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How to implement employee recognition

A guide for keeping your employees happy, committed and productive

Apr. 18, 2019 | By Jemia Young

Two women smiling sitting in a row of colleges being recognized

In a previous blog, we explained how important and effective successful employee recognition programs are to an organization. Recognizing employees is one of the greatest missed opportunities for leaders, managers and even peers. The reality is, there’s a lack of understanding on what effective recognition looks like. There’s not a one-size-fits-all method that works for every employee, but there is one common thread: leaders should encourage and motivate their teams through words and actions.

Small acts, big impact

Traditionally, methods for keeping and motivating employees utilize compensation and benefits, but this is only a fraction of the recognition equation. Consistent, small acknowledgments do wonders for employee morale.

Recognition doesn’t have to always be monetary. We surveyed 91 field leaders and found that employees valued a $5 gift card, extra-long lunches or shoutouts on social media just as much. Yes, it’s considered “small” but large for the individual themselves. Simple, small recognitions like leaving work early or coming in late contributes to the overall health and wellbeing of an employee.

Leaders should evaluate what gets in the way of simply saying, “well done.” “Maybe it’s time or lack of knowledge of our employee’s body of work. Maybe we personally don’t need much recognition, or we fear that by telling them they’re doing great our employees will become entitled or complacent. Research tells us quite the opposite,” explains Michelle Webb, executive director of employee engagement at TEKsystems.

Companies state that 77% of their employees would work harder if they received more praise in the workplace. Leaders need to get intentional about recognizing the actions, values and behaviors that they seek in a great employee.

Think outside of the box

Forget the basics (i.e. giving out only balloons and just for occasions like promotions.) Get creative! I’m talking about the unexpected—surprising acknowledgments that incorporate professional and personal accomplishments. When TEKsystems surveyed our very own directors, the most fulfilling recognition was for life events. Think: paying off student loans, getting married, accomplishing a fitness goal or graduating from grad school. Team members feel more included in the company culture when it’s not just their performance being validated, but their growth as a person.

Make it effective

Recognition works best when following a few best practices. Employee recognition should be:

  1. Timely: when you see it, recognize it
  2. Specific: be clear and concise about what is being praised
  3. Contingent: make connections to organizational values, goals, priorities and objectives
  4. Sincere: ensure it comes from someone who is respected by the recipient
  5. Meaningful: base it on the recipient’s preferences
  6. Relevant: ensure praise is proportional to the accomplishment
  7. Equal Opportunity: make sure everyone gets a chance to be recognized

Crawl, walk, run

Struggling to come up with your own way to implement employee recognition rewards? “It doesn’t have to be formal,” explains Faith Johnson, vice president of human resources here at TEKsystems. “It has to be intentional and meaningful. It can be small and nonmonetary, if it has intention. It also has to be consistent—if leaders are not ensuring they are consistently recognizing their teams and individuals, then it will not have impact or be contagious.” Below are a few ideas to get you recognizing tomorrow:

  1. Start small; don’t try to boil the ocean and put something major in place.
  2. Only consider recognition that is low cost or free—remote day, leaving early, jeans day, coming in late, etc.
  3. Company swag—better believe it! People still love company swag. Giving quality items to our people is a good way to spread the brand and recognize.
  4. Social media—a tweet from an executive or a quick shoutout is a fun and easy way to make someone feel valued.
  5. Get creative—the options are endless. Superlatives, LinkedIn recommendations, certifications, lunch with leadership, etc. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm ideas that work within your office culture.

All employees like to be recognized and appreciated for the work they do for their employers. Recognition leads to greater engagement, less attrition and builds high-performing teams.

Jemia has been a part of the TEKsystems team since 2013. She has held various roles, but her current role on the Inclusion & Diversity team is by far her favorite. Jemia focuses on building the TEKsystems brand across our local and national partners and continues to lead the strategy around attraction and retention of diverse talent.