What’s the value of an employee recognition week?

appreciationI read recently about how one local public organisation in the USA is having a Public Employee Recognition Week.

During the week there will be time set-aside to recognise and reward the dedicated employees who make up the organisation’s workforce. The public sector agencies that make up the organisation all have special activities planned to show their appreciation to their employees for their contributions to public service and to recognise the achievements of employees in the workplace and in the communities.

This is great news for the employees and it should be applauded. But I don’t agree with it.

Why should the employees of public sector organisations, or any organisation for that matter, have to have a special Public Employee Recognition Week to receive recognition? Shouldn’t employers be pro-active, and be giving recognition to their employees as part of the day-to-day running of the business?


The power of positive recognition

[su_quote]“There are two things people want more than sex and money… recognition and praise.”[/su_quote]

This observation is by Mary Kay Ash, the successful founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, but it could have been made by many HR professionals who know this statement to be true. So why do some organisations treat employee recognition as an annual event?

High performing organisations understand the true value of offering praise that recognises, validates and values outstanding work by their employees. These businesses have cited various reasons for adopting continuous recognition programs, including:

  • reducing costs
  • attracting and retaining key employees
  • increasing employee productivity, both for individuals and teams
  • improving competitiveness, revenues and profitability
  • improving quality and customer service
  • reinforcing the business’ goals and behavioural values
  • lowering absenteeism, stress and employee turnover

In short, recognition and rewards get results. Simply hosting an annual recognition event on its own isn’t going to get you those results; recognition needs to be part of a manager’s day-to-day role.


Create a positive recognition culture

To really improve motivation and boost an organisation’s KPIs, recognition needs to be part of the organisation’s culture; it needs to be a part of their ‘why we do what we do’. Which means that senior leaders need to be ambassadors and promote the recognition scheme.

great job thanksManagers need to take a proactive, and committed approach, to recognising the performance of their staff on at least a weekly basis. This can be through informal mechanisms and general communication, such as a simple note saying, “Well done for….” Little things like this don’t take much time, or effort, but they can make a very significant contribution to motivation and performance. In fact a simple ‘Thank you’ from co-workers, line managers or others within the organisation is an integral part of a recognition scheme, and it should sit at the heart of any good practice.

Recognition, whatever form it takes, should be an ongoing and continuous process, that is part of an organisation’s modus operandi. Employee recognition weeks may have their place, but they should be used to kick start a new, or refreshed, ongoing recognition scheme, or to celebrate some of the highlights each year. They should definitely not be the only time of the year employees are recognised by their employer.

If a dog isn’t just for Christmas then recognition shouldn’t be restricted to one week of the year!


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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