The Importance of Employee Recognition

10 min. read

Employee recognition for their efforts and their value is essential for team building and staff retention.

Recognition of your team members is an important part of team building. If you don’t recognize their contributions you won’t hold on to them for long. The great resignation is in full swing and people aren’t sticking around if they don’t feel valued. Americans are seeking out a better life-work balance and they are looking for jobs that make them feel like they are doing something special or that matter, or at the very least that they don't feel undervalued, or taken for granted. They are not just after a paycheck and punching a clock on time.


To recognize your employees you need to first understand why you are doing something for them. What' s the purpose behind this? The short answer is that it builds a better culture. The long answer is complicated but similar. Without an understanding of why you are showing appreciation, you won’t get the full benefit of the exercise. If you just go through the motions and don’t actually value and recognize your employees it will feel fake and forced and will not get the desired effect at all. People can smell out an insincere compliment when they receive it, and instead of making people feel valued it can become a chore and end up as an in-house joke or worse.


Positive feedback


This is a readily accepted form of employee recognition. It doesn’t take long do and it engenders a feeling of value and trust. It also helps engagement with your team and raises morale. Your team members and managers want to feel appreciated. It’s really that simple. Negative feedback is sometimes necessary but if you don’t also give constructive feedback you run the risk of beating the team down emotionally until they feel they can’t do anything right. When that happens all is lost. Bad things start happening all over the place and the team fragments into pieces.


There are 3 different types of positive feedback


  • Regular

For employees, it can be frustrating if you don’t get any communication from the powers that be for long periods of time. An annual newsletter just doesn’t cut it. Communication is key for all aspects of a business. From talking to customers all the way down to internal communications. To build a strong team you have to understand them and talk to them and listen. For employee recognition to be effective, it needs to be given consistently. You don’t have to overdo it and go for weekly or daily feedback but being more strategic and putting out feedback on at least a quarterly basis is recommended.


  • Immediate

If someone on the team does something extraordinary or outstanding they need to be praised as soon as possible. Wait too long from the time of the team members' positive action and recognition for the employee and you risk losing any impact or meaning. This type of positive feedback requires immediate decisive action in a timely manner.


  • Specific

Receiving a generic “thanks” after you have gone out of your way or worked long hours to get a project finished can cause bitterness and leave a bad taste in the mouth. Make sure that any recognition of the employee is specific to the employee’s actions, values, and preferences. A personal touch goes a long way when it comes to these things. Your goal is for them to feel special and valued, not to make it something they dread or would rather skip.


There was a company (that will remain nameless) that once gave their star employee a side of salmon at an end-of-year function as a recognition of her top sales spot. It was raw and she had to carry it around for the rest of the event in a plastic bag.


Employee recognition ideas that work


For the individual


1. Experiential rewards. Why be boring? Consider giving your top performers a reward that is an experience. Some companies let employees choose from a wide range of experiences rather than getting a trophy or cash bonus. Anything from skydiving to singing lessons is on the cards.


2. Lunch out. Some of your employees won’t want the fuss made over them. Take this into account when you are thinking of rewarding certain people. Opt for a lunch out of the office where you can praise them personally. If you feel that would be inappropriately received then pay for a meal out for the team member and their partner at a restaurant of their choice. This option reverts back to 1. Experiential rewards.


3. Company swag. If you have a good office and corporate culture and your team members are proud of where they work then you could foster an even deeper connection with the company by rewarding them with certain branded items. Anything from mugs to a hoodie, or even a pen. Get inventive. And make certain limited edition items for certain achievements. Corporate gift companies have big catalogs you can pick items from and get branded with your logo.


For the team


1. Catered meal/event. If you don’t normally have a cafeteria or restaurant on-site, think about hosting an event for the team as a generous gesture. Catering a meal and putting on some entertainment to thank a team works wonders. If you do have a catering space that already serves food then think about ways to make it pop. Add extra luxury items or desserts to the menu. Get a gourmet barista to make great coffee for everybody. Or pay for a specialty food truck to come to the office one day.


2. Surprise time off. If you have the ability to do so then giving your team members a surprise of a day off as a “thank you” will not only show your appreciation but recharge their batteries.


3. Sponsored volunteer day. Doing good work binds people together. Sponsoring a volunteer day where everyone goes to a place that needs help and assisting them as a team will reap rewards. It benefits a cause and benefits the team and the company as a whole. It also puts positive energy and goodwill into the community. Go to an animal shelter or soup kitchen and perform good deeds together and watch how the team morale jumps. Give to others as a group and put out good vibes. As hippie as it sounds, it reaps rewards.


Employee recognition is sometimes disregarded as just platitudes and an unnecessary burden for a manager or executive. On the contrary, it is incredibly important. Treat your team members like robots or easily replaceable drones at your peril. Recognizing your employees shows your humanity and illustrates to the team members that they are an important part of the organization.