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Types of employee recognition: ways to show gratitude and its benefits


November 13, 2023


November 16, 2023

Feeling valued and appreciated is a human need. Some people might require it more than others, but overall, we all need it at a certain level. So do your team members.

Yet, there are different types of employee recognition to be aware of. For example, it is crucial to understand that showing recognition isn’t only a manager's responsibility and can come from various sources. But you also need to know how to demonstrate appreciation and when to express your gratitude to your coworkers. For instance, should it be publicly, privately, verbally, or by text message?

Don't worry, we are about to answer all of these questions.

From the key moments of appreciation to the rewards you give to the most valuable team members, this article is a complete guide to a successful employee recognition strategy. Let’s explore how to build a positive work environment that makes people thrive.

The reasons why encouraging recognition in the workplace is fundamental

The difference between employee recognition and appreciation

Before starting to dig into the topic of employee recognition, it is important to explain the difference between recognition and appreciation. Although they are used interchangeably, these two approaches boost workplace morale differently. 

Recognition focuses on spotlighting specific contributions or achievements of an employee, like reaching a new milestone. It is often formal and measurable. On the other hand, appreciation is broader and relates to valuing an employee's overall worth and dedication to the organization. It acknowledges not just tasks or outcomes but also their efforts, attitude, and commitment. It can be demonstrated casually.

The importance of showing recognition in the workplace

The lack of recognition in the workplace is one of the main causes of employee disengagement. However, the benefits of promoting recognition go beyond boosting motivation. It is key to creating a positive and healthy working culture, increasing employee morale, and improving the overall work experience. Acknowledging your team members' and colleagues' achievements makes them feel valued and respected for their contributions. 

Altogether, it enables the development of a supportive work environment, enhancing job satisfaction and productivity. Ultimately, it boosts talent retention and attraction and prevents quiet quitting among your workforce, as people often seek workplaces that are employee-focused. Encouraging more recognition at work can lead to a vibrant, successful, and forward-driving organization.

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Teammates showing recognition

The main types of employee recognition

The four major types of employee recognition

1. Recognition from managers to team members

Manager-to-employee recognition involves a supervisor praising a team member's achievements. This type of employee recognition reinforces positive relationships, boosts morale, and fosters motivation.

2. Recognition from the company to employees

Company-to-employee recognition means the organization itself acknowledges an individual's accomplishments. This form of recognition creates a culture of achievement and boosts workplace morale as a whole.

3. Recognition between colleagues

Recognition doesn't only have to come from above. It is also important to show colleagues how much their work and efforts are valued and appreciated. This is called peer-to-peer recognition. It creates a collaborative environment while fostering mutual respect and camaraderie.

4. Recognition from customers to employees

Has somebody ever congratulated you for your great work and thanked you for your help, which made you think, "I wish my manager would see it too..."? We mostly read about three types of employee recognition, but we believe there is a fourth one as important as the previous ones. It is the customer-to-employee recognition. The energy and motivation boost we get from genuine feedback from customers who were extremely satisfied with our job and thanked us for solving their problems is priceless.

The different ways of showing recognition to employees

Written vs. verbal praise

There are many ways to show recognition to people you value in your work environment. First, you can either express your gratitude in a written format or verbally. Sending a Slack message or an e-mail to your team members or colleagues to thank them for their work is something they can look back on in the future. But planning a video call or stopping by your team members' desks to share your appreciation in person is also great.

Structure vs. informal recognition

The moments of celebrating your staff's contribution can also vary. It can depend on a structured recognition program with set criteria and rewards. For example, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of your business might be a great moment to share your appreciation. But it can also happen spontaneously because a specific event occurred, and you are grateful to work with amazing people by your side. Unstructured recognition tends to foster more genuine acknowledgment as it's not planned by a formal recognition system.

Private vs. public appreciation

Lastly, recognition can be shared privately (Slack message) or publicly (company's newsletter). It is important to know your employees individually. While some might feel comfortable being put on the spot for their great work, others might prefer a discreet but genuine thank you away from the spotlight.

☠️ Read our article about toxic workplace culture to understand the risks and know how to prevent it.

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Boss showing appreciation

Examples of situations when employee recognition should be given

Great performance

Performance-based recognition involves addressing an employee's specific achievement, which is directly related to their job role. It's typically measured against predefined objectives and is often connected to company performance or values. 

Unlike other forms of recognition, it's not random or spontaneous. Instead, it's a deliberate acknowledgment of a team member reaching or exceeding their performance expectations. This could be through successful project completion, surpassing sales targets, or demonstrating exceptional problem-solving. 

Performance-based recognition reinforces the link between hard work and reward, boosting motivation and focusing efforts on achieving business goals.

Substantial effort

Despite all the efforts, sometimes results just don't match. Yet, this doesn't mean your staff shouldn't receive some sort of recognition for the dedication, perseverance, and hard work they put into their tasks and projects. 

