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Building a positive work environment with employee recognition

There's a resounding link between employee recognition and workplace culture. Employee recognition is how to acknowledge and praise the effort, time and creativity your people put into their work. A good manager should take notice whenever someone goes over and above.

But employee recognition is about more than praising your strongest performers. It's also about acknowledging people as individuals. When your people know that you value them, they're much more likely to take their jobs seriously.

It can be difficult to talk about recognition without bringing up reward. And sure, monetary and non-monetary rewards can sometimes be useful tools on your belt. But rewarding employees with money can often backfire in the long-term, especially if they compete with each other to earn them.

Don't underestimate the power of a simple "thank you" or a personalised compliment about their work. Assuming you're paying your people decent salaries, they'll value it more than a wad of cash anyway. But don't forget that employee recognition and workplace culture go much further than your own personal interactions. If you really want to build a positive work environment, then you need to enable peer recognition too.

We know that connecting employee recognition and workplace culture can do a lot of good. But how, exactly, and for who?

Employee benefits of workplace recognition

Recognition at work does a lot of good on the micro-level. At its most basic, it's positive reinforcement for your employees. You're literally encouraging the behaviour you want to see. Praising your people will make them happier in their roles. They'll also be more confident and able to take pride in their work. Recognition shows employees that their work has meaning and impact, which maintains engagement.

Recognition also plays a key role in an employee's professional development. It's much easier for them to someone for a promotion or the lead on a big project if they can cite occasions where they distinguished themselves.

And, in the case of peer recognition, it helps to build social connections between employees. It's all about enabling those positive interactions between your people.

How managers benefit with employee recognition

The employee / manager relationship is a complicated one. You're their most important individual connection. But, as their manager, you're also representing the entire company and its ethos. This is a double edged sword, because your behaviour reflects on the business, and vice-versa.

When you're trying to maintain this relationship, recognition is your most valuable tool. And some of Gallup's past research proves this. 28% of employees report that their most meaningful praise comes from their manager.

Giving recognition consistently builds trust with your employees. It shows you're actually paying attention, for one thing. And a formal system for it can improve your ability to manage performance. Our employee check-in is a prime example of this. That's because formal systems create an evidence trail. So there's no room for subjectivity or bias. And that's especially true for remote or flexi-workers.

Workplace culture benefits

Linking recognition and workplace culture improves employee quality of life. It even enables managers to lead more effectively. So, it only follows that recognising employee achievements works out pretty well for businesses too:

  • 80% of employees would work harder if they were more appreciated.
  • Well-implemented recognition programs can reduce voluntary turnover by as much as 31%.
  • Recognised employees are six times more likely to stay with their current employer than employees without recognition.
  • 92% of employees are "likely" to repeat a specific action if given recognition for it.
  • Over a third of employees rate recognition from a superior as the best way to improve their engagement.

How investing in employee recognition impacts your work culture

If you don't already have a formal policy, blending employee recognition and workplace culture can be a big step. But even though the changes can be massive, it's a step worth taking.

We've talked about how recognition can make people happier and increase trust in the workplace. But what are the knock on effects of that?

More social connection stimulates collaboration. Working with others isn't always the easiest thing, especially when they're from outside your regular team. But a good system for peer feedback helps to create a sense of rapport between employees. Building up these positive interactions helps turn colleagues into genuine work friends.

And the thing about peer recognition is that it has a snowball effect. Getting a mention makes you want to pay it forward and compliment someone yourself. So, ideally, you'll get to a point where people work together and praise independently. That makes it much easier for separate teams or departments to cooperate. This is essential for growth, especially for SMBs looking to become large international firms.

And, finally, recognition creates a more engaged and productive work culture. According to Deloitte, organisations with recognition policies have 14% higher engagement, performance and productivity than those without.

Ultimately, employee recognition and workplace culture are linked. If you don't recognise the contributions of your people, you'll create a work culture where nobody is willing to go above and beyond. It's about motivating people to succeed by showing them their value.