What is workforce recognition?
Workforce recognition is about acknowledging employees for their contributions, traits and ideas. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. If employees don’t feel like they are recognized or valued, you risk having a work environment where people are only showing up for a paycheck, leading to low morale and a lack of motivation or growth. Working in an environment with encouragement, positive affirmations and shout-outs is a massive motivator for an individual to keep growing and innovating.
Workforce recognition comes in different shapes and sizes.
Types of workforce recognition
- Top-down: recognition from a manager or supervisor
- Peer-to-peer: recognition among team members
- Bottom-up: recognition of a manager or supervisor
Workforce recognition refers to all the ways an organization makes employees feel appreciated for their efforts and contributions. It’s about making all members of a team feel seen and heard and showing them that they’re valued as human beings. Staff recognition is increasingly viewed as a company standard for many employers.
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How to practice workforce recognition
Workforce recognition is a key way to boost employee morale, so it’s a good idea to assess how you can put it into practice at your organization.
There are four things that can be helpful to keep in mind for effective workforce recognition, and you can remember them with a handy acronym: MUST.
Workforce recognition should be:
- Meaningful: Make it clear why the team member’s contribution or achievement was so special.
- Unified: Everyone should have equal opportunity to give and receive recognition.
- Shone through a spotlight: Amplify the milestones or accomplishments of a team member so they know how appreciated they are.
- Timely: Don’t wait to spread the appreciation!
A direct compliment or thank-you note can make someone’s day, but it can also be nice to recognize a team member in front of the group, also called social recognition. This highlights great work on a grander scale and gives colleagues the opportunity to recognize their peers as well.
Workforce recognition can be formal or informal. Formal recognition is held at regular intervals and is carried out in a more official capacity. Examples include monthly awards to highlight a standout staffer, or quarterly or annual performance reviews that offer a one-on-one avenue for managers to recognize an employee’s great work.
Informal recognition happens on a more casual and often more short-term scale, like a verbal compliment or a thank-you email for a job well done. This kind of praise makes team members feel validated in their ideas or hard work and shows them that they’re working in an environment that values them. (Think of how a compliment from a stranger might give you an extra pep in your step.) A shout-out or celebration could make someone’s day and make them feel even more confident being creative or innovative in the future, as well as demonstrate to them that they are appreciated for who they are. It’s also important for recognition to be genuine and to be coming from a place of true gratitude and appreciation.
Why workforce recognition matters
Workforce recognition creates an environment where team members feel engaged in their work, appreciated for who they are, and valued for their contributions. This is the type of positive company culture that many people in the workforce strive to be a part of.
A company with a strong sense of workforce recognition is likely to experience higher employee retention and less employee turnover, which pays dividends for the profitability and productivity of a company. Employee retention is an organization’s ability to keep people on board and to prevent the departure of employees, either voluntarily or involuntarily. A high rate of turnover is costly for a company – think of all the time and costs associated with recruiting, hiring and onboarding. It’s a much better use of time and resources to nurture the talent you already have.In addition to strengthening retention, workforce recognition contributes to a positive company culture. Company culture describes the nature of the values, goals and practices of an organization – essentially the personality of a company. Whether or not a company prioritizes recognition, and how they go about executing it, can be a major indicator of what a company’s culture is like, so expressing appreciation for team members and celebrating them and their contributions is a key way to build a positive company culture.
Ideas for workforce recognition
You can see how workforce recognition would be a crucial ingredient for a thriving workplace filled with happy and motivated employees, so now you might be wondering where to start. There are many effective ways to recognize team members for a job well done. Here are some that could be helpful for your organization.
Say thank you
Giving thanks is important year-round, not just on a Thursday in November! Recognize an employee’s awesome accomplishment, an innovative idea or their willingness to go the extra mile by expressing good old-fashioned gratitude. You can do this with a verbal remark, a handwritten or emailed thank-you note, or a unique and customizable e-card. Everyone loves to feel appreciated and like their hard work, creativity or perseverance paid off. Expressing gratitude is a great way to recognize and congratulate them for their contributions.
Make use of social media
An organization’s social media pages are a useful platform for highlighting the great work of its employees. Make sure it’s okay with them first, but many people might be excited to see their accomplishments given a shout-out on LinkedIn or Instagram.
Most organizations have an “About” section on their website. If it’s possible at your company and everyone is comfortable with it, feature employees on this page and have them highlight some of their favorite things. (Bonus points if it’s related to the mission of the company, i.e. a meal prep company that has employees list their favorite dishes to cook.) This not only helps customers feel connected to the company and the people working there, but it helps employees feel recognized and appreciated for who they are.
Another way to accomplish this is to feature employees in a company newsletter, maybe on regular intervals (weekly, monthly, etc.) Ask them about their favorite hobbies, foods and movies. People love to share things that they enjoy, and this also helps team members get to know each other on a more personal level.
Create a public shout-out board
Making a public employee shout-out board that everyone on the team can contribute to takes shout-outs to the next level, creating a public space for recognition and gratitude. Did someone make your day a little easier? Did you notice how hard they worked on a recent project? Did they have a great idea that took things to the next level? Instances like this are all perfect fodder for an employee shout-out board.
Encourage positive affirmations
It’s great to get a shout-out from a manager or colleague, but fortunately, we don’t have to wait on others for a boost of confidence. Positive affirmations give us a dose of inspiration and remind us that we’re capable and creative, so they are a great thing to incorporate into the workplace to help employees feel recognized and appreciated for not only what they produce and contribute, but for who they are as people. Here are some ideas.
Examples of positive affirmations
- I have good ideas and I’m excited to share them.
- I’m going to do a great job at this presentation.
- I add something valuable to every group I’m a part of.
