Creating a Culture of Recognition (2022)

Employee recognition has long been a cornerstone of effective management. But today, as the competition for talent escalates, the ways organizations show that they value their employees have become more important than ever.

Creating a recognition program is a start—so if you don’t have one, that’s a good first step!—but great companies go further, constantly reevaluating the ways they reward employees. As companies grow, this becomes even more of a challenge, and leaders must rethink the way they add value to the employee recognition experience.

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition refers to all the ways an organization shows its appreciation for employees’ contributions. It can take many forms and may or may not involve monetary compensation. Companies recognize employees for things like:

  • Achievements
  • Exhibiting desired behaviors
  • Going above and beyond expectations
  • Milestones such as tenure

Why employee recognition matters

From a very early age, we crave recognition from parents, teachers and friends. So strong is our desire for positive affirmation, particularly during developmental periods, that we can even perceive a neutral reaction as a negative one.

This continues to hold true as we move into the workplace. Employee recognition helps to:

  • Retain top talent
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Encourage high performance

Great Place to Work-Certified™companyO.C. Tannerstudied employee engagement and how managers can tailor their workplaces to promote it.

An employee survey included the question, "What is the most important thing that your manager or company currently does that would cause you to produce great work?"

Respondents answered in their own words, providing a variety of responses, but a clear pattern emerged.37% of respondents said that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work more often.

(Video) Build A Culture of Recognition

While other themes like autonomy and inspiration surfaced, recognition was the most common theme that emerged from responses. The study showed that affirmation, feedback and reward are most effective for motivating employees to do their best work.

See the complete results in the chart below:

By narrowing in on several statements in Great Place to Work® Trust Index survey that measure how much employees feel recognized at work, we were able to see the impact of recognition culture on employee experience.

Great Place to Work analyzed 1.7 million employee survey responses gathered between 2018 and 2020 across small, mid-sized and large companies.

Recognition makes employees feel promotions are fair, spurs innovation and extra effort

After comparing the overall experience of employees who received recognition to those who dont, we found that recognition was strongly tied to several areas of positive company culture.

Compared to those who do not consistently feel recognized at work, people who do feel recognized at work are:

- 2.6x more likely to think that promotions are fair

- 2.2x more likely to say innovative thinking is embraced

- 2.0x more likely to say people here are willing to go above and beyond

(Video) Creating a Culture of Recognition

Creating a Culture of Recognition (1)

Employee appreciation is linked to higher job satisfaction

In the same Trust Index™ survey, when asked what makes their workplace great,employees who responded positively to survey questions measuring recognition say that they are incredibly lucky,” “enjoy hangingand that the company has excellent integrity,” “uplifting environmentand some mentioned their career success.

Creating a Culture of Recognition (2)

Employees who don’t feel recognized also struggle to describe what makes their workplace great

Conversely, employees who dont feel recognized at work responded to the same question with phrases such as plays favoritismand popularity contest,indicating there isnt much that makes their workplace great. The only positive theme was match benefits.

When asked what would make their company better, the employees who felt unrecognized responded with phrases that indicated feelings of unfair treatment and a manipulative work environment. Words such as rampant favoritism,” “scare tactics, stop eliminatingand job tomorrowwere most common among the “unrecognized” group.

Creating a Culture of Recognition (3)

How to create a meaningful employee recognition culture

Many Great Place to Work® clients, even those with strong company cultures, face challenges when it comes to team and individual employee recognition.

While there is no universal program for every organization, there are five key elements of meaningful employee recognition that all managers can use.

Creating a culture of recognition: 5 keys to meaningful employee recognition programs

1. Be specific, be relevant

Recognition is more meaningful when it is tied to a specific accomplishment or business objective.

(Video) Creating a Culture of Recognition - Cisco Worldwide Leadership

When recognizing employees, explaining what the recognition is for helps employees relate the recognition to their behavior. This encourages continued strong performance.

2. Be timely

Recognition that arrives months after the fact isn’t nearly as meaningful as recognition received promptly.The longer it takes for managers to recognize employees, the less likely employees will see the affirmations as authentic. Make employee recognition a priority and have formal recognition systems in place so you can strike while the iron is hot.

3. Recognition comes in many shapes and sizes

There is a great deal ofresearchthat indicates people are motivated by more than just cold hard cash. It is also important to note that everyone has their own preference or style when it comes to giving and receiving appreciation.Get aclearer picture of the primarylanguage of appreciation(in a work setting) of every individual. Then, recognize them accordingly.Beyond a bonus or a raise, consider customized gifts, taking them out for dinner or other acts that show employees their reward is personalized to them.

4. Little things go a long way

While it's crucial to recognize major accomplishments, don’t overlook the power of the everyday thank-you to motivate employees.

Writing handwritten notes, or using the intranet to promote the good behaviors of individuals, can help instill a regular culture of employee recognition. These thank-yous and shout-outs don’t have to come from managers alone; some employees may find recognition more motivating when it comes from their peers rather than from leadership.

5. Connect to the bigger picture

Recognition helps employees see that their company values them and their contributions to the success of their team and the company overall.This is particularly key when organizations grow or change. It helps employees build a sense of security in their value to the company, motivating them to continue great work.

