How to Create a Culture of Recognition in the Workplace

More than anything, your employees want you to recognize them. That's what keeps them motivated, engaged, and satisfied at work. This goes beyond raises, promotions, and monetary rewards (though that is an element of it).

Recognition is about acknowledging and appreciating employees for their contributions, hard work, and dedication to the company.

What is a culture of recognition, exactly?

Employee recognition refers to the timely acknowledgment of an individual's or team's actions, effort, or business result that aligns with the organization's goals and values. It's about making an employee feel appreciated for the work they do, the dedication they show, and the results they achieve.

There are two types of employee recognition:

  • Peer-to-peer recognition comes from colleagues. It's often spontaneous and informal. It can include a simple thank you, a shout-out during a meeting, or a small token of appreciation (like a peer bonus).
  • Top-down recognition comes from managers and senior leaders in the company. It can be done through performance evaluations, bonuses, promotions, or public acknowledgments.

The key to impactful employee recognition is making it authentic, timely, and specific. It should come from a place of sincerity and genuine appreciation for the employee's contributions.

Building a ~culture~ of recognition means going beyond having a program. It needs to be ingrained in the company's values, behaviors, and everyday interactions. And it needs to be impactful.

Employee recognition is crucial. Here's why:

Extensive research proves the connection between developing children and recognition from their parents, teachers, and friends. While not exactly the same, managers and employees have a similar relationship.

As a leader, you play a significant role in shaping an employee's experience at work. Team members also play a vital role in creating a positive work environment.

When employees feel valued from both sides, recognition can help organizations...

  • retain their best talent.
  • improve employee engagement levels.
  • raise job satisfaction rates.
  • encourage productivity and performance.

2023 data from Wellnomics shows that over a quarter of the workforce don't feel appreciated in their jobs. The same research also reports that 80% of employees work harder when they know their leaders will recognize it. And, companies in the top 20% with a successful employee recognition program have 31% lower voluntary turnover rates compared to their competitors.

Peer-to-peer recognition

Roughly 4 in 10 employees say they'd like to see more recognition from their immediate coworkers. A peer recognition program is also one of the best things you can do for your company culture because it...

  • is something everyone can get involved in.
  • reinforces positive behaviors without rigid, top-down policies.
  • democratizes the employee recognition process.
  • promotes relationships and camaraderie between colleagues.
  • maximizes the number of employee recognition opportunities by distributing recognition across the company.

Atlassian's Kudos program is one of our favorite examples of peer-to-peer recognition in practice. It's a reputation system employees can use to give each other props for employee accomplishments or simply going above and beyond.

Kudos can come with gifts like gift cards, books, or wine. Last year, Atlassians gave out nearly 56,000 Kudos.

This is huge for employee retention and satisfaction. 86% of employees at the company say it's a great place to work — a huge gap up from 57% at the typical US company.

Social recognition

Personal recognition is great and all. But, to create a culture of recognition, everyone needs to feel included.

The best way to get everyone talking? Socialize it.

  • The company newsletter
  • Digital bulletin boards
  • Team meetings
  • Town halls
  • A dedicated Slack channel

Social recognition works from both a peer-to-peer and a top-down perspective. Leaders should prepare for company town halls and team meetings by pulling data on recognition activity (if you use an employee recognition platform) and calling out top performers (from performance dashboards). During smaller meetings, you can build employee recognition into the agenda so teams can share appreciation and cheers with coworkers.

Compt integrates with Slack, so you can recognize and reward employees or let them do the same for each other. Then, you can drop the message in the dedicated channel and get everyone involved.

Social media mentions

Social media is like internal public recognition, but your employees can use it to show public appreciation and praise instead of keeping it within the company's walls. They can use it to show their network what a great job their team members say they're doing. And by publicly sharing employee accomplishments and milestones, you get to increase brand awareness and show off your talented team (while helping them build their personal brands).

