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How to Do Employee Recognition Right


We’ve all heard that the more satisfied an employee is, the more likely he or she is to stay loyal to an employer. Employee recognition is a key to maintaining that satisfaction: According to one study, the more regularly that an employee is recognized, the more satisfied he or she is. In a survey of 1,000 employees, 75 percent of those who were recognized by their boss monthly reported being satisfied, while that percentage jumped to 85 percent for those who received some type of recognition weekly.


Although many people hear “employee recognition” and think that it means pay raises, promotions and other perks, that’s not always the case. Those are almost always welcomed of course, but recognition doesn’t always have to be “big” to be meaningful. Small employee recognition gifts, special snacks in the breakroom or a simple thank you email from an executive can all be effective for acknowledgment of employee contributions as well. That said, the key to an effective employee recognition program has less to do with what you do for recognition and more to do with how you do it.


If you want to create a meaningful employee recognition program, or your existing program could use a boost, follow these tips for doing employee recognition right.


Make It Authentic

When you express appreciation to an employee or recognize an achievement, does it come across as genuine? Often, employee recognition efforts fall flat because they don’t feel meaningful and authentic.


Take, for example, the company that decided to thank employees by giving each one a reusable lunch bag with a company logo. While the effort was well-intentioned, the bags were delivered without fanfare, in many cases when employees weren’t even at their desks. The bags didn’t include any type of note or indication why they were being handed out; after some expressed confusion, the CEO sent an email to the entire staff explaining the gift and thanking everyone for their work. As a result, the employees didn’t feel truly valued or recognized. Not only did everyone receive the same gift, but there was no real recognition of work and the entire experience felt forced and inauthentic.


For your employee recognition efforts to truly engage your team, they need to be genuine. Recognition shouldn’t be something to cross off a to-do list for a happy team. Learn what your team values, and tailor your recognition to what matters to them. Be specific, and focus on the qualities, behaviors and actions that you value, showing that you see them as individuals.


Give Gifts Graciously  

When gifts are part of your recognition program, they need to be handled appropriately if they are going to be meaningful. Dropping a generic item on everyone’s desk isn’t effective.


That doesn’t mean you have to choose something special for each individual; if you are going to give everyone the same gift, make a presentation to the group explaining why you are giving the gift and why you chose that specific item. Tie the recognition back to the bigger picture. When employees feel as if their work matters and is furthering the organization toward its goals, they tend to be more motivated and productive. Above all, employees should understand what they are being recognized for, and gifts should reflect that.


Recognize Your Employees as People, Not Just Workers

The most effective employee recognition goes beyond just thanking and acknowledging an individual’s contributions in the office. Your employees are people outside of the office as well, and by getting to know them and acknowledging their accomplishments outside of work, you show that you care about them, and you also show that you value work/life balance, something that is increasingly important to employees - especially millennials.


Is one of your employees running a marathon? Having a baby or getting married? Involved with a volunteer organization? Take note of these accomplishments and acknowledge them, either privately or in a group setting. It doesn’t have to be a formal recognition either. A short email or just a quick conversation in the hallway can go a long way toward making your employees feel like they matter to you and that you value them as a person.


Employee recognition isn’t difficult, but it is easy to do it wrong and hit false notes. By being authentic and gracious and looking beyond work achievements, you can make your employees feel valued and special, and reap the benefits of a more satisfied and engaged workforce.


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