How You Can Give Employee Recognition

10 December, 2014

Traditionally, employee recognition has not been a core public relations activity, but you can be a catalyst in your organization. As a manager, supervisor, or even as a peer, you can initiate it in your area. You could start doing it discreetly, not even telling others about the change, but doing it and observing the results.

You can spontaneously praise people – this is highly effective. To many employees, receiving sincere thanks is more important than receiving something tangible. Employees enjoy recognition through personal, written, electronic and public praise from those they respect at work, given in a timely, specific and sincere way.

KEEP IN MIND, to build a successful Employee Recognition program, it is not just about gifts or tangible items.  While those will reinforce your program, day-to-day recognition is is still the most important type of recognition. Day-to-day recognition brings the benefit of immediate and powerful reinforcement of desired behavior and sets an example to other employees of desired behavior that aligns with organizational objectives. It gives individuals and teams at all levels the opportunity to recognize good work by other employees and teams, and it also gives the opportunity for them to be recognized on the spot for their own good work.

Be alert for opportunities to recognize others and take the initiative to do something. You can nudge your supervisors to do more of it and to encourage it in other departments.

The best formula for recognizing an individual for their efforts is:

  • Thank the person by name.

  • Specifically state what they did that is being recognized. It is vital to be specific because it identifies and reinforces the desired behavior.

  • Explain how the behavior made you feel (assuming you felt some pride or respect for their accomplishment!).

  • Point out the value added to the team or organization by the behavior.

  • Thank the person again by name for their contribution.

Recognition is a key success factor even at higher levels of management. Dr Lawrence Hrebiniak, Professor of Management in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, states, “What’s absolutely critical…is that the organization celebrates success. Those who perform must be recognized. Their behavior and its results must be reinforced…Managers have emphasized this point to me time and time again, suggesting that, as basic as it is, it is violated often enough to become an execution problem…Give positive feedback to those responsible for execution success and making strategy work.” 

If you would like to know how to initiate and conduct employee recognition activities, you can find lots of ideas, and the best framework and guiding principles from Kim Harrison's e-book, Creative ideas for employee recognition,

Cost Benefit Analysis of Employee Recognition

10 December, 2014

The cost of a recognition system is quite small and the benefits are large when implemented effectively. Meta-analysis conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2003 of the results from 10,000 business units in 30 industries found [a meta-analysis is the statistical analysis of results across more than one study]:


  • Increased individual productivity – the act of recognizing desired behavior increases the repetition of the desired behavior, and therefore productivity. This is classic behavioral psychology. The reinforced behavior supports the organization’s mission and key performance indicator

  • Greater employee satisfaction and enjoyment of work - more time spent focusing on the job and less time complaining.

  • Direct performance feedback for individuals and teams is provided.

  • Higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers.

  • Teamwork between employees is enhanced.

  • Retention of quality employees increases – lower employee turnover.

  • Better safety records and fewer accidents on the job.

  • Lower negative effects such as absenteeism and stress.

  • Time spent in designing and implementing the program.

  • Time taken to give recognition.

  • Dollar cost of the recognition items given

  • Time and cost of teaching people how to give recognition.

  • Costs of introducing a new process. 2


Individual Performance-------Recognition-------Increased productivity & satisfaction-------Increased value to your organization


Measurable improvement in profitability

Measuring the direct impact on profitability is difficult because it is only one of many factors influencing employees in every workplace. However, case studies make a persuasive case that bottom line benefits have been achieved through recognition schemes. The Walt Disney World Resort established an employee recognition program that resulted in a 15% increase in staff satisfaction with their day-to-day recognition by their immediate supervisors. These results correlated highly with high guest-satisfaction scores, which showed a strong intent to return, and therefore directly flowed to increased profitability.

Likewise, Sears, Roebuck & Co. found for every 5% increase in employee attitude scores, they saw a 1-3% increase in customer satisfaction and a 0.5% increase in revenue.

On the other hand, the cost of extremely negative or ‘actively disengaged’ workers comprises about 10% of the US Gross Domestic Product annually, including workplace injury, illness, employee turnover, absences and fraud.


REFERENCES: excerpt from "Why employee recognition is so important", by Kim Harrison, Consultant, Author and Principal of



Employee Recognition Basics

10 December, 2014

EMPLOYEE...RECOGNITION.   This is the timely, informal or formal acknowledgement of a person's or team's behavior, effort, or business results that support the goals and values of your organization, AND which has clearly been beyond normal expectations.

To be really effective in your job, you need to understand the psychology of praising others for their good work, to apply the principles of employee recognition yourself, and to encourage others to initiate it in their working relationships.

Appreciation is a fundamental human need.  Employees respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work because it confirms their work is valued.  When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work.

