Why Employee Recognition Matters

Employee recognition programmes are always introduced with the best intentions but too often recognition efforts turn into employee complaints, jealousy, and dissatisfaction. It is crucial to provide an effective employee recognition solution and not assume that one size fits all (Heathfield, n.d.).

Setting up the right employee recognition programme is one of the key factors in successful companies. Engaged employees create a positive, motivating and productive work environment. By recognising the value employees provide to the company, they feel honoured and are energised. Through the right engagement, they are more dedicated, focused and committed to the company and an important part of the company’s success. The best employees, who potentially contribute the most value, are mostly the ones who feel appreciated by their leaders (Heathfield, n.d.) (Robinson, n.d.).

It’s not about money and free stuff – it’s about engagement

Free stuff may satisfy for a short period and perhaps employees think for a while they work in a real cool company but in the long run they will be unfocused and definitely not engaged in meaning full work (Peterson, 2015).

Employers often think that only monetary rewarding will satisfy their employees. Monetary rewards can be a part of recognition but they should stand at the end of the line. For example, normally no one remembers the bonus the company gave him for Christmas, but people do remember when they were recognised for their achievements and efforts. The note that says: “I’m impressed at how you solved the problem!” Keep up the good work!” will have a more lasting impression on an employee. They can proudly tell the story about why they got this note and retain a positive emotion.

The true and often disregarded goal of an employee recognition programme is happiness, produced in a meaningful, long-lasting way (Peterson, 2015). Happy employees are the key success factor for sustainable success of companies.

Produce happiness through engagement with the employees

A work culture where genuine recognition is not only expected but rather encouraged is the perfect basis for happy employees. If people feel valued and believe that their contributions can make a difference, they will be motivated to do their best work (Peterson, 2015).


When setting up a recognition programme consider these four points:

Fairness and consistency
First of all fairness and consistency must determine the recognition programme. This can only be reached if there is clarity and transparency about the goals. Nothing is more dissatisfactory than inequality in distribution of rewards (Heathfield, n.d.).

The definition of SMART-goals (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related) which harmonise with the company’s goals and affirmation that all employees have a clear understanding promotes engagement and involvement. Goals should be as specific as possible (Elizabeth, 2012) (Doran, 1981).
However besides quantitative objectives, it is necessary to set up qualitative goals as well where approaches and behaviours are recognised. Only if soft-skills are recognised too, it is possible to guide and retain certain employee behaviours and develop a positive organisational climate where happiness thrives.

Recognition must be timely. Employees do not want to be recognised once a year. A mixture of frequent and timely recognition is crucial; recognise good efforts in the moment they appear by applauding and saying “Thank you!” Not in the end of the year when no one talks about that anymore (Elizabeth, 2012). Recognising a deserving employee with an award for the achieved goal, could be connected with a small incentive. This will boost the morale and the employee will feel recognised and valuable (Spaight, 2013).

An employee recognition programme indeed must be consistent but also need to be adjustable and modifiable. Variety in the goals and achievements will create new attraction and motivate employees to continue to succeed awards.
If the recognition is expected and is seen as an entitlement they will lose their power to create happiness and could even lead to having a negative impact on employee morale (Heathfield, n.d.). For example if employees are awarded every time they work overtime, the award turns into an expectation and is no longer a reward.

The benefits are worth it

Outstanding employee performance comes from sustained employee engagement that is supported by the right investment. Done correctly employees provide a competitive advantage through improved performance. There is a wealth of studies and research that has shown how an engaged work place is much more likely to experience higher productivity, profitability, lower employee churn rates and absenteeism.