The Power Of Employee Recognition

By: Eric Betts

What are you doing to consistently shower praise and give due recognition to those you lead? It is true that performing well on the job should be expected. However, although it should be expected, it ought to be recognized by the leaders of the organization. Employee recognition helps to build not only the individual who performed with excellence, but it helps to build the organization itself. Many wrongly assume that people should simply be happy to have a job and not expect to be applauded for a job well done. This idea may indeed express the value system of the leader but fails to maximize the potential of the employees or volunteers.

Natalie Wickham is the Director of Marketing at Quantum Workplace, which is a research company, writes about the power of employee praise and applause. Based on her research, she confidently tells her readers that employee recognition increases the level of performance and causes them to have a sense of ownership within the company. Additionally, it strengthens the connection between the employee and the organization, and helps close the metaphorical revolving door. Retention levels increase.

Employee recognition is also a part of communicating on a practical level the values, priorities, and expectations of the company. Wickham states that such recognition makes an impression on the rest of the organization about behavior patterns that are examples of what others should emulate.

Behaviors and actions that are recognized more frequently show employees what’s valued by managers, leaders, and the organization as a whole. When employees receive recognition for adopting a behavior aligned with company values, they’re likely to continue that behavior and set a positive example for others. 

Wickham also shows how employees receive praise differently based on their personality types. An introverted person may appreciate private outreach concerning their accomplishments, while an extroverted employee may welcome public praise. This is why it is extremely important to understand the personalities of one’s employees. Getting to know an employee is an important part of understanding what type of praise may motivate them the best. What is good for one person, may not be good for another.

It is also effective, when a leader of a company or nonprofit studies different ways to bestow recognition. Simply stating, “Good job” or “Everyone did great today,” does not qualify as effective recognition. In order for recognition to become meaningful, it must be specific. This is true not only in the workplace, but also in marriages, parenting, and educating. The leader must be clear on the exact behavior that merited praise. Wickham says that it must be tied to a particular and detailed accomplishment or set of accomplishments. For the more self-interested leader who may only be concerned with the bottom line, and less concerned about motivation, there are benefits. The leader who grows their organization by utilizing recognition, helps themselves by growing the organization. Those who fail to engage in employee recognition are unwittingly working against the success of the organization. It is true that there may be some level of success, but never the full potential of what may have been accomplished. Moreover, failure to offer recognition can be demoralizing and create turnover. Wickham gives counsel to leaders to organize the workplace for celebration of workers, and even create an annual calendar for this purpose. She says, “A robust recognition tool will empower employees, teams, and leaders to celebrate each other, creating an environment focused on achievement, appreciation, and business success.”

Caitlin Nobes is the Content Marketing Manager for Achievers Workforce Institute and makes the case for what she refers to as “Real-time” recognition. At the moment when a behavior is demonstrated that reflects the values of the company, real-time recognition becomes not only motivational, but a teachable moment. Such real-time recognition is always personal, specific, and meaningful. Other employees have a real-time example, and will be motivated to adjust their behaviors to the level of that which received praise.

Employee recognition should be specific, random, conducted in real time, and also strategic., an American worldwide employment website for job listings, also conducted research on the value of employee recognition. Their studies showed the results of strategically thoughtful employee recognition. They found that 30% of people who left a job within the first six months said being recognized more for their unique contributions could have helped them stay longer. offered several practical suggestions on how leaders can be more thoughtful and strategic as it relates to employee recognition. Some examples include the following:

  • Years of service awards — This motivates new hires to commit for the long-haul.
  • Hosting an employee appreciation event — Praising employees for their good work in front of their colleagues can help boost self-esteem and make employees feel valued; they may be encouraged to work harder to achieve similar recognition.
  • Setting up a board or dedicating a wall where everyone shares messages of appreciation toward their peers.
  • An employee-of-the-month program is a classic employee recognition award that works when implemented strategically. Consider having peers or managers vote for the employee, and remember to be specific.
  • Shout out on social media
  • Send an appreciation letter that describes specifically what you appreciate about the employee, noting any special skills they have or progress they’ve made during their career.

Creating a culture where employees are celebrated and praised due to their achievements strengthens an organization in ways that cannot be measured. They will take pride not only in what they do but also in being a part of the company or organization. More importantly, it sends a message that they are valued by the leader and organization; this will raise the spirit of the company to a level where all parties benefit. This concept is indispensable for successful organizations, companies, and nonprofits.

By: Eric Betts

Assistant Director, Curtis Coleman Center for Religious Studies and Ethics at Athens State University