The predominant focus of a successful business is the creation and maintenance of great customer experience in order to keep customers happy and retain their business. We also know that customer experience is directly related to the satisfaction and engagement of employees which is why employee engagement has recently become a focus for organisations. 

There are many tools to encourage employee engagement, and employee recognition is definitely one of these tools as it is useful in driving an organisation’s effort to increase employee engagement. 

The research behind employee recognition 

Harrison (2005), defined employee recognition as the timely, informal or formal acknowledgement of a person or team’s behaviour, effort or business result that supports the organisation’s goals and values, and which has gone beyond normal expectations. Employee recognition systems and programmes allow the integration of individual efforts with the business’s strategic objectives. To develop an effective employee recognition system, it is necessary to understand the psychology of praising others.

Research indicates that social recognition is a key driver of not only employee engagement, but individual performance as well. Appreciation is a fundamental human need and when we express appreciation towards another person, we confirm their value. This is particularly true in the workplace, where expressed appreciation lets employees know that their work is important and valued. 

Aspects of Employee Recognition

There are two main aspects of employee recognition:

  • Identify the opportunity to recognise an employee: it is common to pass over many opportunities for employee recognition simply because it does not occur to management to do so. To make the most of these opportunities, employee recognition needs to become an embedded behaviour in the organisation’s culture. 
  • The act of recognising an employee: employee recognition programmes cover any activity from a spontaneous, private thank you to more formal, public events that reward top performers. 

However, for employees to be recognised, the procedures and behaviours for attaining recognition need to be clearly outlined to all employees. It is important to ensure that the recognition system is fair and easy to understand.

Recognition can take place in three dimensions

1. Day-to-day

An example of this is praise.  Praise can be given to anyone by anyone at any time.

2. Informal

This tends to be a low-cost, easy-to-do intangible act of appreciation or congratulations.

3. Formal

Formal recognition usually takes place at special events where all contributing employees can participate and require more time and resources to do.

Best Practices for Employee Recognition

There are different types of employee recognition and deciding which type to implement in your business is dependent on your organisational culture and context. 

  • Evidence-Based Recognition
  • Values Aligned Recognition
  • Peer Recognition
  • Public Recognition
  • Frequent Recognition

Organisations are not limited to one type of recognition; they can employ a number of types of recognition practices throughout their business.

Often in a business, the people best suited to recognising employees is their colleagues. Your employees understand what the responsibilities and tasks required are, therefore, in some instances, they’re able to assess their peers better. 

According to Amoatemaa & Kyeremeh (2016), there are four approaches to employee recognition linked to the best practices. These include:

  • Personal recognition
  • Recognition of work practices
  • Recognition of job dedication
  • Recognition of results

Their belief is that these four approaches help recognise employees as individuals who are committed to their jobs and deliver the desired results. Additionally, recognition is something which is inexpensive to distribute, while remaining effective, and can be expressed across all occupational levels.

Trends surrounding Employee Recognition

Let’s have a look at some trends relating to employee recognition (TINYpulse, 2016):

  1. Retention is tied to recognition: studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between recognition and the likelihood of retention.  
  2. Praise sways the perception of the work environment: Evidence shows that people have a positive perception of their work environment when they are recognized and appreciated. 
  3. Appreciation improves peer-to-peer relationships: peers, more than money, encourage employees to go the extra mile. 
  4. Employee-supervisor relationships rely on recognition: leaders should be approachable and encouraging.

A New Generation of Professionals

As time goes by, the job market is becoming more and more saturated with Millennials. This is one of the most studied generations and they’re considered to be rather unique. As such, they also present unique challenges for top employers to not only inspire them but also retain them. Millennials typically stay at one job for no more than two (2) short years, as they strive to climb the corporate ladder. 

With this group needing that fast-tracked progression up the corporate ladder, they appreciate tasks that challenge them and enable growth. It is essential that you, as an employer, create a culture that millennials will buy into long-term. What are you doing that interests them and keeps them from seizing the numerous opportunities that are out there? Simple things like rewarding contributions, creativity, and performance enhances relationships and increases the rate of retention (E-Merge, 2019).  

Recognition is a catalyst for engagement and alignment, thus encouraging employees to work harder to improve customer satisfaction, therefore encouraging recurring business and further creating greater shareholder value and improving the bottom line.

With all the difficulties faced in the working world, a simple gesture of recognition could determine whether or not you will need to start the recruitment process for lost employees. There are various forms of employee recognition but research shows that it is vital to create a method of employee recognition in an organisation that is effective and fair. 


Amoatemaa, A. S. & Kyeremeh, D. D. (2016). Making Employee Recognition a Tool for Achieving Improved Performance: Implication for Ghanaian Universities. Journal of Education and Practice. Vol 7, No 34.

Harrison, K. (2005). Why Employee Recognition is so Important. Cutting Edge PR.Employee recognition

Employee recognition