how to increase employee recogntion

5 Reason why your Employee Recognition is Falling Flat (and how to fix it)

Written by: Ashley Rambo, Sr. Talent Development Strategist

workplace recognition

Want more than words? Join us for our upcoming interactive employee recognition workshop: Inspire Greatness with Recognition.


Why businesses want a culture of recognition

The business benefit of widespread employee recognition is impossible to ignore. Employee recognition is directly tied to employee engagement and high marks in this arena lead to all sorts of positive outcomes.

  • Employees are 87% less likely to leave a job when they feel engaged at work. (source)
  • 50% of employees say being thanked by their managers improved their relationship and built trust. (source)
  • Companies with highly engaged employees are 22% more profitable. (source)
  • Highly engaged companies outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. (source)


Why people need a culture of recognition

While the benefit that employee recognition brings to the bottom line is great, it’s vital that you first think about it from a humanistic perspective. Before the effectiveness of recognition is noticeable in business results, it’s first noticeable in the human who receives it.

And while good recognition tells employees they are doing a good job, great recognition does much more by telling employees they’re worth it, they matter, and they have a purpose. Peel past the superficial layers of recognition and get to the core of why it really matters.


proven employees recognition tactics

Before the effectiveness of recognition is noticeable in business results, it’s first noticeable in the human who receives it.

How to get to the heart of recognition

Since about 85% of companies have some type of formal recognition program, it seems the great benefits of workplace recognition are now widely known. So why aren’t all these companies enjoying incredibly low turnover rates and receiving Coolest Place to Work awards? The answer lies in the quality of recognition given.

Simply handing out bonuses or gift cards every quarter isn’t going to work.  If you’re looking for answers as to why your recognition isn’t resonating, it likely has to do with at least one of these five reasons:


1. Give recognition consistently

Only 1 in 3 workers strongly agree that they have been praised or recognized for doing good work within the last week. When employees aren’t actively receiving recognition, they begin to think what they are doing is wrong – even when it’s not. Over time, they start to lose a sense of purpose within the organization if their need for recognition isn’t met.

There’s no magic frequency for recognition, or any no rule that dictates who gives the recognition (or who receives it). Based on responses in our survey tools, the most frequently acknowledged sincere recognition comes from senior leaders, however, sometimes the best recognition comes from the person whom you least expected.


2. Make sure it’s timely

Ever received a birthday card in the mail a week after your birthday? While the thought is still nice, untimely recognition is bound to cause confusion and lessen the potential impact. For an employee, it’s easy to think “Is what I did really that great if it took someone this long to notice?” Or, they may not even remember exactly what it is they did well.

Add in the fact that Millennials are known to require immediate recognition for accomplishments, and it’s obvious that timely recognition is vitally important for employees to better understand their impact.


3. Sincerity seriously matters

Without sincerity, appreciation and praise fall flat. Sincere recognition adds real value to an employee and addresses their need to feel like they’re “worth it” – more than any gift card ever could. So, while giving superficial reward isn’t necessarily a negative, it cannot be the only way recognition is given.

Humans require the care and authentic attention of other humans in order to feel like they matter. This not only makes them feel great, but it also helps to build stronger workplace relationships.


4. Could you be more specific?

Don’t just tell the person “thanks for doing that.” Be ultra-specific and recognize them by name. Tell them what they did well so they are able to clearly recognize what the best behaviors are. If the recognition if focused only on the result, it’s difficult to gain clarity around the right behaviors. Contrarily, if you first recognize the right behaviors, the best results will follow. Also, tell them how it impacted the company or, even better, tell them how it impacted you. This shows that you truly do care about their efforts and them as a person. More importantly, it allows the employee to contextualize their efforts in order to better understand why they matter.


5. Actively promote a culture of recognition

The formal framework of a recognition program is a starting point, but the true magic comes when members of the organization are handing out and receiving recognition regularly, without even thinking about it.  This only happens when your entire organization fully embraces the human need for recognition. The best way to achieve this?

Show everyone around you how impactful great recognition can be by feeding them with what they intrinsically crave (but may not be used to experiencing at work). Remember to tell them why what they’re doing is right and also how it’s making a difference.

A culture of recognition doesn’t happen overnight, but once it becomes ingrained in the employee atmosphere, engagement skyrockets.


Sincere recognition adds real value to an employee and addresses their need to feel like they’re “worth it” – more than any gift card ever could

The most startling recognition statistics

A culture of genuine recognition doesn’t just flow from the top down, but it certainly requires the support of those at the top. That’s why, out of all the statistics on workplace recognition, two stand out as the most troublesome:


  1. Only 14% of organizations give managers the tools they need for effective employee recognition. (source)
  2. 89 percent of senior managers feel that their company is actually very good at recognizing their workers. (source)


The sharp contradiction between these two realities clearly illuminates the frustrating and ever-present need for upper-level management to start understanding what effective recognition looks for their employees, not their business.


Start your journey down recognition road

It takes a serious investment in order to peel back the layers of recognition. But, now that you know the valuable dividends that recognition pays to people, and you know that most organizations simply aren’t doing it right, you have the information necessary to start doing something about it.


And when it comes to manicuring a culture of recognition, high engagement, and genuinely satisfied employees, Leverage Talent Enrichment is the expert partner that will get you on the road to success and help you navigate the curves. From facilitating a comprehensive organizational health audit to designing and implementing proven recognition strategies, we have experienced it and mastered it first-hand through the organizations we support on a daily basis.


Leave a Comment