Top tips for getting employee recognition right!

seal of approvalPraise and recognition are essential to creating an outstanding workplace. Employees want to be respected and valued for their contribution. Employee recognition is a very important aspect – executed correctly you can ensure a positive, productive and innovative organisational climate.  Get it wrong however and employee recognition can go awry, potentially leading to a drop in motivation and productivity.


Here’s how NOT to do it!

Here are a few examples of how employers can get it wrong, highlighting what not to do when attempting to foster a culture of appreciation in the workplace.

Bad timing – More often than not companies recognise loyalty, and present employees with long-service awards. It is important that these are presented at the right time. It is not sending the right message to those loyal, hard-working employees if they receive their career achievement awards months or years after their work anniversary.

Not knowing your audience – It is not sending the right message when an employee who hates coffee is rewarded with a gift card for the local coffee shop, or a remote worker is rewarded with a gift card for a store that doesn’t exist in his/her local area. The message being sent to your employees in this instance isn’t “I really appreciate your work”, it’s “I don’t have the time to get to know you”, which is not the kind of positive recognition you want to convey!

A formality not sincerity – No-one wants to receive an obligatory recognition gesture, employees want to feel genuinely appreciated and valued. If employee recognition becomes an onerous formality, as opposed to a heart-felt way of thanking staff, then the effort, attitude and commitment of employees will very quickly be diminished.

So how can you get it right? What should you be doing if you want to recognise employees within your organisation? Well, you need to give it careful thought to ensure you avoid the potential problems and pitfalls.


Top Tips for getting it right!

  • Recognition must be timely – don’t leave it too long to acknowledge and reward staff for doing an exemplary piece of work, or for making a cost-saving suggestion, and ensure anniversary and long-service rewards are presented on-time.
  • handshakeRecognition must be appropriate – you should recognise staff based on specific results, targets and behaviour and express how the employee’s work impacted the goals and values of the organisation. After all, you want to be encouraging the right actions and behaviour to be repeated, so you should reward staff for doing the right thing!
  • Recognition should be specific – you should be as specific as you can in telling the individual exactly why he/she is receiving the recognition. The work purpose of feedback is to reinforce what you’d like to see the employee do more of; the purpose of employee recognition is the same. In fact, employee recognition is one of the most powerful forms of feedback that you can provide to your employees.
  • Recognition must be frequent but maintain its’ value – you should aim to offer recognition that is consistently fair, regular and accessible to all staff; there should be no exclusions. Employees will then know that rewards are achievable, and that the organisation is taking a genuine interest in the employee recognition scheme. But make sure the approach and content of the recognition scheme are unpredictable, that way your employee recognition efforts do not become expectations or entitlements.
  • Appreciation should be sincere – make sure that whatever the form of recognition – be it rewards delivered through an online system, or individual achievement awards presented to employees – that they are presented and delivered sincerely. The success of effective recognition is for your staff to feel appreciated and valued by both their managers and peers so any recognition must be delivered personally and sincerely.


Employee recognition should be tailored and carefully considered to ensure all employees can be recognised in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them. Get it right and employee recognition can ignite engagement, accelerate performance and build strong workplace cultures.

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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