A Guide to Employee Recognition in the Workplace

A Guide to Employee Recognition in the Workplace

What is Employee Recognition?

Employee Recognition is the acknowledgement of an employee’s outstanding performance. It could be for discretionary effort or a particular behaviour like living the company values.

We need to distinguish this from rewards. Recognition is intangible, non-monetary, emotional and experienced. In contrast, rewards are tangible, monetary, and often consumed.

As an example, Recognition would be the company CEO congratulating and thanking an employee at a company meeting for their performance, while a reward would be giving that employee a voucher to an online store.

Why is Employee Recognition Important?

Recognition as a Need

A common theme in employee engagement is the need for belonging. Employees need to feel that they are an essential part of an organisation. Being held in high esteem by their colleagues is a considerable part of this for employees.

Recognition is a potent signal to employees that they are appreciated and part of a workplace. 

Recognition as Reinforcement

Recognition is a way for management to guide employee behaviour by reinforcing desired behaviours. For instance, discretionary effort is the desired behaviour and should be recognised by leaders.

Another example would be living one of the company values. Recognising such behaviours will reinforce that value and build a more robust company culture.

Benefits of Recognising Employees

Drives Employee Engagement

We noted above that recognition is a need and a key driver of employee engagement. Improving will lead to higher engagement, which has many benefits, including better employee retention, productivity and customer service.

Builds Employee Relationships

Receiving genuine recognition from a manager or co-worker can improve the working relationship and build trust. This leads to better communication and collaboration amongst employees.

Strengthens Company Values

Using recognition to reinforce behaviours aligned with company values is a great way to drive company culture. A more robust company culture leads to a greater sense of belonging and employer brand.

How to Recognise Employees

The younger and faster-moving workforce of millennials prefers to be recognised on-the-spot as opposed to during yearly reviews. Encourage your leaders to be more responsive with their recognition.

Besides timely recognition, what behaviours should we be recognising? 

Good Performance

If your people perform well, you need to let them know. Period. This is an easy place to start with employee recognition and is a vital part of performance management.

Company Values

By now, we all understand the value of recognising behaviour aligned with company values. The keyword here is behaviour. Most company values are still phrased as traits like integrity or innovation. It’s essential to define the behaviours associated with your values and then to be specific about what behaviours your people are demonstrating when you recognise them.

For example, don’t just recognise Sarah for innovation. Let Sarah know that her development of a new algorithm that cut data processing time by 50% was innovative.

Discretionary Effort

When someone on your team goes beyond their job description or regular hours to perform work, they expect a thank you. One-to-one recognition or public praise are ideal here.

Teamwork and Collaboration

In the information age, most employees are knowledge workers with different skill sets. This makes teamwork and collaboration critical to any organisation. Recognising and driving this behaviour can only be beneficial.

Learning and Development

The benefit here is twofold: Firstly, organisations benefit from institutional knowledge developed by employees; secondly, professional development is a crucial driver for employee engagement. Learning and development are win-win for the employer and the employee. If employees are proactive and show a willingness here, it makes sense to recognise it.

Types of Employee Recognition

The direction of recognition impacts how it is received and perceived by employees. You’ll be able to drive a recognition culture more effectively if it comes from seniors, managers and peers.

Senior Leaders’ Recognition

Senior leaders like those in the C-Suite make a significant impact when they recognise the efforts of staff. They are ideally placed to kick start a recognition program and drive company values.

Manager Recognition

When it comes to employee experience, the manager-employee relationship has a massive impact. Encouraging and training managers to recognise their team members will strengthen this relationship and improve team engagement levels.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Peers see the things that managers and senior leaders don’t. This will ensure a well-rounded sense of belonging for employees while allowing them to build friendships at work.

This can become self-perpetuating, leading to a more robust company culture and higher engagement over time.

Employee Recognition Software

Recognition programs can be enhanced with modern software. The key benefits that these systems bring are:

  • Easy recognition all in one place.
  • It’s easier to praise employees publicly.
  • Recognition can be tied to company values through badges or awards.
  • Recognition programs can be administered by pulling analytics reports.
  • The trends in recognition can be easily understood using reports and analytics.


Kudos is a great platform focused purely on Recognition with analytics and rewards.

Roslin Engagement

A bit of a self-plug, but Roslin has some great features for Employee Recognition. You can see more on our Employee Engagement Software page.

Don't miss these great articles