Appreciation is a fundamental human emotional need, in the work environment it is a necessary requirement – employees respond positively to appreciation expressed through recognition of their work because it confirms their work is valued. When employees and their contributions are valued, their satisfaction rises, which in turn tends to lead to increases in individual productivity. The satisfaction they experience can become a platform from which the employee can sustain or continue to improve their good work. defines employee recognition as follows:

“Communication between management and employees which rewards them for reaching specific goals or producing high quality results in the workplace. Recognizing or honoring employees for this level of service is meant to encourage repeat actions, through reinforcing the behavior you would like to see repeated.”

While the above quoted definition may seem like common sense in the context of an employer and employee relationship, the principle is really only effective when an employer understands the psychology of praising others for their good work and contributions and can then effectively apply these principles of employee recognition in the workplace. The trickle-down effect can be viewed from many avenues; employees will place more importance on their productivity, the recognition can foster increased employee and companywide morale, and the overall harmony recognition can create leads to a happier, more satisfied feeling in the workplace overall. When the team is “all on the same page”, the result can often be an unstoppable feeling of confidence, and confidence in the workplace will translate to a more positive perception of your company or business through all facets of the companies public presence; in other words, the feeling is infectious and it should be spread as far and wide as possible, both internally and publicly.

There are two basic cornerstones of employee recognition. The first step to effective employee recognition is to actually witness, identify or recognize an opportunity to praise an employee – it is absolutely crucial that an employer is observant and cognizant in order to see these opportunities as they occur. Knowing when there is an opportunity to deliver praise or recognition can easily be missed if you aren’t aware and observant – being receptive to this will ensure there are very few missed opportunities.


The bookend to the above is the logical end of recognizing an appropriate opportunity for employee recognition – the actual physical act of doing something to acknowledge and praise employees for their great work.

Employee recognition can pay dividends in many unforeseen ways. If the ideals and principles can be used in a positive and productive manner in the workplace they can also be applied to your business and personal relationships as well. The unforeseen component is that employee recognition is also an effective communication tool and exercise – praise and recognition sends a very powerful message to the recipient, this has an unseen impact by way of spreading through the company grapevine and any other communication channels.

Employee praise and recognition should be a simple matter of common sense, but unfortunately, it isn’t in many work environments. Just as employees need to be recognized and praised for their contributions, employers must be trained and coached in order to learn how to use recognition effectively. As difficult as it may be to believe, employee recognition is still a somewhat undervalued technique for managers that is not executed correctly or effectively.

A simple method of gauging effectiveness of recognition methods is to ask employees directly, for example; during performance reviews. Another method of finding out what works is to conduct surveys amongst staff. Gathering answers via a survey may yield more honest answers as well. A series of surveys conducted by the Sirota Consulting Firm yielded some eye opening results – only 51% of all the workers polled stated that they were satisfied with the type and amount of recognition they received (*the answers were determined after interviewing 2.5 million in over 237 organizations spread over a total of 89 countries over 10 years).

The benefits of an effective recognition program are a measurable increase in profitability – implementing a program can impact the bottom line in a very positive and meaningful way. This is largely due to some basic behavioral psychology – recognizing an individual’s efforts in a positive way will increase the occurrence of the desired or recognized behavior, which in turn increases overall productivity. In other words, to borrow and oft used phrase; everybody wins.

Indeed, the benefits are many:

– Better satisfaction amongst employees
– Satisfaction = increased focus and productivity
– Improved employee loyalty
– Low turnover and improved retention of valuable staff
– Less workplace accidents and incidents
– Presumably less absenteeism and stress related issues

The benefits of course can be measured directly against the actual cost of implementing a recognition program:

– Time and resources spent to design a program
– The actual time taken to recognize an employee
– The cost (in dollars) of the reward or recognition items given
– Time and resources required to train existing supervisory staff in recognition protocol

Remember, recognition may seem like a simple and arbitrary gesture, but it isn’t. Thinking of it as both a necessary and vital tool will ensure it is kept at the forefront of communication skills, and therefore exercised often and effectively. Always be aware that:

– Recognition will be more effective if you thank somebody by name
– Spontaneous praise is always appreciated
– Sincerity should not be faked, and when it is, it is easily detectible
– Praise can be both public and private depending on other factors
– Praise doesn’t always have to be verbal; written or electronic (i.e. – via email) is effective too

Recognition is a key success factor for all businesses regardless of how large or small the company or its workforce may be. It all starts with a simple thank you!
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