It’s not surprising that although employee recognition is extremely important, it is often overlooked and underutilized. Whether you manage a large team or have one direct report, it’s crucial that you’re recognizing and appreciating your team members enough. Why? Because proper employee recognition leads to higher engagement, increased productivity, and decreased retention. Without employee recognition, you run the risk of losing your top talent — and that’s something we all want to avoid. Keep reading to learn what employee recognition is, how to best do it, and why it matters.
What is Employee Recognition
Very simply, employee recognition is the act of acknowledging and appreciating your employees for their work. It comes in both informal and formal ways and can include some sort of tangible compensation, but doesn’t have to. It may seem obvious that employee recognition is important but in a recent poll, only 56% of employees surveyed said that their manager regularly acknowledges them for their good work.
A common misconception about recognition is that it can only come after a successful project, but that’s not true. For example, if your team member worked really hard on a project but the deadline was still pushed back by circumstances outside of their control, it never hurts to acknowledge them for their hard work. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to make your employees feel like their work is appreciated.
Types of Employee Recognition
Immediate feedback is exactly what it sounds like — quick feedback after your employee has done something worth acknowledging. For example, you could send them a quick message over Slack if they did a great job on a proposal or you can express to them how effective their Zoom presentation was to the board. This type of feedback should be both quick and informal; it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. By giving your employees immediate positive reinforcement, you are letting them know that you notice the effort they are putting into their job and you appreciate it.
There are three main types of ways to appreciate and recognize your employees: immediate feedback, informal recognition, and formal recognition.
The second type of employee recognition is a step up from immediate feedback. While immediate feedback tends to be quick and right after a task is completed, informal recognition might take a little more thought on your part. This can come in the form of lunch with your team member, an email after a job well done, or a recognition post on your company’s social media channel. Informal recognition is key to creating momentum and excitement for a job well done and let’s your employees know that you are paying attention. This type of recognition is a tangible way of showing your appreciation for your team’s work.
Finally, it is always important to formally recognize your employees. This is usually done through end-of-year reviews and bonuses. You most likely have a formal channel to give positive feedback via your company’s HR process. If not, schedule formal feedback sessions twice a year so that you can verbally (and potentially financially) recognize your employees for their months of hard work.
Now you know what employee recognition is and you have some ideas of how to do it. What are some things that you can implement ASAP to improve your employee recognition? We’re glad you asked.
#1: Schedule Regular Recognition Times into YOUR Calendar
It might seem weird to schedule time in your calendar to acknowledge your employees. But the truth is, if you’re reading this looking for tips, you probably need to be recognizing your employees more. Being a business leader can get busy and it’s easy to forgo something that may seem unimportant (like a quick “Great work!” note to your team member) when you have a lot to do. That’s why by scheduling 30 minutes into your calendar every week specifically for employee recognition, you can consistently appreciate your employees for their work and keep them focused and on-task knowing you appreciate them. We know…everyone wants to be appreciated, and sometimes it can feel tedious. But just think of the unintentional capital you receive when your employees work harder and longer hours because they know you care. Worth it!
According to Qualtrics’ employee engagement survey, “employees whose managers consistently acknowledge them for good work are 5x more likely to stay at the company.” So, schedule time every week to recognize your employees. You can take note of things during the week that you want to recognize then during your allotted time, send out emails, have quick touchpoints, or do whatever is best for you to appreciate your team.
#2: Don’t Just Recognize Tangible Successes
Team member just landed a huge contract? Great! Recognize them for that. But also recognize the team member who has worked for months on their contract that is still in the negotiation stage. Your employees aren’t always going to have major wins, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t acknowledge their hard work along the way. Take the time to recognize smaller wins, good effort, and soft skills (i.e. always being five minutes early for meetings, having great public speaking skills, etc.). Your project successes are important, but it’s more important for your team members to know that you see the work they are putting into their job.
#3: Celebrate Work Anniversaries & Birthdays
A really easy way to carve more recognition into your process is by celebrating work anniversaries and birthdays. During this, take the time to express that you appreciate your employee’s continued contributions. Try to be specific about some of their major accomplishments or efforts so that your team doesn’t feel like you’re just listing generic things or team accomplishments that aren’t unique to that employee.
These celebrations don’t have to be fancy. In fact, recognizing work anniversaries and birthdays can be as simple as a hand-written card, sincere email, or team lunch.
#4: Implement 1:1 Lunches With the Boss
One great (and simple) way to make sure your employees know that you care is by implementing bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly 1:1 lunches with you! Each session, you can take one or two employees out to lunch or coffee to chat. During this time, sprinkle in some recognition and appreciation! Your conversation doesn’t have to be all about their hard work, of course; you can use this time to get to know them more, too. Rotate who you have lunch with so that every employee gets some time with you. If you have a bigger team, consider making the lunch groups a little bigger (groups of 5 or 6) or asking some lower-level managers to split the team with you.
Is your company virtual? No problem! You can still schedule these lunches and hold them over your video conferencing platform. If you’re able to, consider sponsoring their lunch. If not, just let them know that they’ll get some 1:1 time with you via video call.
#5: Recognize Through Opportunity
Finally, recognize your employees by giving them opportunities. The #2 biggest driver of employee engagement is how well you (the manager) do at giving your employees opportunities to try new things (Qualtrics). Acknowledge that your employees are working hard and doing well by allowing them to grow and develop professionally. This can be by sending them to conferences, sponsoring an online webinar or training, or giving them a stretch assignment. The best part? You can offer this opportunity to your employees and ask them to bring potential areas of interest to you! This way, you’re taking some of the load off of yourself, but also actively rewarding and recognizing your team for their work — through opportunity.
Why Employee Recognition Matters
The importance of employee recognition could be its own blog post, there are so many reasons why it matters. But to keep it brief, here are some of the main justifications for spending more time acknowledging your team:
Everybody knows that a happy employee is the best type of employee. Not only will happy employees work harder, but they will also improve your team morale and company culture. We work to make a living, but if you’re lucky, you also enjoy your job. Part of being happy at work is having happy colleagues and in your case, happy team members. By showing your employees that you care about them and see their hard work, they will be happier.
Employee turnover is one of the biggest risks of leading a company. The wants and needs of your team are constantly changing and it is up to you to keep them happy and engaged to work hard. Without recognition, your employees have to figure out what you are thinking and often make up stories about how “happy” or “unhappy” you are with their performance. Instead of leaving them guessing, just let them know that you appreciate them, even if you only do so through a simple gesture. More than that, hiring new employees can be expensive. In fact, just recruiting, hiring, and training a new employee can cost 3x their annual salary, and the cost is even higher for small businesses. Retaining top talent is in your best interest, and by recognizing your employees, you are making them happier and more likely to stay at your company.
Finally, you can increase productivity by recognizing your employees. Not only does providing positive feedback help your team members know what to do more of, it makes them want to work harder. In fact, in a survey done by SHRM, almost 79% of employees said that being recognized makes them more productive and work harder.
So, there you have it! You’re now an expert on employee recognition. You know what it is, how to do it, and why it is so important. Take an hour today to plan out some of your new employee recognition tactics. By doing this, you’ll improve your leadership, your team’s happiness and productivity, and your business as a whole.