Employee Recognition – Unraveling the Mystery Behind It’s Success

Employee Recognition


Employee recognition has been a buzz word for the last five or six years now, and with good reason. Numerous case studies have already shown that recognizing employees not only leads to decreased turnover, but it actually motivates employees to perform better. Since the #1 reason Americans leave jobs is due to feeling unappreciated, that should be music to every employer’s ears!

One size fits all is not for everyone, however. In my article on Introverts and Extroverts: Differences in Work Style and How to Manage Them, I describe the differences in how public recognition is received and appreciated. So please take note – not everyone wants to be the center of attention for stellar performance. Some employees would prefer to hear their words of appreciation in a more private manner. Therefore, figuring out how employees want to be recognized has been somewhat of a mystery to many employers.

There do tend to be some common threads in the most successful Employee Recognition programs. Hopefully the following trends will assist you in unlocking the mystery for your company!

Key Elements of the Best Recognition Programs


1. They Go Beyond Financial Rewards

Don’t misunderstand me when I tell you that money talks! There are other rewards that are just as attractive – and possibly even more motivating to employees. Consider covering paid training of his or her choice for a high performing employee. After all, isn’t a more educated employee a win-win for everyone? How about the ability to work remotely (if applicable) once a goal is achieved? Creativity in offerings for employee perks can bring renewed energy to a stagnant environment


2. The Rewards are Easy to Give and Can Occur Frequently

Many companies offer a budget for recognition among employees, and can be given spontaneously for great work. Recognition from coworkers is even more appreciated, as employees do not have to seek constant acceptance from management for good deeds. These rewards can be small and simplified, or they can be more complex and part of HR Software Systems such as:


3. They Focus on Specific Results and Behaviors

What do you want your Customer Service department to do? Provide world-class customer service! Did you just hear an example of great service? Recognize it! How about your Finance team? Did someone in your Finance department just catch an error that saved the company money? Recognize him or her! If the act of recognizing a behavior is simple enough, it can be done immediately, and the employee can feel special and important while still in the moment, not a month later when you have approval to provide a reward. The excitement has since faded, and the reward doesn’t mean as much.

4. They are Tied to the Company’s Mission

Remember my article on Company Culture? Have you figured out who you are yet? If you have, congratulations! When your employee behaves in a way that supports your company’s mission, now is the time to recognize him or her. Keeping recognition in line with a company’s strategy further reinforces your mission, as well as your adherence to the importance of your company culture.


5. They Accompany a Human Element

As mentioned above, you want the employee recognition to be quick and “in the moment”. But an additional memento, such as a handwritten note, or a mention in the company newsletter or blog, signifying what the deed was and why it was important to the company, allows the employee to remember the occasion in the future, and perhaps share it with his or her family. The additional written element humanizes the act of recognition, and allows it to be remembered in the future.

Of course, the above elements, while they do possess the common threads to great recognition programs, are not the only means to reward great achievements. I have found some great books on employee recognition that provide solid resources for my consulting practice. I will include some links below:


1501 Ways to Reward Employees, by Bob Nelson, PhD. – I’ve met this guy! He’s the real deal, and has some great ideas! The book is amazing!!!!


Make Their Day – Employee Recognition That Works – 2nd Edition, by Cindy Ventrice


The Carrot Tracker: The Ultimate Tool for Motivating Your Employees with Recognition, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton


What recognition practices have you had success with at your company? I would love to hear your stories! Feel free to comment below, or email me directly at: nlemons@resiliencegroup.net.


Recognition and Rewards



by Natalie Lemons
Natalie Lemons is the founder and President of Resilience Group, LLC, author of The Resilient Recruiter, and Co-Founder of Need a New Gig.  She specializes in the area of Executive Search and Career Coaching and services a diverse group of national and international companies, focusing on mid to upper-level management searches in a variety of industries.  For more articles like this, follow her blog.

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