Complete Guide to Building Successful Employee Recognition Programs

Employee Recognition

For most businesses, employees are their most important asset, and yet many companies struggle to keep their turnover rate low and maintain their top employees. 

Various studies have suggested that the best way to lower the turnover rate is by giving enough recognition to employees. Positive appreciation of good work from both the leaders and peers can help improve employee engagement and morale, and ultimately, lower your organization’s turnover rate.

In practice, however, the implementation of an employee recognition program can be easier said than done. If you rely too much on overused tactics, employees might see them as not authentic and genuine, and so they won’t be meaningful. 

Careful planning of your employee recognition program is very important if you want to achieve success, and in this post, we will learn how. 

Let us start from the very beginning. 

What Is Employee Recognition?

What actually is “employee recognition”?

We can define employee recognition as the act of acknowledging and recognizing the action or behavior of employees. The actions or behaviors rewarded can vary. Obviously high performances should be recognized and rewarded, but other behaviors like those that align well with the company’s values, teamwork efforts, and even positive execution of day-to-day tasks can also be acknowledged.

The basic idea behind employee recognition is the fact that everyone likes to be appreciated in their work. Appropriate execution of employee recognition is about letting your employees know that you recognize and appreciate their efforts, behaviors, and actions in a meaningful way. By doing so, you can boost their engagement, morale, and loyalty. 

Why Is Employee Recognition Important?

Having a comprehensive employee recognition program can produce the following benefits for your company: 

1. Higher employee engagement 

Employees feel valued when their actions and behaviors are recognized as soon as possible, regularly, and consistently, and ultimately this will improve employee engagement

40% of surveyed American employees admitted that they will put more effort into their work when they feel that they are recognized and appreciated. Ultimately this can also help improve productivity, better results in their work, and better customer service. 

2. Lower turnover rate

A whopping 79% of surveyed employees admitted that lack of recognition and appreciation was the reason for quitting their jobs. If your company is currently struggling with low employee retention, then you will benefit from implementing your employee recognition program. 

When you recognize employees properly, they’ll be more emotionally invested in their job, which in turn can motivate them to stay longer with your company. This will result in higher retention and lower turnover rate.

3. Better collaboration and teamwork

Frequent and consistent recognition, especially from peers, can help improve peer relationships, which in turn can help improve teamwork and collaboration. 

When employee recognition has been ingrained into the company’s culture, peers won’t hesitate to give positive feedback and encourage each other, boosting the whole team’s morale and engagement to improve overall productivity. 

4. Attracting more talents

Proper implementation of employee recognition will also strengthen your company’s perceived value as an employer. Potential employees naturally will be more attracted to a company that recognizes their employees, which in turn can help your company attract more top talents.

When your existing employees feel happy at work, they’ll also share their positive employee experiences with their peers, converting them into active advocates of your company. 

Establishing an Effective Employee Recognition Program: Best Practices

Many existing employee recognition programs often deal with three main issues: 

  1. Non-specific goals/objectives: many companies make the same mistake of having an employee recognition program just for the sake of it. Instead, it’s important for the employee recognition program to have clear objectives and goals.
  2. Non-alignment with the company’s values: to be effective, employee recognition programs should align well with your organization’s values, or else it may cause confusion among your employees.
  3. Lack of clarity: employees must understand exactly what actions/behaviors are going to be recognized, and the positive implication of each recognition.

To solve these issues, we can follow the following best practices: 

1. Define your vision and objective

Before you start planning the employee recognition program, it’s crucial to first define your objectives. Follow the SMART goal principle (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound) to define clear goals for your employee recognition program. Your goals should also align with your company’s overall vision and mission. 

2. As easy as possible to do

It’s crucial to make sure it’s as easy as possible for people to recognize others. This way, leaders won’t be able to make the excuse that they are “too busy” to give recognition to employees, and employees will also be more encouraged to acknowledge their peers when it’s easy to do. Professional employee recognition software as well as other technological infrastructure can be a significant help in this area. 

3. Punctual and frequent

Positive behaviors or actions should be recognized as soon as possible, ideally on the same day the behavior happened. Recognition should also be offered regularly and frequently to reinforce employee’s motivation continuously.

4. Specific 

Employee recognition should be specific and consistent. That is, employees should know exactly what behaviors will be recognized and rewarded. When they know what is being recognized, they are more likely to repeat the action/behavior. 

5. Versatile 

The employee recognition program should be flexible and versatile enough so that it can continuously evolve and adapt with the change. Both your business and your employees will need to change along with the changing times, and your employee recognition program should accommodate this fact. 

6. Evaluate and Measure

Even if your employee recognition program is already up and running, you still need to evaluate its execution and measure its impact on employee’s morale and turnover rate. 

How can you measure the performance of your employee recognition program? The best way is to conduct employee surveys to gather feedback from your valuable employees: do they feel acknowledged enough? Are they experiencing an increase in motivation? 

Wrapping Up

In designing your employee recognition program, it’s crucial to embrace the fact that your employees are unique: different individuals may prefer different types of recognition, and may be motivated differently. 

Also, make sure your employee recognition tactics align well with your organizational goals. Only when your employees are motivated to perform actions that will contribute to your business’ goals will the employee recognition program can positively impact engagement levels and productivity. 


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