Employee recognition: It’s not the thought that counts

thoughtful appreciation“It’s the thought that counts”. It’s a common saying and when it comes to employee recognition it’s a good start but shouldn’t recognition be thoughtFUL instead?

I ask this because I recently came across an example of recognition where a person received their 10 year service gift in the post at home and accompanying the gift was a blank ‘with compliments’ slip.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the person receiving the gift in plain brown packaging didn’t really feel appreciated. It wasn’t the gift that was the problem; it was that the company they work for did a really bad job of recognising them. Even if all you get for your long service award is a plaque and a pin, how it is presented matters. And that’s because the way it is presented communicates to the recipient the amount the company and their own manager values and appreciates them.


How you deliver employee recognition matters

For recognition to be effective at delivering benefits such as improved staff morale, boosting productivity and increasing employee engagement it needs to be delivered effectively. Unfortunately this is something most formal recognition programmes fail to consider and perhaps also a reason why some recognition programmes don’t deliver the benefits they promised.

When planning a recognition programme a lot of thought goes into the recognition criteria and the rewards but they often fall down on the delivery. Perhaps this is because many organisations use online platforms in isolation to allow employees to choose their reward and as a result are dispatched without a thought to how receipt of the gift might affect the recipient.

Make employee recognition work
Employees are great at recognising an insincere gesture, which is why your recognition scheme needs to ensure that appreciation is conveyed effectively.


Here are five best practices for effectively delivering employee recognition:

  1. Deliver it in person – The reward or gift is meant to enhance the recognition, not replace it. You are recognising your employees’ contribution, effort and time with the company and that deserves a personal touch.
  2. Be specific – Tell the employee why they are receiving the gift and the impact their behaviour or time with the company has had.
  3. Deliver it appropriately – Recognition can be delivered either in a one-on-one setting or in public, such as a special event of staff meeting. Make sure it’s appropriate both to the occasion and in line with how the individual wants to be recognised – some people like public recognition, others do not.
  4. Put it in writing – even if you deliver your recognition verbally always include a highly personalised note to say thank you.
  5. Use the right person – Consider the best person to deliver the recognition. Would receiving praise from someone else in the organisation make it more meaningful and give it more impact?


We keep unloved Christmas presents because of the sentimental value and the connection we have with the person who gave us that gift, and rewards are just the same. It’s about creating a connection between the organisation and the people who work for it. When it comes to recognition, whilst the reward is important, how you deliver it will make more of an impact because of the connection you establish. Make your recognition thoughtful and you’ll soon find that the better job you do of recognising your employees the better they will perform.

John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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