How to use employee recognition for higher engagement
If your employees don’t feel appreciated or recognized for their work, there’s a good chance they’re not engaged in the workplace—and you might be at risk of losing them.
You want an engaged workforce that’s going to be confident in their abilities, proud to work for you and more likely to retain their jobs and seek additional opportunities. To achieve this goal, you have to make employee appreciation and recognition a priority. The question is how to go about it. After all, appreciation is an inherently human experience. You can’t solve the problem with an automated “Happy Birthday” message.
So how do you recognize contributions in a genuine way that encourages engagement and helps to reduce employee turnover? We’ve got 5 solutions to boost employee recognition.
1. Make sure it’s a human experience augmented by process and technology
Put programs and tools in place that allow people to more easily recognize one another for their work and show genuine appreciation. These types of tools can help managers identify people who are worthy of recognition even when they don’t physically see it happen.
When you have data outlining your employees’ hard work and achievements in real time, you will have a better idea of how your operation is working and how to best recognize employees. For example, if a retail associate is investing extra time with self-directed learning on a retail LMS to improve their skills, technology and data can highlight this effort—signaling to you that the employee is going above and beyond. To do this, you would need to centralize your company training using a digital learning tool that measures users’ participation and progress.
2. Understand each person and tailor recognition accordingly
Different people value different types of recognition. While some people love public recognition, others recoil at the thought of being spotlighted in front of the entire team. Everyone loves a “thank you,” but some would prefer that it be one-on-one rather than in front of the team at an all-hands meeting. You have to know your people well enough to know what type of recognition or appreciation is meaningful to them.
The important thing to keep in mind is that everyone values recognition; they just value it in different ways. If you aren’t sure how to best recognize a particular employee for their achievements, start by connecting with them individually and letting them know that you’ve seen their hard work and are grateful for it. Depending on the size and value of the accomplishment, you might also consider a physical reward—more on that later. As you get to know them better, you’ll be able to tailor future recognition accordingly.
3. Be consistent
Take the time to recognize your employees whenever it’s warranted, and not just when you’re thinking about it or looking to boost employee morale. Employees are smart enough to notice when there is a push towards recognition rather than it being a regular part of the everyday work experience.
This is where it becomes really helpful to have a system in place to chart accomplishments and small victories and then act accordingly since you can’t track every accomplishment on your own. But if you have tech in place that tracks learning milestones (such as a learning management system), sales milestones (such as a point-of-sale system) and other types of achievements, you can more easily get into the habit of recognizing employee performance in a fair and consistent way.
Some companies have also introduced peer-to-peer recognition tools where employees can send thanks and shout-outs to one another on the job. For instance, an employee might recognize one of their peers for helping them complete a project, covering a shift on short notice or assisting with a difficult customer. Managers can track these types of kudos to see who is going above and beyond.
4. Make rewards a part of the process
While recognition on its own is important and highly effective, there’s real value in offering physical rewards for big accomplishments—if your company culture allows for it. Gift cards make for popular rewards in many industries. Other possible rewards include company swag, a VIP parking spot for the month or culture-specific items (for instance, at Axonify, we recognize certain achievements with our branded poker chips). Some people also value charitable donations made in their name. Again, it helps to know your team and what’s important to them.
Some companies use employee recognition programs where employees can earn points for their achievements and trade those points for specific perks. A successful employee recognition program should include desirable rewards that are challenging to earn but still accessible.
Physical rewards are a way of demonstrating your gratitude on a more tangible level. The prospect of rewards can motivate employees on a deeper level, and that extrinsic motivation can ultimately lead to a sense of internal fulfillment.
5. Don’t just reward achievements
We’ve used learning in a few of our examples here, and for good reason. Some employers make the mistake of only recognizing big achievements related to sales or employee productivity while failing to recognize the value of learning in the workplace.
Skills development is critical in today’s economy, especially for frontline industries. You need agile employees who excel in their primary roles and can tackle related—and often unrelated—roles with minimal notice. It’s important to reward employees who regularly participate in digital training lessons, complete courses and expand their skills. Axonify awards points to participants who complete these types of tasks, so employers can always see how much progress each learner is making.
When you encourage and invest in your team’s learning, you’ll have employees who are more knowledgeable, confident, flexible and likely to stick around.
Foster a culture of recognition
The time to prioritize employee engagement is now. Current research shows that only 32% of employees are actively engaged, down from 34% in 2021 and 36% in 2020. This is one of the key reasons why employee retention is so low. A recent report from Axonify found that lack of appreciation is the #2 reason why people are leaving their jobs during the Great Resignation., right behind burnout.
So if you want to enhance engagement company-wide, make sure that your employees feel appreciated and understand how much the company values their hard work, growth and overall contribution. In doing so, you’ll help to promote a positive company culture that employees are proud to be a part of.