The Power of Recognition: Celebrating Self and Others

April 7, 2020

What does recognition at work look like to you? Is it a pay raise, more responsibilities, or simply a vote of confidence from your manager?

Celebrating achievement in the workplace can take many forms, and it can go a long way to making employees feel appreciated and motivated. But how can organizations move away from empty gestures and toward a culture of recognition?

How to Create a Culture of Recognition
It can be easy to get caught in a cycle of tired, traditional rewards and recognition programs. Instead, here are three approaches to help you break the mold and create a lasting culture of appreciation!

  1. Recognition Goes Up, Down and Sideways
    Employee recognition may traditionally come from the top, but that doesn’t mean it needs to remain there. In order to grow a culture of appreciation, leaders need to model and encourage positive behaviors at every level.

An “employee of the month” or “team of the year” program may have value. But what about all those other employees and teams doing outstanding work that may go unnoticed?

Instead, you could schedule time during regular meetings for employees to thank their colleagues. Or perhaps install a bulletin board – be it physical or virtual – where employees can celebrate their co-workers’ successes.

By encouraging rewards and recognition throughout the organization you create and reinforce a culture of appreciation. And though the goal should be to get everyone involved, it starts with examples, expectations and resources from the organization’s leaders.

  1. Get Creative
    The trophy. The certificate of appreciation. The gift card. While these more traditional forms of recognition still hold value, alone they can feel like hollow gestures rather than true appreciation. Organizations that make recognition an everyday practice need to find creative ways to say “thank you” and “job well done.”

Perhaps you could bring in sweet treats on Friday afternoons to celebrate the end to a successful week, or hold regular company barbecues where the managers dish out hamburgers, potato salad, and extra portions of gratitude to employees going through the serving line.

Creative recognition programs that go beyond the expected not only recognize employees, but they also create a buzz and help tell the story that this is an organization where appreciation is a priority.

  1. One Size Does Not Fit All
    Every employee is different. And when it comes to recognizing workplace achievements, what suits one person may not suit another. For example, a former co-worker of mine was scheduled to be recognized for her years of service and outstanding work at a company-wide event. But on the day of the celebration, she called in sick.

Afterward, I learned that she suffered significant anxiety for days leading up to the celebration. Not everyone wants to be in the spotlight. In fact, many people who go above and beyond do so not for a pat on the back, but simply because they enjoy it.

We later celebrated in a manner she felt more comfortable with: an informal lunch with her immediate team. As I came to know this employee more closely, and many others like her, I learned that these smaller, personal recognitions made them feel more valued and comfortable.

Make Recognition a Priority
The challenge for organizations is to keep recognition approaches relevant, meaningful and valuable. By establishing recognition as a core organizational value, employees learn that they are appreciated every day, not just on occasion. Better yet, they are invited to be part of a culture of recognition.

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