/ practical advice

The Importance of Employee Recognition (+ 5 Easy Ways to Make It a Habit)

The old saying 'good help is hard to find' still stands true. So when you do find it, it's important to provide a work environment that'll keep your employees happy and fulfilled. Luckily, some of the most powerful methods of recognizing employee achievements cost next to nothing.

Why Employee Recognition Matters

Hundreds of studies have been conducted to identify which workplace traits are most critical to job satisfaction. Self-reporting employees nearly always list praise from managers and other leaders high on their list. In fact, a Tower's Watson global appreciation study shows that 79% of employees who quit their jobs do so because they don't feel appreciated at work.

So how do you go about making sure employees are getting what they need to be happy and stay motivated at work? Here's what research giant Gallup uncovered about the best way to recognize and celebrate employee contributions:

"The most effective recognition is honest, authentic and individualized to how each employee wants to be recognized. Acknowledging employees' best work can be a low-cost endeavor -- it can be as small as a personal note or a thank-you card."

Gallup continues on to note that acknowledgment from a CEO or high-level executive is so impactful, it can become a career highlight.

The Power of Praise

Regular kudos help boost employee morale, increase self-esteem and confidence, increase productivity, and nurtures better relationships - all things that lead to better teamwork and higher employee retention. All these things work in tandem to help your company thrive, so it literally pays to make praising hard work a habit. Now let's talk about how to do it.

1. Say Thank You

It may sound simple - but it's easy to forget just how far a simple thanks can go.

Easy ways to acknowledge and reward a job well done:

  • Publicly praise hard working team members at meetings
  • Present awards or certificates to standout staff members
  • Hand-deliver a thank you card with a handwritten note
  • Share praise received from clients, customers, and vendors
  • Say thanks on a post-it and leave it on your employee's desk
  • Ask staff to give a shoutout to coworkers who go above and beyond
  • Praise efforts and show big-picture impact during one-on-one meetings

These are just a few of many options, but you get the idea. It doesn't take a grand or expensive gesture to make a meaningful impact.

2. Think Outside The Data

While some positions are undeniably best measured by number-guided performance evaluations, it's important to regularly recognize and reward other positive employee attributes as well. You can do so using some of the ideas listed above. Let's talk through an example.

It's no secret that working in commission sales is stressful; especially if it's four days to the end of the month, your rep was out sick for three days, and they need four more deals to hit their quota. It's a daily grind that requires a lot of patience, optimism, and perseverance. So if the rep described above is always positive, they deserve recognition! Acknowledge the impact their sunny disposition has on the team and describe specific examples of how their attitude positively affects others.

Both coaching and constructive criticism are a part of management, and it's important to strike a good balance. You can do this by focusing on creating a company culture that values employee's natural strengths. This will help you establish trust - and by rallying the troops, you'll be able to work together to address shortcomings.

3. Make Time for Team Building

Cohesive teams work better together, so it's important to give your employees a chance to socialize when it isn't detrimental to their productivity. To accomplish this, try to set a time for a recurring monthly team building event.

Here are a few affordable team-building ideas:

  • Head to your local warehouse store and buy a variety of beverages and snacks - then host a Friday happy hour
  • Set up a post-meeting sundae bar. Pick up a variety of ice cream flavors and a variety of toppings
  • Schedule a visit from a local food truck and give your employees an hour to step out over lunch and mingle
  • Coordinate themed potlucks and ask employees to bring their favorite dish to share
  • Set up an employee picnic at a local park and invite staff members to bring their dogs, spouses, and kids

All upper-level staff members should make it a priority to attend team building events to get to know employees. Ask about their hobbies, talk about where you grew up, and establish common ground. Employees who trust their leaders and are comfortable coming to talk to them will find praise much more impactful and will be more receptive to coaching.

If possible, also make sure your lunch and break areas are inviting. Spaces that encourage people to sit down and chat will help staff members from different departments connect and get to know each other.

4. Give Your Team Credit

In a workplace, leaders with a 'winner take all' attitude will struggle to build a cohesive team. In contrast, leaders who focus on team camaraderie will be successful.

Simon Sinek is a well-respected author and speaker who regularly speaks on the importance of team mentality leadership. In his book, Leaders Eat Last, Sinek says;

"A supportive and well-managed work environment is good for one’s health. Those who feel they have more control, who feel empowered to make decisions instead of waiting for approval, suffer less stress. Those only doing as they are told, always forced to follow the rules, are the ones who suffer the most.

Our feelings of control, stress, and our ability to perform at our best are all directly tied to how safe we feel in our organizations. Feeling unsafe around those we expect to feel safe —those in our {work} tribes —fundamentally violates the laws of nature and how we were designed to live.”

Be a leader who earns the trust of your workers. If your staff hustles to meet a deadline, wraps a big project, lands a huge account, or exceeds a company goal- acknowledge and celebrate every department's contribution. Also be sure to publicly thank individuals who went above and beyond - whether it be developers pulling all-nighters to prep for a launch or marketers putting in overtime to meet an aggressive deadline.

5. Offer Cheap or Free Perks

Tokens of appreciation are also a great way to show gratitude, and they don't all cost money.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Offer a coveted parking spot to your employee of the month
  • Ask nearby cafes if they'll honor a discount for your staff
  • Give paid time off after a huge project wraps
  • Randomly surprise employees with doughnuts or bagels
  • Keep a calendar and celebrate monthly birthdays with treats

Give a few of these ideas a try in the coming weeks and focus on habitually incorporating employee praise into your management style. Your staff will be grateful for the recognition, and your bottom line will reap the rewards.