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Top 6 Employee Recognition Programs That Actually Get Results

by Amanda Cross - June 27, 2022

There is a recognition gap. Companies depend on employees to do great work, but small things like saying thanks aren’t part of the company culture. New research from Workhuman and Gallup found that 36% of employees say their organizations have an employee recognition program. Considering the impact, more companies need to adopt a program that encourages and rewards employees.

What is an employee recognition program?

An employee recognition program is a multi-pronged incentive to help your employees feel more appreciated for their work. With voluntary turnovers increasing, employee recognition programs help companies retain their best people.

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Why are employee recognition programs important?

As you consider how to create an employee recognition program, you must understand why it matters. Recognition isn’t always easy to fight for. Workhuman and Gallup recently found that a whopping 73% of senior managers say their organization doesn’t offer leaders advice on recognition. When you know why it matters, you can make a case to invest in your company’s recognition program.

1. Employee recognition improves retention

Workhuman and Gallup shared that employees who are recognized often are 56% less likely to be looking for other work opportunities. As The Great Resignation continues to impact work, it’s essential to keep employees happy so they can stay off job boards.

2. Employee recognition helps you spot future leaders

One building block of a successful recognition program is peer recognition. When you utilize software or make space for peer recognition in meetings, you see leadership qualities in all your team members.

Learning about how an employee helped someone else close a deal or worked tirelessly on a presentation empowers leaders to think outside the box. Before you know it, new people will be able to get involved in upcoming projects and leadership positions.

3. Employee recognition encourages positive workplace behaviors

Positive reinforcement, or rewarding positive behavior, significantly impacts work. When you can quickly give feedback and encouragement, you let employees know to continue that behavior. Humans want to avoid negative outcomes in favor of positive ones. You’ll get more positive behavior by showing employees praise when they do good work.

Recognition must follow the three Rs to improve workplace behaviors. You should reward the right behavior at the right times and in the right ways. The three Rs are covered further in a recent piece on employee engagement.

Six examples of employee recognition to include in your program

Now that you understand why employee recognition programs are important, what can you do with that information? Which employee recognition programs can you utilize at your company? Often what you can do starts with the budget you have. Some recognition can be free or cheap, but others have a significant cost.

Ultimately, recognition programs should be multi-pronged. Using multiple forms of recognition will help create a unique and valuable employee experience.

1. Saying thanks

As weird as it sounds, one of the most common ways you can share recognition at work is by saying thanks. According to a recent report from Workhuman, recency in receiving thanks can impact whether someone intends to leave an organization. Their study of over 3,000 workers found that employees who had received thanks recently were less likely to be looking for new work.

2. Bonuses

One way you can quickly engage employees and show recognition is incentive pay. Bonuses like ones related to performance can positively impact employees. When giving out spot, project, or performance bonuses, it’s vital to ensure that incentives are available to all employees. In instances where incentives were kept for a few workers, HBR found that bonuses didn’t help employees feel recognized or loyal to the company.

3. Raises/Promotions

While bonuses give employees a one-time boost in pay, raises provide a more sustained bump. It’s essential for employees to feel like they are moving forward at work. Raises or promotions can be a great way to recognize employees for their contributions to the company.

4. Peer Recognition

Peers see things that managers don’t see. Many companies have invested in peer recognition software to leverage this insight. According to Top Employers Institute, “62% of Top Employers have a platform in place to support peer-to-peer recognition.” Peer recognition programs give insight into who’s giving and receiving recognition so you can support future company leaders. Getting more public recognition will also positively impact your team members.

As a bonus, most peer recognition programs revolve around company core values. So by using these systems, you ensure your team understands what behaviors your company values.

5. Profit-sharing

Profit-sharing is an excellent employee recognition tool that recognizes team members for their work to make a company successful. Many companies, especially ones in the tech sector, are accountable for making investors’ profits. You’ll boost employee productivity by carving out a chunk of profits to share with employees. When crafting your profit-sharing program, ensure that you give employees flexibility. The best plans allow employees to benefit from gains now instead of if your company goes public.

6. Performance Reviews

For many employees, performance reviews are the ultimate way they receive feedback from employers. Unfortunately, some employees don’t get frequent feedback from managers, which can cause work issues. Therefore, it’s essential to consider your performance management process. One easy way to improve this process is to work on writing performance reviews. What you share during these reviews can profoundly impact your employees.

How to measure the results of your program

So, you’ve put your program in place for a while. How do you measure the results of the program? Ultimately, feeling recognized is subjective. You’ll collect a lot of data based on feelings vs. hard numbers. Subjective data can be challenging, especially when selling the success of a recognition tool to the executive suite. By using several measures to understand the results of your program, you’ll be able to talk about its success confidently.

Ask for feedback

One of the easiest ways to measure the results of your program is to ask for feedback. Sending out another pulse survey may not get the results you’d hope for. Instead, have a quick face-to-face conversation. Employees can tell you a lot about their experience in ten minutes. When you sit in front of an employee, you’ll be able to ask follow-up questions and have more context for your answers. Here are some example questions to ask during your quick feedback session:

  1. When was the last time you received positive feedback?
  2. How often do you receive feedback from:
    1. Company leaders/executive team members
    2. Managers
    3. Coworkers
    4. Customers
  3. Are you happy with your current level of recognition at work?
  4. Tell me about a recent time when you felt you deserved recognition but didn’t get it. What about a time when you earned recognition and got it? How did both make you feel?
  5. What would you do if you could change one thing about our current recognition program?

Recognition software data

If your organization is utilizing a peer recognition platform, you have numbers to measure the results of your program. Download and analyze the data to see your program’s month-over-month growth.

  • Who is getting recognized? Who isn’t?
  • How many times have people been recognized?
  • Are there any words or phrases that show up often during recognition?

Measure employee engagement lift

Lastly, you’ll want to measure employee engagement lift. If your company sends quarterly engagement surveys like Gallup’s Q12, you already have a baseline of how engaged employees are at your company. Have these scores been lifted since you unveiled your recognition program? Specifically, look at any questions on your survey related to being recognized, workplace relationships, or satisfaction. If you see improvements in these scores after unveiling your program, you know it’s working.

Employee recognition programs are more than platitudes to keep your employees from leaving. When taking employee recognition seriously, your company culture shifts. Staff members work hard and want to feel the weight of their work. Recognition helps employees feel good, which encourages them to do good work.

On your way to creating a recognition culture, GoCo can help. GoCo’s award-winning performance management software and workflows to manage promotions and employee surveys help organizations build better company cultures. Take a tour of GoCo to see how this software can fit into your HR tech stack.

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