Regularly share news about how the company is striving to reach the mission, and explain how individual employee goals relate to that vision.

Organizations on theFortune100 Best Companies to Work For® listexcel in employee recognition.

Here are some examples of how these winning organizations recognize and reward their employees in meaningful ways:

(Video) Creating a Culture of Recognition

Examples of employee recognition

1. Make it easy for managers to celebrate employees

Global hotel chainHiltonprovides managers an annual Recognition Calendar that features 365 no- and low-cost, easy-to-implement ideas for thanking employees.The calendar includes reminders and tips for enterprise-wide, brand and department recognition programs; appreciation best practices; important dates like International Housekeeping Week; and recognition quotes to share with employees.It also allows users to add employee service anniversaries and local events. Users can download a print-friendly PDF or import an Outlook-friendly file into their personal calendars.

2. Make recognition a red-alert event

When clients of professional services firm Crowe respond to a satisfaction survey with the names of individuals who have gone above and beyond during projects, the survey generates a "Recognize Alert."Crowe takes Recognize Alerts one step further with its Pay It Forward program. Individuals who were recognized can "pay it forward" to other colleagues who played important roles in serving clients but weren't mentioned in the survey response.Crowe shares the names of both Recognize Alert and Pay It Forward recipients in Crowe Newswire On Demand so others can learn from their examples and the individuals feel appreciated.

3. Meaningful gestures of gratitude

Health care systemTexas Health Resourcesrecognizes employees' milestone years of service at five-year increments.At every milestone, honorees receive a beautiful customized celebratory yearbook. Each yearbook opens with a personalized congratulatory message of appreciation from the CEO. Inside, the honoree finds messages of thanks and appreciation from their manager and coworkers, as well as photos of the employee at work with their team, having fun and contributing to the mission.

Recognition is absolutely essential in a great workplace, and it doesn't need to be complicated or expensive.Ask your employees what type of recognition is most meaningful to them. You may be surprised to find how much simple, genuine expressions of thankfulness inspire them to do their best.

Do you know if your employees feel appreciated?

(Video) Benefits: Creating a Culture of Recognition (2018)

We designed anemployee survey– based on 30+ years of studying employee experience – to measure and track levels of employee recognition, trust, innovation, and more.Contact us about it today.


Creating a Culture of Recognition? ›

Creating a culture of recognition: 5 keys to meaningful employee recognition programs
  1. Be specific, be relevant. Recognition is more meaningful when it is tied to a specific accomplishment or business objective. ...
  2. Be timely. ...
  3. Recognition comes in many shapes and sizes. ...
  4. Little things go a long way. ...
  5. Connect to the bigger picture.
Sep 9, 2021

What does a culture of recognition look like? ›

Establishing a culture of recognition requires leaders to, well, lead by example and shout out employees regularly for their accomplishments and contributions. The goal is for team members to model this behavior so that recognition comes from the entire team and not just leaders.

How do you develop a gratitude culture? ›

Start meetings with gratitude

Instead of starting a meeting with boring introductions or status updates, ask people to share something they are grateful for. This approach helps people become more present and less stressed. It's almost impossible to worry and express gratitude for something simultaneously.

How do you make recognition meaningful? ›

  1. Ways to Make Recognition. More Meaningful.
  2. 1Ask. The best way to find out how an employee wishes to be recognized is to ask!
  3. Be Timely. When appropriate, thank someone as close to the.
  4. 3 Be Specific. Start with thanks, but don't stop there! ...
  5. Make it Personal. ...
  6. 5Make it Frequent. ...
  7. Connect it. ...
  8. 7 Own it.

What are the three types of recognition? ›

There are three types of recognition that you can use to help your employees reach those goals: day-to-day, informal, and formal. This type of recognition gives immediate feedback on performance. Some examples of day-to-day recognition include: Saying thank you for a job well done.

How do you improve recognition in the workplace? ›

11 Ways to Improve Employee Recognition
  1. Say “Thank You” ...
  2. Brag Board. ...
  3. Employee Highlights in Staff Newsletter. ...
  4. Recognition in Staff Meetings. ...
  5. Shout Out on Social Media. ...
  6. Interoffice Email. ...
  7. Send a Note Home. ...
  8. Wall of Fame.
Nov 14, 2018

What can a company do to build a culture of appreciation and recognition? ›

Ways To Create a Culture of Appreciation at Work
  1. 1) Acknowledge Important Employee Milestones. ...
  2. 2) Establish A Recognition Program. ...
  3. 3) Sign Up For A Spot Bonus Platform. ...
  4. 4) Celebrate Big Wins. ...
  5. 5) Celebrate Small Wins. ...
  6. 6) Ask Your Employees Questions. ...
  7. 7) Solicit Employee Feedback. ...
  8. 8) Send Out Gifts.
May 12, 2022

How do you cultivate a culture of gratitude in the workplace? ›

Are You Building a Culture of Gratitude at Work?
  1. Start with Saying Thanks. When someone does something kind for you, whether it's your boss, your co-worker, or a stranger, recognize it! ...
  2. Be Honest and Open. ...
  3. Practice Accepting Kind Words. ...
  4. Cultivate Gratitude-Giving Opportunities. ...
  5. About Great Place to Work®
Aug 18, 2020

