Management Tips··7 min read

What is Employee Recognition and How to Show It Effectively?

employee recognition

The bottom line of business matters, and the quality of the product or service often drives it. What good leaders recognize, though, is that the contribution and well-being of employees drive the quality of the product.

To ensure your business delivers the best product or service the first time every time, great leaders will take careful measures to recognize the value and contributions of his or her associates.

Creating a culture of recognition in your business as one of your core values can actually contribute to your business in more ways than one. Besides a wealth of positive feedback from your employees, you can also expect a rise in productivity

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is a way of communicating tangibly and specifically to your associates how much you value and appreciate their contributions to the business.

It should be public recognition, and it should be meaningful to the employee. As an employer, it should require something of you, whether time, money, or effort. Your employees work hard for you; when they know you are paying attention, they will work even harder.

employee recognition


Employee recognition can look like an awards ceremony to teams that have delivered above and beyond that which is expected of them. It can be within teams or across companies. Associate recognition can come in the form of time taken at staff lunches to recognize the person or persons who have made tremendous progress or shown exceptional effort towards achieving certain goals.

A tangible token of appreciation goes a long way to demonstrate your care for them going the extra mile. This can be gift cards or bonuses – or any other form of employee rewards that shows in a meaningful way that you mean what you say and that these are your organizational values.

The benefits of employee recognition programs

Working in a place that requires much and gives little back can feel demoralizing. It can lead to higher turnover, and lower productivity, and can contribute to poor customer service. People need to feel a sense of pride in the product they deliver and the company for which they work. They need to understand the organizational values, which then reflect on your overall business success.

Even those intrinsically motivated to keep working harder and pursuing the next goal need to know when they’ve achieved the desired result. Staff recognition allows you the opportunity to communicate clearly to your team the kind of work that is considered exceptional.

Some may balk at the idea of an investment in employee recognition as if paying salaries wasn’t enough. However, if one only looks at the big picture, it’s clear that employee and peer recognition pays for itself.

what is employee recognition


Employee recognition platforms don't cost all that much but whatever you pay can return tenfold. The employee appreciation you show pays back in increased employee engagement levels, an improved workplace culture and a better bottom line.

Reduce turnover with employee recognition

Turnover costs employers untold amounts each year, and the higher the turnover, the greater the cost. Depending on the industry, the time and money it takes to hire and train new staff can only be recouped after a generous amount of time.

Therefore, any effort made to reduce turnover is a financial benefit to the employer. Furthermore, when employees leave, other staff must take over those responsibilities until the spot can be filled leading to dissatisfied and exhausted workers.

This can exacerbate the turnover issue if these employees no longer feel the payoff is worth the sacrifice they must make. When staff knows that leadership cares enough to take the time to recognize their efforts, they may be more inclined to stick around to keep putting forth effort.

Effective employee recognition programs help you keep the best talent

Employee recognition fosters the kind of healthy competition that keeps the best striving to stay the best. If you want to keep top talent, you have to recognize it (pun intended).

It’s been shown that by recognizing employees’ extraordinary contributions or efforts, it leads to greater satisfaction and fulfillment at work. Therefore, not only does employee recognition reduce turnover, it helps keep the kind of talent you need to stick around.

what employee recognition is


Keeping the best of the best is inherently making an investment in the current and future success of your business, which will hopefully pay dividends if you don’t screw it up. By giving frequent recognition and tangible rewards for employee accomplishments, you can create positive reinforcement in your team and grow employee retention.

Recognizing employees encourages high performance

If one team receives meaningful recognition for their creative thinking, resourceful contributions, or quality craftsmanship, you can bet others will be looking for ways to up the ante.

Furthermore, those receiving recognition from peers will want to recreate the powerful sense of accomplishment and feeling of euphoria by delivering only the best work product again and again.

Recognizing your employees at work will go far to encourage only the highest performance and best contributions of each team member. And if it doesn’t, then you may need to reconsider the makeup of your team.

Employee recognition builds trust and a sense of well-being

When done correctly, recognizing your employees will build bridges of trust as one of your core values.

If your staff feels that their contributions matter and that you see that they matter, they will be more inclined to trust your leadership and business strategy. A word of caution on this front: if a leader plays favorites or if the recognition feels superfluous in any way, it can swiftly undermine that trust.

This should not be a rote exercise for your leadership team and another way to get better business outcomes. Employee recognition must be meaningful, and it should be something that inspires other staff members and creates an emotional connection with your business.

If it’s clear that you favor a particular team or group or that you’re simply going through the motions, you will deflate the rest of the staff and discourage effort beyond the minimum that is expected.

Show genuine appreciation for employees and their outstanding performance and you'll invoke positive emotions in your team.

How to get started recognizing your staff

Don’t overthink this too much. Often, employee recognition can be built into the regular patterns of work for your staff. Furthermore, meaningful doesn’t mean elaborate or putting in any extra efforts; it just means that whatever token of appreciation you give needs to mean something. Here are a few tips to get you started with effective recognition:

  1. Look for a natural fit. Do you already have regularly scheduled staff meetings or luncheons? Great! Use that time to publicly recognize the contributions made by individual members or groups in your staff. Find the type of recognition that won't feel unnatural and forced.
  2. Find what fits. If you’ve already built a certain culture or ethos, find a token of recognition that fits that mold and your core values. Anything that can be put on display also carries weight longer, serving as a constant reminder of what could be achieved. Effective employee recognition efforts should reflect what your company stands for.
  3. Find what you can afford. Not every budget is built for large monetary rewards. Truthfully, if that’s not already part of the company culture, you do not need to worry about how much the reward is worth. However, if you dole out large bucks for other, less important celebrations, it’s time to reprioritize what’s most valuable in your company. Sometimes, things like handwritten notes or sticky notes can have a positive impact as big as buying an expensive gift.
  4. Encourage peer participation. It’s crucial to receive positive recognition from one’s superior, but it can also be particularly motivating and inspiring to be recognized by one’s peers. Solicit feedback or nominations from staff, but try not to make peer recognition a popularity competition. You hold the veto power when it comes to the final decision.
  5. Be specific. Employee recognition should be for specific accomplishments or character qualities. It could be earnings in a quarter, sales made over time, or it could be the best customer service or exceptional quality of work. Generalities are hard to achieve, and rewards for such vague accomplishments will only inspire confusion. Ask your own team for employee recognition ideas they will appreciate. Sometimes, the most successful employee recognition programs can come from inwards.

Final thoughts

Employee recognition pays for itself through the reduction of unnecessary turnover, the retention of excellent talent, and the encouragement of maximum effort. In your efforts to recognize your employees, be specific, be sincere, and be consistent. Employee recognition is worth every dime you invest in it.

And if you're looking to recognize the impact of employees who deserve it, try time tracking! At a glance, you can see which employees are putting in the work and giving their all. With Unrubble, you can manage your entire team and track their time from a single dashboard.

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