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20 ideas to increase work recognition

Retaining employees and creating a high-performance work environment requires more than just a high salary, benefits, or lunch catering.

Compensation is of the essence to attract the best candidates; however, it is not what will make them remain in the company. In most cases, they can obtain the same benefits with your competitor. You must instead mobilize employees - and this requires, among other things, trust, honesty, and employee recognition.

A worldwide study on over 200,000 employees carried out by the Boston Consulting Group reports that the most important part of their work is to feel appreciated:

Happiness on the job
Salary is 8th on the list. Even more surprising: the work itself ranks 9th out of the 26 factors considered in the study

83% of employees say that work recognition is more fulfilling than rewards or gifts.

Here are 20 creative ideas to improve your workplace recognition program.

1  Highlight a Good Achievement During a Team Meeting
During a team meeting, highlight an employee's achievement. Describe in detail and with sincerity why the employee stood out. The more specific you are, the more the recognition will be appreciated.

Before the meeting, ask other senior colleagues to provide names of employees who have stood out in the past week. You will then have a better overview of everyone's efforts (i.e., removing your bias as you may be more familiar with certain employees' work).

2  Recognition Through Small Actions
Show your employees that you are there for them. Take a few minutes to help an employee with a stressful project, connect them with the right people when they have a technology problem, or bring them their papers from the printer. These little things will show that you care about them.
3  The Manager-Employee Lunch
Every month, schedule a lunch with a different employee. Spend an hour together talking about topics that are meaningful to them, and that will help you get to know them better:

  • What is their passion? Find out what motivates them in their personal life and get to know them better.
  • What is their dream travel destination? What sports do they like?
  • Do they like the projects you give them?
  • Are there any team members with whom they prefer to work?
  • What are their career ambitions? How can you help them achieve their career goals?

It is best to go out to lunch to be away from the rest of the team. If this is not possible, meet in a quieter part of the cafeteria, during a less busy time.

This valuable time develops a personal bond between managers and employees. You demonstrate that the employee is an essential team member and is important to you. These bonds promote mutual support and performance.

4  Social Recognition
When an employee does an outstanding job, participates in a good cause, or does something meaningful in their personal life, give them a nod on your corporate social networks! Identify them in a post by indicating why you recognize them publicly. Take this opportunity to demonstrate recognition at work and show your customers what your corporate culture is all about.
5  Say "Hi" Every Day
Many managers forget the importance of simply greeting employees when they arrive. This gesture may be seen as trivial for some employees but very important for others. It also does not require you to have a conversation every morning and ask how the employee is feeling or what they did the day before. It is about showing your appreciation for their presence by saying a small, cheerful "Hi".
6  Have Them Participate in the Decision-Making Process
Invite employees to decide together which project they will work on next. It demonstrates your trust in their judgment and decisions and holds them accountable for the project's outcome. It also reflects the importance you give to their career development.
7  Positive vs. Constructive Feedback Ratio
Feedback is essential to help employees improve their skills. But should you give positive reinforcement or constructive criticism?

A study reported by HBR demonstrates the importance of increasing the ratio of positive to constructive feedback to boost team performance.

The highest-performing teams give five times more positive feedback than constructive or negative feedback. By comparison, the lowest-performing teams provide almost three constructive or negative reviews for every positive feedback.

Feedback ratio - positive vs constructive
The study results emphasize the importance of positivism on team performance. Positive feedback motivates employees to continue doing what they do well. They understand that this feature is valued; therefore, they are encouraged to develop it even more.

For example, when you receive two different proposals, say “I love proposal 2!” rather than “I don’t like the first idea as much, but I like the second.” This makes them want to be creative.

Keep in mind the two golden rules for offering recognition at work:

Be Specific

Avoid generic feedbacks, such as "Great job!" Clearly explain what the employee did, so they know what behavior to repeat in the future. For example: "I listened to the last customer service call, and you handled the customer's complaint very well. The options you offered the customer have little impact on the product's profitability, and the situation was resolved in less than 8 minutes." This is very positive feedback and indicates the behavior to be replicated.

The Right Time
Do not delay in providing feedback. You may forget details, and the employee's recognition may be less specific, thus less likely to reinforce the desired behavior. If you do not have time for a face-to-face discussion, send an appreciation email (clear and detailed). Offer your feedback as close to the time of the event as possible.

