Feeling appreciated and recognised is a basic and fundamental human need. Employees want to feel that the work they are doing is valued, and workplace recognition is vital in ensuring employees feel motivated to continue to do a good job. There are many compelling reasons for employers to focus their attention on employee recognition. It doesn’t have to cost anything, it can be done in less than five minutes and the results can have a lasting impact.

So why does employee recognition matter?

Effective employee recognition is vital because it:

Employee recognition lets people know that their hard work is valued. For that reason alone, recognition should be common practice within your organisation. For greatest effect, you should incorporate recognition as a normal aspect of day-to-day life in your workplace. And remember, recognition can either be formal or informal.

Informal employee recognition

Informal recognition is at the discretion of the managers, and recognition should take place when it is merited. Informal rewards should be personalised, spontaneous, immediate, meaningful and consistent. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Say “thank you” in person – a sincere thank you for a job well done is an invaluable motivation tool. Do this often and be specific; for example “you handled that client well, thank you”
  2. Hand-written letter of appreciation, with copies to the employee’s file and to top administrators
  3. Use the organisation’s newsletter as a way of acknowledging an employee, or post the message on an electronic message board recognising accomplishments
  4. Give an employee a day off for a job well done
  5. Give an employee more autonomy, or more frequent assignment of responsibilities that they enjoy
  6. Offer flexible work schedules or work options, such as job sharing or allowing employees to work from home/off-site
  7. Provide an employee with a computer upgrade
  8. Offer to mentor the employee
  9. Opportunity for advanced training/attendance at seminars or conferences
  10. Reward with a non-cash bonus
  11. Special parking space near the office
  12. Tickets to local events/shows
  13. Acknowledge work anniversaries
  14. Food is an important factor. You could reward achievement with muffins or cookies at meetings, or bring in ice cream on a hot Friday afternoon. It does not have to be all of the time – keep it spontaneous
  15. Take your team out to lunch after completing a project or at the end of a quarterly review

Formal employee recognition

The alternative to the spontaneous nature of informal recognition is to set up a formal recognition programme within your organisation. The following are basic steps for developing a formal recognition programme:

  1. Be realistic – Set clear, realistic and measurable objectives such as increasing sales, improving customer service levels or obtaining better customer feedback.
  2. Think about programme structure and design – Determine what accomplishments will be recognised and how often rewards will be made.
  3. Tailor your scheme – Provide the right rewards for your target audience. Get employees involved in the choice of scheme but remember to focus on recognition rather than reward.
  4. Promote your rewards scheme effectively – Communication is the key to a successful scheme. Communicate with your audience in a style appropriate to your organisation’s culture.
  5. Continue to manage your programme – Continually analyse programme effectiveness and incorporate employee feedback. Be prepared to adapt your scheme to the changing needs of your employees.
  6. Share your success – Sharing success stories around the company will not only drive participation but it shows that the scheme is a continued priority within the organisation.

Employee recognition best practice

To be effective, employee recognition must be sincere and heartfelt. The most successful solution is not to implement one or the other, but to implement both approaches to recognising employee achievements.

Adopting both formal and informal employee recognition will help you reinforce specific behaviours and actions that you’d like to see more of within your organisation. But remember, employee recognition must be designed to conform to your workplace culture, and to the needs and interests of your workforce.