Showing recognition might even be more important when the expected outcomes are unachieved, as there is a high chance your employee morale is low. It emphasizes the process over the product, acknowledging your workers' resilience, commitment, and determination, including in the face of setbacks or challenges. So, don't forget to promote effort-based recognition.

New milestones

Seeing employees and colleagues grow is amazing, but celebrating it with them is even better. It can be praising a new skill they have learned, a new position they have started, or a new accomplishment in their career. Highlighting these achievements and personal growth steps helps reinforce that workers' contributions are valued and noticed. 

Whether it's a work anniversary, the completion of a significant project, or personal life events, marking these milestones also fosters a positive workplace culture. Additionally, it strengthens engagement, boosts morale, and encourages loyalty and commitment, thereby enhancing the overall employee experience and participating in the success of the organization.

Company’s values-related behaviors

Acknowledging and rewarding coworkers who embody the organization's core values in their work is a core component of employee recognition, too. This can involve actions, behaviors, or initiatives that align with these values. 

By recognizing these behaviors, businesses underline the importance of their values and support the conduct they want to see repeated. Value-based recognition helps enhance a culture that reflects the company's values and visions. It encourages people to embrace these guiding principles, boosts morale, fosters a sense of unity, and improves workplace connection.

General appreciation and gratitude

All of these occasions for showing recognition provide multiple options to start implementing more appreciation in the workplace. But, you don't always need a particular reason to celebrate your team’s work. Acknowledgment goes beyond targeted recognition for specific achievements. It's about fostering an environment where gratitude is the norm, not the exception.

Simply being thankful for working with people who are considerate, like-minded, and supportive is also important and shouldn't be taken for granted. Recognizing that every team member's role and contribution, no matter how small, counts and collectively drives the success of the organization is fundamental.

💥 Discover the 8 main drivers of employee engagement!

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Team showing gratitude

Best practices to foster genuine employee recognition in the workplace

Communicate about the importance of employee recognition in the workplace

Communicating the importance and procedure of employee recognition is crucial for fostering a rewarding workplace culture. As an HR professional, you need to explain the concept of recognition and guide the company, managers, and team members on how to put it into practice effectively. Recognition must be genuine, timely, and specific to encourage meaningful engagement. 

Moreover, understanding and respecting your staff's personalities is key. Some workers may appreciate public accolades, while others might prefer private acknowledgment. Tailoring recognition strategies to individual preferences ensures that appreciation is received positively, reinforcing its impact on motivation and morale.

Promote all types of employee recognition

Encouraging multiple types of employee recognition is essential to maximize its effects on motivation, morale, and productivity in the workplace. From structured to unstructured and manager-to-employee to peer-to-peer recognition, each form has unique benefits. By supporting a blend of both formal, performance-based recognition and informal, effort-based appreciation, companies foster a multi-dimensional culture of gratitude. 

Incorporating and promoting all of these forms ensures better outcomes, inclusion, and feelings of genuine acknowledgment. Therefore, this helps you develop a meaningful, engaging, and balanced recognition culture.

Create an employee recognition program that matches your values and your workforce

For example, if you work for an organization that aims to create a greener future and sells vegetarian products, rewarding your team members with a 2-person dinner at a meat-based restaurant is probably not the best idea. However, offering them a cooking class with a chef who masters delicious vegetarian dishes will certainly be much more appreciated. 

The same goes when we say you must consider the way you show recognition to your staff and colleagues, you also need to align your actions with your rewards. Overall, the main goal is to establish an employee recognition program that matches your values and your workers’ expectations.

Vary the types of rewards included in your employee recognition strategy

There is one last recommendation we would like to share, which is again based on employee centricity. When implementing more recognition in the workplace, offering a variety of rewards that cater to diverse preferences, both monetary and non-monetary, is essential.

While bonuses, raises, or stock options can provide tangible value, they are not the only ways to reward your team members. Non-financial prizes like professional development opportunities, flexible work arrangements, extra time off, or even an individualized, heartfelt note from a manager can be highly motivational. 

Introducing multiple forms of rewards ensures recognition feels personalized and meaningful to everyone, reflecting their unique preferences, boosting their job satisfaction, and reinforcing their engagement and commitment.

We hope this article gives you a better understanding of the importance of recognition in the workplace and the various types of employee recognition that exist. Putting all of these recommendations in place requires some financial and time investment. Yet, you can start with one aspect at once, the easiest ones being to focus on enhancing general appreciation and encouraging people to share their gratitude toward their teammates.

From a company point of view, allowing hybrid work and equipping your staff with the tools they need to make the most of this modern working approach is a great way to improve employee experience and satisfaction. You don't know how to do it? Request a free demo of the deskbird app to discover how our digital solution helps you and your workforce embrace all the perks of flexible work!

Types of employee recognition: ways to show gratitude and its benefits

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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