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Small Gestures Matter: Employee Recognition


“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

Creating a successful organization starts with your employees. Employees can often be unwilling to produce their best results when they are unmotivated or under-appreciated. Employee recognition is the acknowledgment of an employees’ performance, and it helps employees feel like they are supported and appreciated. It is common for people to want insight into how they are doing, and employee recognition is a way of expressing that the employee is performing well. Employee recognition, no matter how big or little the gesture, can go a long way.

“When we complete something, we have a sense of pride, and how to trigger that pride is when someone else acknowledges you.”- Michael Levy on the WWP podcast #34

In this article, we outline the importance of employee recognition and some small gestures for managers to try.

1) Recognition increases employee engagement

Employee engagement and employee recognition go hand-in-hand in the workplace. A study done by Harvard Business Review stated that 72% of respondents ranked recognition as having a significant impact on employee engagement. The key to employee engagement is ensuring that your employees feel like a valuable contributor to the project, team, and organization. Their efforts need to be recognized to give them the confidence and encouragement to produce great work for the organization. Moreover, recognition will help employees understand the actions and behaviors they should keep repeating – this helps create high performers. In fact, 40% of employed Americans say if they felt better recognized they would put more energy into their work. Even a simple ‘thank you’ can motivate and engage employees.

2) Recognition increases employee retention

If your employees are feeling valued in the workplace, it can help instill a feeling of purpose and help with employee development, which can increase overall employee retention. In fact, employees who feel they’re progressing in their career are 20% more likely to be working at their companies in a years time; therefore, feedback for your employees is critical. Feedback allows for constant recognition for well-produced work, as well as suggestions to improve. While feedback is a simple form of employee recognition, it is also important for development. In fact, 63% of employees who are recognized are very unlikely to look for a new job. You can learn more about how to give effective feedback in our previous article. While small gestures such as feedback and saying ‘thank you’ can help drive retention, big gestures such as a promotion heavily influence employee retention rates. For example, employees that are promoted after three years in a position have a 70% possibility of staying with your company.

3) Recognition improves corporate culture

If your organization does a good job at recognizing the success and hard work of your employees, chances are you have a recognition culture. This type of culture consists of constant support and frequent recognition being spread throughout the workplace. Unfortunately, a recent Deloitte’s survey revealed that 52% of employees aren’t happy with the alignment of the rewards strategy with organizational goals. This can leave employees feeling confused about what is being expected of them and unconnected to the team – these will negatively impact your company culture.

To create a great recognition culture, start at the top. As a manager, ensure that the recognition you are giving is action-based and specific to either a task that the employee is working on or a task that has been completed. Having the recognition done in real-time helps make the content relevant, in addition to helping employees learn what they should repeat for future projects. Leaders should also revisit their rewards programs. Small gestures such as saying ‘thank you’ as well as incentives can drive high performing company culture.

“We need to take employee recognition more seriously as a strategic way to develop cultures where people want to give their best, where people are proud, and where the performance outcomes are substantial.” – Michael Levy on the WWP podcast #34

Cost-effective ideas on employee recognition

Not all employee recognition has to be about a big raise or promotion; rather, it can be as simple as saying thank you to someone who has produced a great project. 76% of people save handwritten thank you notes from their employers. Some ideas include a thoughtful customizable gift that can make them feel just as appreciated as a gift with a heavy price tag. Another idea that is always popular is the gift of food. A box of donuts for example can make the whole team feel recognized and appreciated. If you’re an organization that has ‘swag’ products with your company logo, gifting it to your employee is also a small gesture to make them feel like a valuable part of the team. Lastly, ensure that you are celebrating noteworthy events, such as a wrap-up party on a large project or the tenth working anniversary of an employee. This helps your employees feel like their hard work is being valued.

How is your organization recognizing the hard work of the employee? – Let us know!

To learn more about the importance of employee recognition, check out our podcast Working with People with special guest Michael Levy!

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