There are several ways you can get involved:

  • Use a hashtag for your company, team, or employee accomplishments
  • Share employee achievements and events (with permission)
  • Recognize employees who go above and beyond with posts on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  • Host a podcast featuring employees
  • Create a company blog series for employee spotlights
  • Share photos and videos from company events and activities (like team happy hours or charity runs)

A lot of companies have their own series for recognizing employees across all their channels, including social media.

Capgemini's Her Story podcast series is available on Spotify and Apple Music, but the organization continuously mentions employees and its featured employees across company socials and publishes articles. It's a perfect example of how easy it is to give meaningful recognition both to motivate employees and as part of your overall content marketing strategy.

Best practices for creating a culture of employee recognition

Creating a culture of recognition requires more than just implementing a program. You need companywide involvement in that program. And you need it to happen so naturally that it feels like a part of the workday.

Follow these best practices to make recognition part of every employee's experience.

1. Be relevant.

There are plenty of different ways to recognize your employees. If you want the recognition to be well-received and impactful, it needs to be:

  • tied to your key goals and company values
  • representative of your employees' interests and preferences
  • proportional to the employees' contributions

This means you'll need to use several different types of recognition (and know when to use each). Effective employee recognition programs always have a healthy mix of formal and informal recognition.

  • Formal recognition is generally top-down and planned out. Use it for significant achievements like promotions, milestones (like service anniversaries), employee spotlights, or living your company values to the fullest.
  • Informal recognition is less structured and more casual. Use it on an ongoing basis for everyday moments and positive behaviors employees exhibit.

If you aren't sure what type of recognition would have the most positive impact on employee morale, ask your team! Send out a private survey or create an idea board for employees to submit and vote on ideas.

2. Be timely.

Have you ever received a Christmas present a few days late because of post office delays during the holiday season? No matter how much you want it to, it just doesn't quite feel the same.

The same goes for recognition. It should occur as soon after the achievement or action as possible

This means eliminating unnecessary approval processes. You don't need to go through all the same steps as you would for performance evaluations or feedback sessions.

3. Put your money where your mouth is.

There are untold benefits to recognizing your employees for a job well done, but structuring a rewards and recognition program takes it to the next level.

The two go hand-in-hand — by integrating a rewards program into your recognition workflow, you can show employee appreciation while extending your program to include tangible compensation.

This works especially well in roles where the job is closely tied to KPIs, like sales and customer success.

To set up a rewards program that works for your company and employees, you need to:

  • establish a budget
  • get feedback from your team using an employee benefits survey
  • choose the types of recognition that will have the most reach
  • create an efficient process for redeeming rewards

Team recognition stipends are the best way to do this. With Compt, they're easy to set up and distribute, whether they're peer-to-peer or manager-to-employee.

4. Avoid isolating certain teams.

Like we mentioned, it's easy to offer employee rewards and recognition to departments with easily quantifiable performance.

When a sales rep earns more for the company, you know exactly how much revenue they brought in. The same goes for product/engineering departments, where employees are part of a huge company initiative (the product).

But what about the teams that work primarily behind the scenes? They still play important roles, and they want to feel like they do.

To fix this:

  • Encourage other teams to share their accomplishments and milestones, even if it doesn't directly impact revenue (like implementing a new system that streamlined operations).
  • Create companywide recognition programs in addition to those that vary by department. Host an annual award ceremony recognizing accomplishments across all your departments.
  • Improve cross-functional alignment (e.g., Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success) so team members from different departments recognize each other more often.

When creating or updating your employee recognition program, collaborate with departmental leaders to pinpoint crucial but overlooked areas you can celebrate. Then, work with them to create custom programs that cater to their unique abilities and contributions.

5. Use rewards and recognition software.

Workplace culture is a collective responsibility that requires continuous effort, open communication, inclusivity, and genuine appreciation for each other's work.

It's HARD to accomplish any of that without software. Spreadsheets, non-integrated messaging, and manual rewards redemption workflows hinder your team's ability to communicate effectively, recognize each other, and share wins. So, it's 100x harder to develop a culture of recognition.

With Compt, send employee bonuses quickly and easily, peer-to-peer or manager-to-employee. Recognition made simple and meaningful. Book a demo and see for yourself.

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