Employee Recognition

The Biggest Mistake Managers Make With Recognition

We recently released one of the biggest research reports to ever be done called the State of Employee Engagement. This is a real-time report that gets updated as new survey answers are collected. As a quick background, Officevibe is an employee engagement software that measures 10 key metrics of employee engagement, with employee recognition being one of them.

We measure engagement by sending weekly pulse surveys to employees all over the world. This allows us to aggregate an immense amount of data about how employees are feeling.

For context, as of today, this represents approximately 1,200,000 data points from tens of thousands of employees across 157 countries. This number is continuously growing, but even as of now, it’s enough to be one of the most statistically significant reports ever created.

The Reality: Employee Recognition Is Low

In the area of recognition, some of the research we have shows that employee recognition is still a major problem all over the world. One of the questions in our pulse surveys is “How often do you usually get praise?” with four choices: Never, Every Quarter, Every Month, and Every Week. According to research from Gallup, you should be praising employees at least once a week.

But our research shows that a whopping 72% (as of today) of people receive employee recognition less than once per week. Our research also shows that 65% of employees feel like they don’t get enough praise. This is sad, considering how easy it is to praise someone.

72% of employees get recognized less than once per week

The only hard work is to make sure that you’re being mindful of what's going on around you. After that, saying “thank you” or “great job” takes zero effort. So then the question becomes, if it’s that easy, why is employee recognition so low? I have a theory.

Managers Confuse Perks and Gift Cards With Employee Recognition

I think the biggest mistake managers make when it comes to employee recognition is that they confuse recognition with perks. But they’re not the same at all. Employee ecognition is the acknowledgment of a job well done, whereas perks are universally offered to all employees, and don't allow for 1:1 reinforcement of key positive actions or behaviors that you want the recognized employee to continue repeating. Perks and even low-level physical employee rewards can get pretty expensive, and there are a few downsides.

Low budget, non-personalized employee rewards easily backfire. As a simple example, if you get an employee a $20 gift card from Starbucks for something they did, what you’re secretly telling them is that their effort, whatever it was, is valued at $20 for you. This is a huge insult to an employee, and you should be doing everything you can to avoid a situation like this. Plus, did you even stop to consider if they like coffee?

Employee Recognition Helps Lower Turnover

Research from Deloitte found that: “Organizations with recognition programs which are highly effective at enabling employee engagement had 31% lower voluntary turnover than organizations with ineffective recognition programs.”

Similarly, a 2012 SHRM survey found that: “Companies with strategic recognition reported a mean employee turnover rate that is 23.4% lower than retention at companies without any recognition program.”

Companies with strategic employee recognition programs are reporting 23.4% lower employee turnover rates

Considering how expensive turnover is and how easy employee recognition is, this is a golden opportunity for any leader on any team. Employee recognition in its simplest form can be free, takes no time at all, and can have massive effects on your team. So why wouldn’t you do it? Is it because it takes too much time? If you’re managing a team of 15 people, is trying to notice every little thing they do realistic?

Valid questions. I think the answer to that then, is to build a culture of recognition across the entire team.

Build A Culture Of Employee Recognition

In the SHRM survey I referenced earlier, there were two important statistics that will make every leader's life easier.

  1. 41% of companies that use peer-to-peer recognition have seen “marked positive increases” in customer satisfaction.
  2. Peer-to-peer is 36% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition.

Peer-to-peer employee recognition works because your peers have a better understanding of what you do on the day-to-day, so their praise often feels more authentic. You should be doing everything you can to build employee recognition into your culture. Get everyone on board, and make everyone feel like they’re responsible for creating a culture where everyone is helping everyone grow. If you can teach your employees how to be more grateful, recognition will go up all around and everyone will be happier.

The research on gratitude is unbelievable, and there’s a huge (and pretty easy) opportunity to create an engaged team. How are you planning to engage your team through employee recognition and employee rewards? Share your ideas and feedback with us via the comments below!

Jacob Shriar is the Director of Content at Officevibe, the number one tool to create greater workplaces. He's on a mission to make everyone happier, healthier, and more productive at work, and spreads knowledge through blogs, eBooks, guides, and other helpful resources.

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