- My team and I nailed this project.
Encourage employees to write their own positive affirmations to boost their confidence and improve their work experience. They can be written on notecards of post-it notes, saved on a computer desktop, or kept anywhere they are visible or within reach.
Develop a mentorship program
Feeling like someone believes in you goes a long way, and having a mentor adds an extra avenue for recognition and appreciation. Great mentorship in traditional, hybrid and remote work environments can increase employee retention and provide employees with more resources to grow and do their jobs well. Mentorship fosters inclusion and creates connections.
The benefits of an effective mentorship program are two-fold: mentees receive extra guidance and support during their journey at the company, and mentors feel fulfilled by their ability to help others and contribute to the company in a new way. Most of us feel a lot of joy and fulfillment through helping others. Psychological research has shown that our wellbeing gets a boost from volunteering, and many find purpose and meaning in being altruistic. In short, helping others makes all of us happier. We all have something to teach others, and when someone is asked to be a mentor, they might feel honored and appreciated for their skills and contributions.
Workforce recognition for remote teams
Remote or hybrid workplaces have become more commonplace over the last several years. The COVID-19 pandemic sent many employees out of the office, and for many companies, this arrangement is here to stay. Many people are seeking more flexibility in their work lives, and a remote work set-up can help accomplish this. It also helps companies find and retain talent from all different backgrounds and geographic areas. Some even find that working in a job with an effective hybrid work policy makes them more productive and efficient. (Think of how much time you might save in your work day with no commute.)
But that doesn’t mean that recognition isn’t still important. In fact, workforce appreciation, effective communication, and cultivating a strong sense of belonging may be even more crucial in a remote or hybrid work environment because it helps work-from-home employees feel connected to the company and to know that they are part of a team. Fortunately, there are many ways that workforce recognition can be a part of the company even with a high rate of remote work.
This is where virtual tools like Kudoboard are key. With most or all of a workforce doing their jobs from home, it’s not feasible to pass a card around the office for everyone to sign, and bringing everyone in for an in-office party might not be possible if workers are spread out geographically or have varying schedules. It can also be difficult to affirm the hard work of a teammate when you can’t just pop over to their desk and say great job. Group e-cards make it easy and fun to give shout-outs, celebrate team members’ milestones and accomplishments, and express appreciation. You can add gifs, photos and personalized messages to make them extra memorable and unique.
There are several occasions where an e-card is the perfect way to express recognition and brighten an employee’s day, like birthdays, work anniversaries, and welcomes and farewells. Recognizing all employees and showing that they matter to the organization even when everyone isn’t working under the same roof cultivates a strong sense of teamwork and a positive company culture.
Maybe there isn’t a cake in the break room (because, uh, no one’s in the office to visit the break room), but there are still ways to sweeten special days for employees. Recognizing birthdays and taking the opportunity to celebrate someone is a great way to make them feel appreciated. You can do this with a remote office party, complete with fun videos, a unique e-card, and virtual activities like a digital scavenger hunt or happy hour.
Making the effort to celebrate employee birthdays shows them that you care and that they’re being recognized for who they are. It cultivates a sense of belonging among employees that might not see each other in person on a daily basis, boosting morale and emphasizing that you’re all part of a team.
People aren’t robots, and the best companies recognize the well-rounded nature and the wide range of needs of each individual that’s a part of it. Prioritizing remote team wellness, encouraging healthy behavior and recognizing workers’ needs has a ton of benefits, including higher retention, more productivity and improved mental health.
This is even more important to recognize in a remote environment, where employees might feel isolated and struggle with taking care of themselves in a positive way. (One challenge of remote work is less divide between “work life” and “home life,” which makes sense when you’re taking meetings and completing tasks in the same place where you eat, sleep and relax!)
Implementing stress-reduction tools, expressing gratitude, or having a wellness officer are all methods for helping remote employees feel taken care of and recognized as human beings, not just productivity machines.
Having a platform for employees and managers to regularly express gratitude and appreciation (as well as suggestions and areas for improvement) is a great avenue for effective workforce recognition. It’s important to have regular check-ins with remote employees so it’s possible to bring up what they’re doing well or the impact they’ve made on their team or the company. Feedback is a two-way street. In addition to being a method for managers to express appreciation, regular meetings, performance reviews and surveys help employees feel heard and like their voice matters. The ability to submit feedback (whether directly to a manager in a one-on-one meeting, or via an anonymous survey) gives workers the opportunity to express how they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing. Maybe they really appreciate a supervisor’s communication style and want to express this. Seeking feedback from employees (and genuinely taking into account what they say) shows workers that they are seen and heard, even when working remotely.
Frequently asked questions about workforce recognition
Workforce recognition involves acknowledgment of employees so they feel appreciated for their contributions and who they are as people. It comes in many shapes and sizes and refers to all the ways an organization makes employees feel appreciated for their hard work and what they add to an organization. Staff recognition is seen as a company standard for many organizations.
Workforce recognition helps employees feel valued, engaged, inspired and appreciated. It encourages them to grow, innovate and share new ideas. When employees feel appreciated, they are likely to feel a connection to the company and to know that it’s a place where they can be happy for a long time.
There are tons of ways to recognize employees for a job well done, but it should always be genuine and from the heart. You can express gratitude with a personal thank-you note, show investment in their success with a mentorship program, or highlight their wins with a shout-out.
There are also many different ways to recognize remote employees, such as virtual celebrations or e-cards.
Anytime you want to give someone a boost! We all want to be appreciated for what we contribute, and who doesn’t love hearing what a great job they’re doing? But times for recognition that are especially opportune are when an employee goes above and beyond, when they’re experiencing a life or work milestone, or when they overcome a challenge or solve a problem.