Praise and recognition are essential to an outstanding workplace.  People want to be respected and valued for their contribution.  Everyone feels the need to be recognized as an individual or member of a group and to feel a sense of achievement for work well done or even for a valiant effort.  Everyone wants a 'pat on the back' to make them feel good.

There are two aspects of employee recognition.  The first aspect is to actually see, identify, or realize an opportunity to praise someone.  If you are not in a receptive frame of mind, you can easily pass over many such opportunities. This happens all too frequently.  The other aspect of employee recognition is, of course, the physical act of doing something to acknowledge and praise people for good work.

Employee recognition isn't rocket science- it is an obvious thing to do.  Despite the unquestioned benefits arising from employee recognition, one of the mysteries of the workplace is that recognition invariably is done poorly, if done at all.  Managers/Supervisors need reinforcing and coaching.  Employee recognition remains an undervalued management technique.

Determine what you are doing right and wrong.  One thing you can do is to ensure there are questions on employee recognition in your organizations' employee surveys. The results can be used to prove the need for greater employee recognition.

The Psychology of Recognition and the Physiological Impact on Performance

28 October, 2014

The Psychology of Recognition

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, two of the most valuable psychological needs we have as human beings are the need to be appreciated and the need to “belong.” These needs are met through peer-to-peer thanks and recognition. Remember that the purpose of recognition is to drive greater levels of “discretionary effort.” Such discretionary effort comes when we, as people, feel inspired to do more.

Physiological Impact on Performance

Oxytocin is the well-known “love hormone.” Our bodies create Oxytocin when we feel loved or appreciated (even shaking someone’s hand or giving them a hug creates this hormone). Recent research shows that people who work under the influence of Oxytocin perform better and are more trustworthy at work.

When your company embraces a modern recognition program and people start thanking each other, trust and engagement go up – improving employee morale, quality, and customer service.

Of course recognition does not replace the need for feedback, accountability, and goal-setting. These performance management programs are still badly needed to drive alignment and performance. But Forbes' research showed that in 83% of the organizations they studied, suffer from a deficit in “recognition.” And these companies are under-performing their peers.

Additionally, recognition is not only something executives should do – it should take place throughout the organization. The research clearly shows that top-down recognition is not what makes companies thrive today – it’s recognition by your peers, the people you work with every day.

Next time you see someone doing the right thing, take a minute and thank them openly.

It’s good management and good business.

Forbes' Research Unlocks the Secret to Employee Recognition

27 October, 2014

In June 2012, Forbes contributor, Josh Bersin, who analyzes corporate HR, talent management, and leadership released the results of a comprehensive research project on employee recognition.  The results were astounding.


Here's what he found:

  • Employee recognition items such as gold watches, pins, thank you awards, plaques, etc. account for a $46 billion market.
  • Companies spend 1-2% of payroll on these items.
  • 87% of recognition programs focus on tenure (how long you have been employed with a company) and have virtually no impact on organizational performance.
  • Organizations that built a "recognition-rich culture" giving regular thanks to their employees had a huge impact on business performance lowering voluntary turnover rates by 31%.

5 Best Practices of A Recognition Based Rewards Program

  1. Recognize people based on specific results and behaviors. Don't just give them "employee of the month". Give them an award for delivering outstanding customer service when a particular problem occurred.  This creates a culture of "doing the right thing."
  2. Implement peer to peer recognition- not top down. Recognition from leaders has less impact than you may think.  While HR Managers believe this is the key criteria for success, employees told Forbes that they feel much better when they are recognized by their peers.  Why is this?  Peers know what your're doing on a day to day basis, so when they "thank you" for your efforts, the impact is much more meaningful.  Top down recognition is often viewed as political and it rarely reaches the "quiet but critical high performers" of the company.  Modern high-performance recognition programs are "social"- they let anyone in the company recognize anyone else.  The thank you's are totally public and displayed on a "leader board" so anyone can see them.
  3. Share recognition stories. One of the most powerful practices identified was "story telling".  When someone does something great and is recognized by their peers, tell people about it.  Not only should they get a reward, but you should mention them in a newsletter or company blog. These stories create employee engagement and learning.
  4. Make recognition easy and frequent.  Make it trivially simple for employees to recognize each other.  Many of the modern programs Forbes studied gave all employees a budget for "points" or "dollars".  People who do great things are now visible to everyone else.
  5. Tie recognition to your own company values and goals.  When you give some a "thank you" award, the award is tied to your company's strategy (customer service, innovation, teamwork, or even a revenue or cost cutting goal).

Creating a Winning Strategic Rewards System

16 October, 2014

We have identified the core behaviors that are important to our company, not only because embracing them will fine-tune our critical processes, but also because it will enhance our customer relationships. You have rewards on hand, now what?