Workhuman Editorial Team
5 min read
Employee recognition is the process of acknowledging and rewarding those who complete exceptional work. Confidence-building and positive, this process can make employees feel good about themselves and their roles within the organization.
For example, did you know that employees who receive fulfilling, individualized, and authentic recognition at work are five times more likely to feel connected to their work culture, four times as likely to be engaged, and 56% less likely to be looking for job opportunities?
Learning more about the types of employee recognition and exploring some examples can help your company reap the benefits of the recognition process.
Explore these seven types of recognition that can help employees grow and thrive:
Public recognition involves praising an employee's work in a venue that other people can view. This can include recognition given at in-person events, like meetings or conferences, or written recognition from emails, social media posts, or company updates.
In contrast to public recognition, private recognition involves acknowledging an employee's performance only to them. You can do this with a conversation, email, or even a handwritten note.
Often thoughtful and personalized, this recognition type can show an employee that you've thought carefully about them and their work.
Peer-to-peer employee recognition involves an employee's hard work receiving acknowledgment from a co-worker or peer rather than a manager. Whether private or public, this recognition can be meaningful, as it comes from someone who may work with the employee every day and know them very well.
While managers may not always be able to give peer-to-peer recognition, they can promote it by developing peer feedback systems or by promoting positive discussion at meetings or events.
Structured, or formal, recognition takes the form of preplanned emails, speeches, events, or other curated forms of recognition. This type of recognition often comes as part of a regular feedback process that requires the recognizer to complete many steps before giving their recognition.
For example, they may submit a piece of praise for approval or develop a quarterly event to honor high-achieving employees.
Milestone recognition allows a company to acknowledge employees who have completed extensive and significant service. For example, you could recognize an employee who has been with the company for 50 years or one who has closed over 100 sales.
This type of recognition can remind employees that you appreciate their dedication to their roles.
Team or project recognition honors an entire group of employees who have completed positive work. This could include a department that met its quotas for a quarter or a project team that completed its work ahead of schedule.
While individual recognition can show that you notice and value employees' unique talents, you can also use team recognition to show how valuable their contributions are to a greater whole.
You might wonder what types of employee behaviors you should recognize and what the benefits of employee recognition may be. Here are some examples of times that you may want to go out of your way to acknowledge employee work:
Did the employee do something great? Something you want them to keep doing? Then recognize it. Employee recognition is one of the purest and most powerful forms of positive feedback. It's also a great way to reinforce and encourage the actions you'd like to see happen again.
Example: “You are a consummate idea generator and a key reason why we're delivering exceptional content to market. Thank you for continuing to bring a pragmatic product sense to the team and generating thought-provoking content that leads to new business. I look forward to seeing more innovation from you in the future."
Recognizing behavior that is a clear embodiment of your organization's values shows the employee, and your whole team, what it means to practice the company's most important ideals. When you see behavior that closely aligns with those values, call it out.
Example: “This is a great example of patiently looking at a problem, troubleshooting, and finding the answer. I also appreciate the extra step you took by asking the vendor to add potential product uses to their documentation. You've embodied our company's values of imagination and innovation. Thank you!”
Discretionary effort is the process of doing more work than could be expected for an employee's role. This can include taking risks to champion a creative idea or working late to complete a project on a deadline.
When employees do tasks they don't have to do or take on responsibilities they don't have to take on, they almost always deserve recognition.
Example: “While you've done an outstanding job, I also appreciate that being the creator and editor of the newsletter is not part of your job description. Thank you for stepping out of your everyday roles and taking the time to brainstorm on the stories you wanted to tell and collaborating with me on fine-tuning the content.”
Think about recognizing the effort and attitude that goes into completing thankless tasks. This can include things like filling out reports that may not be exciting or newsworthy but can help make the company's work run smoothly.
It's incredibly motivating when, every once in a while, an employee realizes someone is noticing and grateful for their daily grind. Don't go overboard with this sort of recognition if the tasks are routine.
But an occasional acknowledgment of such contributions can go very far in building employee engagement and motivation.
Example: “When I ran into laptop connectivity issues after hooking up a new monitor, I reached out to you, and you responded within 10 minutes.
What made your response special is that it was Saturday morning on Labor Day weekend. You patiently talked me through some troubleshooting steps and I was able to get up and running."
Results usually deserve praise and appreciation. It's rare when you can draw a direct line from employee actions to business results. When you can do that, be sure you acknowledge the employee's unique efforts.
Example: “Thank you for delivering a high-quality, compelling, on-brand, and in-the-moment digital event. In less than six weeks, you expertly pivoted from the cancelation of our physical conference and leaped into bold new thinking that resulted in our livestream event.
You were fearless in the pursuit of our audacious goal of 10,000 registrants and charged furiously at it, obliterating the goal and achieving more than 15,000 attendees."
Here are some commonly asked questions to help you learn more about employee recognition:
The four types of reward systems include monetary rewards, nonmonetary rewards, employee assistance, and employee recognition. While monetary rewards provide financial compensation, like a bonus, nonmonetary rewards include perks like the ability to leave work early or a catered lunch.
There are several types of compensated recognition. For example, you can recognize employees' good work with monetary bonuses for strong performance.
You can offer this compensation to teams or individuals, publicly or privately. Often structured, compensated recognition usually involves monetary payment, but you can also compensate employees with nonmonetary rewards like vacations, time off, or prizes.
In many cases, public recognition is a great way to show how much you appreciate an employee. However, this can vary based on the situation, the employee's preferences, and the company's goals.
You can publicly recognize an employee while also privately conveying your appreciation to them. Structured recognition can help you develop a regular system of recognition, but unstructured recognition can also help you quickly note employees' good work as they complete it.
To help you develop structured recognition methods that show your appreciation, check out WorkHuman's collection of people-management applications and programs. With our help, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to give your employees the recognition they deserve.
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