An employee giving a thumbs up

How to Create a Culture of Recognition in the Workplace


Your workplace culture says a lot about your business. A recent study found that 85% of employees are not engaged, or worse, are actively disengaged at work. Do your employees feel valued? 

People are vital to your organisation. You need to make sure that you recognise them and their achievements. 

In truth, simply acknowledging an employee’s hard work has a lot of impact — it can increase employee engagement, retention and productivity. For example, 69% of employees felt that if their efforts were better appreciated, they would work harder.

Creating a workplace culture that seamlessly integrates the value of recognising employees’ hard work is how you can ensure your working environment remains positive and productive. But how do you get that done? This article can help you get started. 

 

Step 1: Make acknowledgement a habit

Acknowledgement is the key to employee engagement. It may seem blindingly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many otherwise successful businesses and their leaders don’t make the effort to help their team members feel acknowledged. If you want to attract and retain top talent, your first port of call should be creating a culture of recognition in your workplace. 

After all, employees aren’t motivated solely by their remuneration package. They want to feel like their hard work is acknowledged and their successes are recognised. Even a simple “thank you” can be worth its weight in gold for a team member soldiering through a challenging day. 

If acknowledgement is to be meaningful for the recipient, however, specificity is the key. It needs to go beyond a generic “well done”. It should be doled out for specific achievements at carefully considered times. And acknowledgement should take measurable results into account and reward them accordingly. 

This is the kind of acknowledgement that gives employees pride in a job well done. And if their achievements can be shared with their peers or memorialised in some way, not only can this buoy their professional pride, it can also serve as a flag post for their ongoing professional development. 

Top tip for success: start from the top down

Acknowledgement can only be woven into the fabric of your operations if it starts at the top. When people in senior positions model these behaviours, the feeling of positivity and reciprocity trickles down throughout the organisation.   

If senior leaders don’t model a culture of acknowledgement, teams are likely to be slow to embrace any reward and recognition programme you implement. They will regard it as a token gesture or, even worse, an additional duty to be juggled alongside their existing responsibilities. 

Business leaders and senior executives need to embody the kind of workplace culture they want. Of course, true acknowledgement isn’t just handed down from employer to employee. It also needs to be delivered from peer to peer too, and celebrated publicly within your organisation. 

In order to make that a reality for your workplace, you’ll need to move on to step 2. 

 

Step 2: Develop a strategy that works for your business

Implementing a new form of recognition programme is just like implementing any kind of change in your business. You risk it being met with resistance if you don’t take the time to think about how you’re going to make it work for you. How will you fold it into your existing operations? Think about how you will make its implementation feel like an organic extension of your existing practices and not a tedious add-on.

You need to think about your particular business and the individual employees within it. What kind of people make up your workforce? Are they young and aspirational digital natives? If so, an old-fashioned “employee of the month” programme might be a little ‘old hat’ for them. But leveraging social media to celebrate their achievements? That’s more likely to be accessible and meaningful to a younger crowd. It’s all about finding the best fit for your business operations and your workforce. 

When you have an employee recognition programme that works for you, you’ll find that it’s more readily embraced in the long term rather than grudgingly adopted for a few months then unceremoniously abandoned. 

These are often tied to specific targets which might be individual, team-based or departmental. These rewards can be effective as they can act as a gift from you to your employees to let them know that you care and that you value them. 

A lot of companies tie themselves up in knots coming up with inventive and ostentatious gifts. Just be wary of overdoing it. Often, employees just want to be acknowledged. Employees genuinely value recognition more than trinkets. This is also more cost-effective, providing a long-term solution to creating a culture of recognition in the workplace. Plus, rewards can’t really be distributed on a peer-to-peer basis. Which brings us to…

 

Step 3: Use tools that make communication easy  

Your employees are likely digital natives or at the very least they’re digitally savvy. With the right digital tools, you can ensure that your employee recognition programme becomes an indispensable part of employees’ day-to-day activities. 

Employees have been conditioned to assume that they shouldn’t be using social platforms at work, so it can be a fun and novel exercise to provide a social platform that’s exclusively for work. When done right, it can become a fundamental part of your employee rewards and recognition scheme. But it is critical that you pick a tool that fits the needs of your business.

Top tip for success: avoid creating a distraction 

Ultimately, there is a reason that social media is often kept out of the office — it can be a distraction. There are a host of social platforms that are specifically dedicated to recognising employee achievement and acknowledging and sharing their successes. Avoiding the pitfalls of standard social media is part of what has shaped these platforms. However, not every solution is created equal. 

For example, employee engagement tools that don’t have private chat features make sure that everything being shared on the platform is done for the intended reasons. This helps to ensure that employee acknowledgement is embraced throughout your company. In fact, the same tools can be used to help track employee progress and serve as evidence for performance management reviews, as well as neatly documenting every employee’s journey with you. 

 

Step 4: Get feedback to continuously improve

Of course, even if you manage to find the perfect employee rewards programme which you’re able to integrate seamlessly into your operations, there’s always room for improvement. Remember that any new initiative can only be successfully implemented when employees feel like they own it rather than having it forced upon them. 

With this in mind, you should always make sure you’re asking employees what they want. They should have a forum (either on your intranet or recognition platform or elsewhere) within which they can share honest and constructive feedback to help you improve your strategy and ensure that your programme resonates with the people for whom it’s intended.

Top tip for success: use your engagement platform to generate feedback

An employee engagement platform is really just a communication tool. Particularly if built around a software platform, use that tool to get the feedback you need to grow and improve your system. Send out questionnaires, ask for feedback and get everyone involved. 

Ultimately, if employees have a hand in shaping your programme as it grows and evolves, they’re more likely to adopt and embrace it in the long term. If they don’t feel like they’re playing an active role in shaping your recognition scheme, don’t be too surprised if their enthusiasm for it is short-lived.

 

Make a commitment to change and hold yourself accountable

As secure as you are in your strategy and vision, your employees will always be the defining factor in shaping your business and its workplace culture. Unless you implement a system that makes them feel acknowledged, valued and rewarded where necessary, you can never be sure that you’re at the head of a winning team. 

You need to ensure that all employees and employers are embodying the values and attitudes that will help you create a workplace culture that’s conducive to happy and motivated staff. Leverage the right tools, rewards and incentives and you can make your employee acknowledgement programme an integral part of your business. 

An employee being recognised for good work

An employee being recognised for good work