Your Action Plan to Maximize the Value of Employee Recognition

July 22, 2021 Aaron Kinne

two employees happyOver the course of the spring and summer, we’ve been sharing comprehensive action plans based on content presented during Workhuman® Live Online. To date, we’ve presented action plans for the following content tracks:

In today’s post, we’re going to dive into one of my passions: the value of employee recognition at work. Here are five key actions you can take based on this track, designed to help you bring the transformative value of employee recognition to your organization.

1. Use recognition to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Recognition can have a profound and far-reaching impact on your organization’s DE&I initiatives. “We feel that recognition is the ‘sender’ of developing a culture of inclusion, a culture of trust, a culture of employees feeling valued,” observed Celeste Warren, VP at the Global Diversity and Inclusion Center at Merck.

“When you recognize someone, you’re telling them that ‘I value you. What you bring to the organization is something that we benefit from – your skills, your competencies, your experiences, your authenticity. All of it.’”

2. Let recognition acknowledge the work of those often overlooked.

Recognition can shine a light on employees whose work is otherwise often hidden behind the scenes, “especially those individuals where, perhaps, their immediate manager doesn’t necessarily recognize them as much,” noted Celeste. That’s important, she added, “because in a day and time where people are working tirelessly in these roles … we need to be able to recognize them and let them know the company values their contribution. I value it, senior leaders value it, and your peers value it because you’re helping to create that culture of inclusion that everybody is after.”

3. Leverage recognition technology to mitigate unconscious bias – before it happens.

“In many ways, a lot of the architecture of equity work is contingent upon assessing things after they have happened,” observed Workhuman CHXO Steve Pemberton. “And that’s true whether we’re talking about unconscious bias, adverse impact, or glass ceilings.” He asked whether a recognition platform can help identify and mitigate the damage of unconscious bias – before it happens.

At Merck, the answer is a resounding “yes.” There, they are looking at people data, “not just for the lagging indicators, but leading indicators,” noted Celeste. “We look at the information, cut it, see if there are differences in gender, race, ethnicity, generational. And then where we see issues, we can pinpoint the area of the company where the issue is and try to apply interventions at that point.”

4. Tap recognition to lift employees during challenging times.

In her presentation, Fast Company editor Stephanie Mehta talked about the need for resiliency – or what she calls being “antifragile” – during challenging times like the period we’ve just been through. “We’re seeing examples of lots of companies that have used the adversity of the last 12 to 13 months not just to bounce back, but to turn that adversity into fuel that makes their business stronger. Resilient companies are offering a lot of different tools to help employees cope.”

"People are capable of extraordinary things, and they’re capable of great innovation. As leaders, how do you create a workplace where extraordinary innovativeness is the new norm?"

Steve Gross, founder and chief playmaker at Life is Good Playmakers, also highlighted how a recognition program can bring meaning, connection, and positivity to the workplace: “If people feel connected to the people they work with, then they thrive. And not just as fellow employees, but as fellow human beings. When we think about our work environments, when we have an environment where people come to work and there’s meaning, there’s a sense of positivity.”

A recognition program is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. If your company has a recognition program in place, now is the time to review and expand it. If not, there’s never been a better time to bring the value of employee recognition to your workplace.

5. Let recognition help you mitigate “The Mass Exodus”

“A Mass Exodus Is Coming,” blared the headline of a recent Forbes article. It cited research that found more than 40% of employees are thinking about leaving their current position in 2021. The article noted that it will be up to leaders to develop strategies for retaining the valued workers their organizations will need in the post-pandemic era.

So how do you keep your valued employees in this new world of work – a world in which employees have unprecedented options, opportunities, and leverage? An employee recognition program should be the centerpiece of your strategy. In a podcast with Brené Brown, Workhuman® CEO Eric Mosley observed that “when somebody receives more than five formal 'thank you’ moments in a year, their propensity to leave is cut in half, from about 15% to 7%.”

“When somebody receives more than five formal 'thank you’ moments in a year, their propensity to leave is cut in half, from about 15% to 7%.”

In the competition to attract and keep skilled workers in the face of “The Mass Exodus,” a culture with recognition as its centerpiece can be a game changer. Such a culture empowers and engages employees, making them feel like the work they do has purpose and meaning. It forges a workplace environment that fosters appreciation, empowers individuals, strengthens relationships, and shapes and fortifies a culture that will make your employees want to stay.

The news has been replete with stories about how workers in the new world of work will be looking more carefully at their career options. Tap into the power of employee recognition to help them decide that your organization is a place they want to stay. And grow.

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About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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