What are the Best Practices of Employee Recognition?
October 22, 2019

With merit increase pools at an all-time low, most organizations are facing a key challenge in identifying other forms of employee recognition in order to motivate and retain today’s workforce. This challenge is a critical factor in organizational success, supported by the following research data outlining the benefits of employee recognition:

5 Best Practices for Employee Recognition Programs

*The Art and Science of Recognition: 5 Best Practices for Employee Recognition Programs, Elle Mason, Feb. 2019

  1. Increase morale and motivation – 40% of Americans say that they would put more effort into their work if they were recognized more often.
  2. Enhance productivity and lead to bottom – line improvement – When you increase morale, productivity, and performance, work quality also increases, ultimately affecting your bottom line.
  3. Help retain top performers – Companies that score highest for building a “recognition-rich culture” have 31% lower turnover rates than their peers. It’s important for individuals to know that their work has an impact. If they don’t feel appreciated, don’t expect them to continue putting in the same effort.
  4. Identify low performers before it’s too late – Once you have a recognition program in place, you’ll be able to quickly see who your low performers are and support them through targeted development.
  5. Drive engagement – Research shows that recognition increases employee engagement up to 60%. Motivation and productivity are just one piece of the engagement puzzle. Recognition also helps drive employee engagement by providing a sense of value and accomplishment.

How can organizations begin to develop an employee recognition program that goes beyond pizza parties and birthday celebrations?

Such events may have a feel-good impact, but little more. They may be intended to celebrate employees, but they lack the individualized recognition that is critical to employees, based on their levels of job performance. For a recognition program to be successful, it must align with key characteristics of recognition that include:

  • Timeliness – soon after the good performance
  • Frequency – as often as possible, based on specific performance
  • Specificity – not “great job”, but, rather, “the report you recently sent me was exceptional, especially your addition of historical trends”
  • Visibility – provides reinforcement for both the employees being recognized and for their colleagues to model
  • Inclusivity – provides specific recognition to as many employees as you can, not to only a few
  • Valuesbased – aligns recognition with values and business initiatives of the organization in order to reinforce employee contributions to the “greater good”

Once you have committed to developing a successful recognition program, your roadmap should include:

  • Seeking employees at all levels as volunteers on a committee to brainstorm their most important criteria for a powerful recognition program
  • Specific criteria for how and what types of performance should be recognized
  • Forms of recognition, whether public recognition or private, gift cards or company-branded merchandise. These decisions should be based on the manager’s knowledge of their employees and what they really value
  • A formal communication launch of the program that reinforces its purpose and guidelines for recognition
  • A follow-up survey with employees after a few months of launching the program to identify any revisions that may be necessary, based on their feedback

The more aligned your recognition program is with the organization’s culture and business plan, the higher the level of employee commitment and engagement you will experience. Keep honoring your employees with the pizza parties and birthday celebrations, but don’t look to these events to move the needle on employee performance!

Cheryl Chester

Cheryl Chester


With 25+ years HR experience, Cheryl's focus includes leadership development, OD, performance management, employee engagement, and succession planning.


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KardasLarson is a human resources and business consulting firm that maximizes employee performance so people and organizations prosper.



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