November 15, 2023
January 25, 2022

Employee Engagement and Recognition

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It’s no secret that employee recognition improves engagement in the workplace. When employees feel recognized, they feel appreciated—and when employees feel appreciated, they’ll feel more motivated, more creative, and more likely to stay at your organization. Here’s how to improve employee recognition and engagement:

  • Use technology to integrate recognition into the flow of work.
  • Make sure recognition is meaningful.
  • Offer recognition to onsite and remote employees.
  • Train managers in best practices.
  • Personalize every recognition.

Even though most company leaders know what employee recognition is and how it relates to engagement, we’re still talking about it because we’re still not doing it effectively. In a study with, Awardco found that even though most organizations have some kind of recognition program, 81 percent of HR leaders don’t feel it’s very effective. If the leaders who administer these programs don’t feel they’re very effective, imagine what the employees must think!

What can we do to make employee recognition more effective and thereby help employees feel more engaged?

Utilize Technology

Most organizations typically have anywhere from 100-200 apps in their enterprise I.T. systems, and the average employee uses at least 10 different apps during their workday. Each app generally has a different user interface and a different workflow, and these apps often don’t communicate with each other. 

There are many ways to integrate recognition into the flow of work, and the easiest is to make recognition a part of the existing communication channels you already use like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Choosing a recognition tool that utilizes your existing processes can increase adoption of an employee recognition program and help build a culture of recognition. We did this internally with Awardco and integrated our recognition efforts with Slack. When we did so we saw a 400% increase in recognitions over the year following—all from utilizing technology to make recognition easier, more accessible, and more visible.    

Make Recognition Meaningful

Making recognition meaningful is often the most difficult part of recognizing employees for a job well done. Many people just don’t know what to say, or they fear they might say something that isn’t seen as genuine. Sometimes feeling like you’re forced to recognize others, especially as a manager, can cause analysis paralysis—and instead of doing something…we end up doing nothing. 

Making recognition meaningful doesn’t have to be hard, but it’s understandable that it can be a little intimidating. The best way to make recognition meaningful is to start somewhere. Here are a few ideas to help you make recognition meaningful:

  • Be specific about what the person did.
  • Express your genuine appreciation.
  • Share how it has impacted you or the organization (or both!).

Recognizing others, or expressing gratitude, is like any other skill: it can take a little time to be comfortable with it. Start where you are, and when the idea comes to recognize someone, don’t ignore it. Go talk to them, offer your appreciation, publicly recognize, or write a heartfelt note. There’s no real “wrong” way to express your gratitude!

Offer Recognition to All Employees

Employees do their work in many different capacities. Many of the more “online” jobs are done remotely now, or have a hybrid schedule of remote work and in-office work. Many other employees aren’t in front of a computer and do their work in the field, on the sales floor, or in a manufacturing facility. By some accounts nearly 80% of the global workforce doesn’t work at a desk!  

Every employee deserves and needs to be shown recognition for their efforts. Recognition is the most important part of positive feedback and can boost engagement by 3X—it has a host of incredible benefits to the employee AND the employer. 

Offering recognition to every employee can be very challenging with different locations, schedules, working conditions and computer access making it even more difficult. But that doesn’t change the fact that every single employee deserves to be recognized. Technology like Awardco helps HR leaders bypass these challenges with simple solutions that work no matter how or where employees work—both online and off.

Train Managers in Best Practices 

Mangers lead the way in more ways than one, and recognition is no exception. Leadership that recognizes their employees often will cultivate a culture of appreciation more effectively than almost anything.

However, many managers don’t know how to give a good recognition, or when, or what constitutes an impactful expression of appreciation. Best practices of recognition include:

  • Make it timely. Leaders should recognize their employees as soon as they notice them doing something good. Whether a team just finished a stellar project or a manager notices someone offering assistance to another coworker, leaders should reach out and express appreciation as soon as possible.
  • Make it genuine. Leaders need to do their best to offer sincere compliments and appreciation. You shouldn’t give out undeserving praise, but you also shouldn’t minimize stellar work when you see it. Offer genuine recognition as often as you can. Find out what means the most to your employees and recognize them in the way that resonates with them.
  • Make it frequent. Leaders don’t have to hit a recognition quota to be effective, but they should be generous with their gratitude. If they see an employee doing something good, they should recognize them for it, even if they recognized that same person just the other day. Regular recognition will strengthen the culture of appreciation you’re trying to build.

That doesn’t mean that a recognition that isn’t “good” isn’t valuable, though. In reality, employees (and people) just want to be recognized—period. In a recent study it was found that 52.5% of employees want more recognition from their immediate manager. Encourage managers and leaders to simply think more about and look for more opportunities to recognize.

Never Settle for Cookie-Cutter Compliments

While expressing appreciation is never really a bad thing, you should never settle for a generic “good job” without any personalization. Employees are individual people with differing personalities, interests, and workplace love languages—when you recognize them, you should take all that into account. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when considering how to personalize a compliment:

  • Does the employee like being pulled in front of a crowd? Or would they appreciate a private conversation more?
  • What did the employee actually do that deserves recognition? How can I make my expression of appreciation more specific to them?
  • What type of reward would mean the most to them?

These questions require you to know your employees on a personal level before recognizing them. So talk with them and get to know them on a personal level. Then your personalized compliments will mean that much more.

As for recognition that pairs with rewards (such as service awards or bonuses), Awardco has striven to create the most rewarding reward network on the planet. While the one doing the recognizing has to find ways to personalize the words they say or type, with Awardco they can let the employee choose their own reward. Nothing is more personalized than that!

Engagement and Recognition—A Correlation for Success

Employee engagement is a buzzword that you hear a lot of, but it can still be a confusing idea to try and understand and improve. But one of the surefire ways to improve engagement no matter what industry you work in is with employee recognition. Using the strategies above, you can create a culture full of engaged employees who feel valued and appreciated; and if that’s not a recipe for success, we’re not sure what is.