Best practices

Employee Recognition in the Workplace: The Why and How

In today’s ultra-competitive work environment, the companies with the winning edge are the ones that have the best-trained and well-skilled staff. However, even the best employees cannot perform well (or can even jump ship) when they are not motivated enough. This is why employee recognition in the workplace has to be an innate part of any company’s culture.

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is the acknowledgment of a company’s staff for exemplary performance. Essentially, the goal of employee recognition in the workplace is to reinforce particular behaviors, practices, or activities that result in better performance and positive business results.

Why is employee recognition that important?

One of the biggest motivators for employees is to be held in high esteem by their peers. The best way of earning this respect is by being acknowledged for being good at what they do.

While most would relate rewards and recognition to monetary bonuses or extravagant awarding events, employee appreciation doesn’t have to be that expensive or glamorous. Employee rewards can be as candid as a pat-on-the-back and a genuine compliment. It can also be as simple as a ‘thank you’ email or a friendly greeting at work.

Here are the four main benefits of employee recognition:

Make employees happier

Happy employees are more productive. Being recognized gives your staff the feeling of job mastery and that they are a great fit for their role and for the company.

Acknowledgment can also improve productivity, enhance loyalty, and promote collaboration. To add, the workplace should be an environment where positive reinforcement is promoted and constructive feedback is embraced.

Improve employee retention

Hiring your staff only marks the beginning of the employee cycle. Next, you need to train, develop, motivate to them to perform, and ultimately, keep them. So, how do you keep your company’s most valued asset? The answer – incentive programs.

Employee retention is the ability of an organization to retain its employees. Employee rewards and recognition is one of the possible approaches to retain your staff. One example can be financial incentives such as raises, bonuses, and stock options.

Employee recognition gifts are also a great plus – for example, a gift card from their favorite store or a token of appreciation for every five years of service. Incentive programs as means of employee recognition in the workplace is a great way to show appreciation for your employees, keep them motivated, and make them stay.

Cultivate a culture of self-improvement

Another benefit of employee recognition in the workplace is that it can be the foundation of cultivating a culture of self-improvement. One of the best ways for staff recognition is to provide them with opportunities to learn and make themselves better at what they do. To take it a step further, it will also be great to incentivize learning – reward those who have taken the time to focus on self-improvement.

Boost morale

The way your organization’s leaders manage your employees also plays a significant factor in employee motivation. Letting your staff know their hard work is being recognized by the management can help motivate your company’s most valuable asset.

A simple greeting before and at the end of the day is an obvious but sometimes overlooked form of recognition. Saying a sincere thank you and apologizing for some misunderstanding can be subtle ways of showing appreciation and respect. These small gestures may seem quite trivial. But, these are some of the best (and most cost-effective) ways of employee recognition in the workplace.

You’ll also be surprised that having a company culture that promotes these simple ways of showing appreciation as staff recognition can have a big impact on staff morale and productivity.

The most effective ways to recognize employees

Many companies have employee recognition programs in place. However, even in these companies, it’s very often that you hear employees complain about how their work is not appreciated. Because it’s not always what you do, but how you do it.

This also applies to employee recognition in the workplace. You shouldn’t just recognize your employees, but you should do it in a more personal way, the way you’d want to be acknowledged in your dream job.

Here are some ways to get you going with recognizing your employees’ hard work:

Employee Appreciation Events/ Days

It’s always better to praise your best employees in front of their co-workers because it can boost their self-esteem. Not only that, your employees will do their best to get recognized, knowing that you’re an appreciative employer. You can have an ‘Employee(s) of the Month/ Quarter/ Year’ for your team’s top performers.

Don’t forget to also celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, new additions to the family, and other noteworthy life-occasions. Attach a card to say thanks to your employee’s paychecks. Send a thank you email for a job well done. Always remember that employee recognition in the workplace doesn’t have to be expensive or complex programs. Even the smallest of gestures can have the biggest of impacts.

Bonus/ Treats

There are so many ways to treat your employees for doing a great job. Here are some ideas:

· Monetary bonuses will show them they are valued and make them feel their hard work is paying off and is greatly appreciated by the company.
· Give away company-branded gift tees, sweatshirts, or tokens (like pens, bags, mugs, etc.) to employees who are doing great.
· Who does not love food? Why not have free lunch once a week for everyone in the office?

Employee recognition wall

Another one of those creative employee recognition ideas is the Recognition Wall. You can set-up a board in the office and have everyone at the office fill it with sticky notes that contain congratulatory messages to exemplary co-workers.

This can serve as inspiration for those who did well to keep doing better. It will also challenge those who don’t find their names on the wall to keep on trying to do better until they see posted messages addressed to them.

Extra Tips

  • Recognition programs should be all-inclusive. Everyone needs to be eligible for the rewards. Excluding specific employee or groups can negatively affect performance.
  • Don’t hold up too long to remember somebody for their diligent work. ‘Now’ is always the best time to say ‘thanks,’ ‘congratulations,’ or ‘job well done.’ This is so that the employee can associate the recognition with the exact behaviors that resulted in an exemplary performance.


There are countless ways to put employee recognition in the workplace into action; however, it all begins with company culture. A winning employee recognition program starts with having a company culture that advocates appreciation for top performers. This can be the foundation for solid staff engagement, continuous employee development, and retention strategy for the future.

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