8  Offer Donuts During Busy Times
Find a sweet treat that shows your appreciation to your employees when they have to stay late one night to deliver a project on time. Treats cost next to nothing, but it is a great way to recognize a contribution.

Think donuts, coffee at the local diner, pizza, freshly squeezed juice...

9  The Trivia Quiz
To entertain the team, purchase a $10 gift card from Starbucks and raffle it off in a short quiz about the company or team.

For example, ask: "What year was ACME founded?" Or ask questions to bring back fond memories, such as: "Coming back from the 2017 Convention at the Convention Center, who from the finance department got on the wrong bus, fell asleep on it, and woke up at the Laval terminal instead of Chambly?" It's a great way to introduce new employees to the team and create new bonds between employees.

10  Handwrite a Birthday Card
Did you know that Snack Nation's CEO personally writes a birthday card to each of his 100+ employees? He highlights the employee's efforts and even adds a personal note about their latest accomplishments. It may seem like an old-fashioned form of appreciation, but it is genuinely appreciated!
11  Spontaneous Applause (The TypeForm Approach)
At Typeform, we spontaneously applaud an employee for a job well done. The whole office starts clapping at the same time. "The beauty is that most people have no idea why they're applauding, but the person receiving the applause does. It's a nice, momentary break for celebration" (Forbes), according to the company's marketing manager.
12  Leave a Sticky Note on Their Computer
On a stick note, write a thank you note to an employee before leaving the office and stick it on their computer. It will be a pleasant surprise when they arrive at the office the following day.
13  The Recognition Panel
At SnackNation, a tradition has been ongoing since its founding. Employees form a circle and take turns, indicating why they want to recognize a specific employee. It helps them work together more efficiently even though they are not working in the same department. Watch how they do it:
14  Peer Recognition
76% of employees find peer recognition very or extremely motivating. This free initiative creates an engaging work environment.

Encourage your employees to recognize a colleague's achievements when they help them or are impressed by the quality of their work. Too many people still believe that recognition in the workplace must come from the manager. Of course, it is essential, but colleagues are also crucial in employee recognition.

Consider, for example, introverted employees who do little work with their immediate manager. Their excellent work goes unnoticed, yet they are an essential asset to your company.

Hence, it is essential to recognize the contribution of colleagues through a peer recognition program to give the employees more visibility and more recognition for their contribution to the company.

Employee Recognition

Ideas for Encouraging Peer Recognition
Keep track of the number of monthly recognitions sent per employee, and hold a random draw (for example, a dinner out for two colleagues at the company's expense). 1 recognition offered = 1 entry.

15  Organize an Employee Recognition Day
In the summer, most companies schedule a day to do team activities and create bonds between employees. Why not dedicate this day to recognizing employees for their efforts?

Create a meaningful message of appreciation for this day and show employees that you are grateful. For example, the TD Insurance Company organizes "Employee Week." Each year, several activities are offered during the week to spend quality time with colleagues and build team spirit. Some activities last only an hour (indoor mini-pot or potluck), while others last an afternoon (escape room or bowling alley).

16  Send a Handwritten Note Home
Send a letter directly to your employee's residence with a handwritten "Thank You" note. Is there anything more personal than receiving a "Thank You" note from your manager, letting you know that they genuinely appreciate your work?
17  Raffle Tickets for Good Shots
When an employee stands out (either because you noticed them or a colleague nominated them), immediately offer them a raffle ticket for a quarterly draw. Raffle a dinner out, a movie gift card, or a pair of tickets to a comedy show among those who have accumulated raffle tickets.
18  Hackathon
On a Friday afternoon, allow employees to work on a unique project to optimize a process or design a plan for a new product. Give them the option of working in groups or individually and have them present their project the following Monday. This type of project is very motivating and will help increase future productivity. See an example of Google's success at number 10 of this list of ideas to motivate your employees.
19  Daily Public Victory
Immediately recognize a colleague's contribution when they complete a significant project or have distinctively helped another colleague. With Amélio, you can nominate an employee and share the recognition with your team or the company. If you do not currently own the app, create a distribution list for your team and send an impromptu email when an employee stands out. Do not wait a week before doing so; do it as soon as possible.
20  Surprise - Finishing Early!
If your job allows, surprise your team and send them home at 2 pm instead of 5 pm on a hot summer day. They will be more productive the next day when they return.
Tell us: what are the strategies you use to encourage recognition at work?
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