How do you create a cultural celebration? ›

Creating a culture of celebration at work
  1. Welcoming new starters.
  2. Celebrating work anniversaries.
  3. Marking cultural holidays.
  4. Celebrating achievements.
  5. Personal moment celebrations.
  6. Celebrating promotions.
  7. Sends off for leavers.
  8. Celebrating birthdays at work.
Sep 9, 2020

What are some examples of positive recognition? ›

Recognition for a great attitude

I wanted to reach out and sincerely thank you for the incredible positive attitude you bring to work every day. I have noticed how your positivity, can-do personality, amazing work ethic, and compassion always make a huge difference in both team morale and all the work you do.

What are the types of recognition? ›

Download a free report on the impact of recognition on employee engagement and retention in 2021.
  • Informal recognition. Informal recognition includes every form of appreciation that isn't planned in advance by your organization. ...
  • Formal recognition. ...
  • Social recognition. ...
  • Monetary recognition.
Dec 17, 2021

Why is meaningful recognition important? ›

Recognition helps employees see that their company values them and their contributions to the success of their team and the company overall. This is particularly key when organizations grow or change. It helps employees build a sense of security in their value to the company, motivating them to continue great work.

What is an example of recognition? ›

An example of recognition is when you spot a familiar face in the crowd who is someone you met before. An example of recognition is when someone is given an award to recognize and honor his service. A recognizing or being recognized; acknowledgment; admission, as of a fact. Acknowledgment and approval, gratitude, etc.

What type of recognition do employees want? ›

Our research found that 53% of employees want more recognition from their managers. And simple, public recognition is an effective foundation. Public praise not only boosts the employee receiving recognition but also signals to the team what behaviors or achievements are valued at your organization.

How do you improve recognition within a team? ›

Improve Team Recognition With These 6 Simple Strategies
  1. It may be time to revisit how you recognize and reward your employees. ...
  2. Incorporate gamification. ...
  3. Make it public. ...
  4. Implement peer-to-peer recognition. ...
  5. Be as specific as possible. ...
  6. Tailor your approach for each employee. ...
  7. Ask for employee feedback.
Mar 30, 2021

How do you nurture an attitude of gratitude? ›

Nine Ways To Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude in Your Child
  1. Practice good manners. ...
  2. Give back within your community. ...
  3. Write a thank-you card. ...
  4. Look for awe-inspiring moments in everyday life. ...
  5. Incorporate a daily gratitude practice into your routine. ...
  6. Take gratitude walks. ...
  7. Write down what you are grateful for. ...
  8. Compliment others.
Oct 9, 2020

How do you show gratitude to an organization? ›

“You can do it with a simple, 'Thank you for giving us your business. ' Or you can thank them by providing other special incentives or coupons. It doesn't really matter how you do it, just make sure they know you are grateful that they are choosing to do business with you over your competition.”

How do you show appreciation in an organization? ›

Ways to make employees feel appreciated
  1. Use a corporate gamification system. ...
  2. Let employees give and receive “props.” ...
  3. Feed them. ...
  4. Express your gratitude on social media. ...
  5. Connect rewards to your company. ...
  6. Delegate a team award. ...
  7. Offer fitness opportunities. ...
  8. Give employees extra time off.

What are 6 benefits of gratitude? ›

6 Proven Benefits of Gratitude
  • Take Charge of Your Gratitude. ...
  • Benefits of Gratitude. ...
  • Reduces Stress. ...
  • Improves Sleep Quality. ...
  • Improves Heart Health. ...
  • Enhances Relationships. ...
  • Reduces Loneliness. ...
  • Increases Happiness.
Jun 11, 2019

What are 5 things you can do to improve your attitude of gratitude? ›

Here are five ways to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”:
  1. Write it down. Keep a gratitude journal. ...
  2. Talk about it. Sharing what you are thankful for isn't just for Thanksgiving. ...
  3. Meditate. Whether you regularly meditate or not, take a break a few times a day. ...
  4. Express it. ...
  5. Seek it.
Nov 25, 2013

How can I improve my gratitude skills? ›

10 Ways to Become More Grateful
  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. ...
  2. Remember the Bad. ...
  3. Ask Yourself Three Questions. ...
  4. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. ...
  5. Come to Your Senses. ...
  6. Use Visual Reminders. ...
  7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. ...
  8. Watch your Language.
Nov 17, 2010


1. Creating a Culture of Recognition - Florida Hospital
(Dr. Bob Nelson)
2. How The CEO of a 1.5 Million Person Company Created an Amazing Culture Based On Recognition
(Jacob Morgan)
3. On-Demand Webinar: Creating a Culture of Recognition & Engagement in Healthcare Today
(Online Rewards)
4. How Do I Build a Successful Employee Recognition Program?
5. 3 ways to create a work culture that brings out the best in employees | Chris White | TEDxAtlanta
(TEDx Talks)
6. Culture of Recognition | "Work Matters" with Julie Mann
(Spotlight Podcasts)

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