing managers for their particular talents, companies can increase engagement levels and foster a culture of learning and development.

Mayur Bhatasana, Co-Founder & CEO of Jeenam Infotech LLP., suggests some ways to promote managers' different skills to a broader audience by giving them a voice and a platform: 

“We provide high-performing managers with guest-speaking opportunities at company events. I like to call it motivation through amplification. We regularly host internal events, workshops, and sometimes client webinars. Guest speaking allows the manager to showcase their industry knowledge, skills, and passions beyond their day-to-day responsibilities. It validates their value to Jeenam Infotech beyond operational roles, which empowers them and boosts their self-esteem. When managers share their knowledge during these events, it ignites curiosity and motivates other managers and their teams to strive for excellence.”

Recognize your managers by providing platforms and opportunities for them to showcase their expertise. Consider asking your managers if there are any events or conferences they'd like to attend or speak at. Alternatively, you might set up internal knowledge sessions where managers can share their unique skills and experience with the rest of the company.

Showcase manager expertise through learning/development opportunities.

11. Striking The Right Balance Between Intrinsic And Extrinsic Motivation 

People feel motivated to do something based on two elements: extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

  • Extrinsic motivators are tangible rewards that come from external sources, such as pay raises, extra PTO, or winning an employee award. While these can be powerful motivators, they may only have a short-term impact and don't necessarily lead to long-term engagement and motivation.  
  • Intrinsic motivators are personal to the individual and provide a sense of satisfaction separate from any tangible rewards.

Recognition can be a great motivator. Someone may enjoy feeling valued and appreciated by those around them or experience a sense of accomplishment when their work is acknowledged. Attach a reward to your message of praise, and this may impact your managers even more.

Jennifer Williams, Executive Coach & EQ Leadership Trainer of Heartmanity, explains how companies can follow the motivational principles set out by author Daniel Pink

“The best performance comes from employees who feel fulfilled and are intrinsically motivated. The mistake many companies make is to think that external perks, such as bonuses, are enough. What managers deeply desire, even if they don't express it, is to feel valued, to belong, and to make a difference in the lives of the employees and the workplace.
A manager's best work will always come from inside of them; discover what's important to them, and they will take pride in their own accomplishments.”

Recognize your managers by understanding what motivates each of them and tailoring recognition efforts to their individual needs. Consider conducting surveys or having open conversations with your managers to understand what drives them, then set up an employee recognition program like Nectar with built-in flexibility.

 

12. Ensuring Recognition Is Meaningful 

Recognition must always feel genuine if you want it to hit home. Nectar’s research highlights that “authenticity” is the variable that makes recognition most meaningful, ranking higher than public, personalized, or timely feedback.

CEO Uku Tomikas provides a fantastic example of how Messente provides genuine, tailored recognition to its managers: 

“We once honored a manager for the project's success with a video message from the entire team that highlighted their work's impact on our clients. It made them feel appreciated and also clearly increased their engagement and productivity.”

Recognize your managers by crafting a thoughtful message of gratitude. You might use a recognition recipe, such as including their name, the specific action they took, and the positive impact it had on others or the company. If you use Nectar's platform, our meaningful meter strives to help employees and employers put more effort into the recognition messages that are sent.

13. Achieving Recognition Program Buy-In From Senior Leadership  

If your company uses a formal recognition program, it's easier to achieve high participation rates when everyone from the C-suite downward joins in. Whether you use a platform like Nectar or something manual like a recognition wall, leaders can set an example by consistently praising and thanking managers for their contributions.

Recognize your managers by requiring senior leadership to participate in recognition efforts, including communicating your recognition policy across the organization. You might also involve a combination of leaders and managers in your employee recognition committee, a team that plans company-wide recognition initiatives and promotes a culture of gratitude.

14. Creating Custom Awards For Managers 

Employee awards incentivize managers to work hard towards achieving a win, such as Manager of the Month, Best Department Lead, Best Branch Manager, or similar. If you've yet to introduce custom awards into your organization, start by creating a transparent process that outlines how employee nominations work, the frequency of the awards, and the criteria used to select winners.

Recognize your managers by setting up a clear nominations program that encourages everyone, from frontline employees to senior leaders, to nominate exceptional managers. With Nectar's Nominations program, this is as simple as creating your award, accepting employee nominations, picking your winner, and celebrating them.

15. Setting Manager-Centric Challenges 

Employee challenges are another fun way to motivate workers to follow positive habits, achieve goals, and keep their skills sharp. These challenges can easily be adapted to be management-centric, encouraging them to elevate their performance and develop new competencies in a friendly, competitive atmosphere. The premise is simple: managers participate in the challenge and receive a relevant reward on completion.

Recognize your managers by creating relevant challenges such as: 

  • 30-day manager challenge: Encouraging managers to commit to one positive leadership habit every day for thirty days. 
  • Mentorship challenge: Pairing each manager with a mentee and setting goals for their relationship, such as improving communication, career development, or problem-solving skills. 
  • Industry expert challenge: Encouraging managers to attend a conference or take an online course that will expand their knowledge and expertise in their field.

Set manager specific challenges around leadership, mentorship, and becoming an industry expert.

Give Your Managers The Appreciation They Deserve With Nectar 

Nectar offers a suite of tools that make it easy to recognize your people’s contributions at every level of the organization. Here are the specific features you can use to celebrate your managers:

  • Recognition: People at all levels of the organization can send shoutouts in the internal Nectar social feed. For example, a CEO might congratulate a sales manager on their team hitting its target early for the month. Each message of praise includes redeemable Nectar points. 
  • Rewards: Managers can exchange their accumulated Nectar points for various rewards, such as company swag, Amazon products, charity donations, gift certificates, and custom rewards.
  • Challenges: Leaders can set up manager-centric challenges to get leaders more engaged. 
  • Milestones: Every manager will receive a message and Nectar points on their birthday or work anniversary, all automated so no manager is left uncelebrated. 

Ready to give your managers some extra attention? Learn how to recognize their hard work by booking a free Nectar demo today.

Actionable workplace tips & insights for fellow people lovers

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