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How to Implement Reward and Recognition in the Workplace

11 min read
How to Recognise and Reward Employee Achievements

A whopping 57% of UK employees claim they are disengaged at work, and the rise in remote and hybrid working has exacerbated the problem.  Many individuals are left feeling isolated, which significantly impacts team morale. Employees are often left to work in silos, and team interactions are limited to a video call a few times a week. However, there is a simple way in which organisations can boost their employees’ motivation: prioritising reward and recognition.

A lot of the time, employees just want their hard work to be noticed; 69% of employees would even reconsider resigning from their role if the way they were rewarded and recognised by their organisation was improved.

This article covers how employers can boost employee retention through reward and recognition, and the key elements to consider when creating an employee recognition program.

employee recognition program

What Does Reward and Recognition in the Workplace Mean?

Recognising and rewarding employees is about observing performance, achievements, and behaviours in the workplace and celebrating hard work.

While these two words are often conflated, there are some differences between them. Employee recognition is typically an offer of an additional financial benefit, such as a raise or an extra day off. Recognition is more associated with praising individuals for their hard work. This is often achieved with awards such as ‘employee of the month,’ a ‘shout out’ during a team meeting, or even a simple ‘well done’.

Organisations can reward and recognise employees on an ad-hoc basis, or they can formulate a more structured programme that employees can anticipate and look forward to.

 How to Recognise and Reward Employee Achievements

Importance of Employee Reward and Recognition

Research has shown that 38% of HR professionals don’t believe their current employee recognition and reward programmes are effective. But why should HR leaders be prioritising this area of people management and incorporating employee recognition into their company values?

  • It motivates employees

Recognising and rewarding employees when they produce great work or go above and beyond will motivate them and incentivise them to achieve the same high standards time and time again. It might even encourage employees to strike up a healthy competition with their peers, pushing other team members to be the best they can be and accelerating organisational goals.

  • It makes employees feel valued

It’s estimated that just under a quarter of UK employees do not feel valued by their organisation. Feeling as though your work isn’t appreciated and is falling by the wayside will inevitably cause employees to stop working as hard. This will have a detrimental impact on productivity, and organisations will likely see a drop in output.

However, employee recognition, even when people are working disparately, will make them feel part of something and let them know their hard work is making a difference. They will understand their purpose in the organisation and feel excited to support the overarching vision.

  • It boosts team morale

Employees who are recognised and rewarded will also feel greater job satisfaction, and this, in turn, will boost team morale as employees feel appreciated. Working alongside people who feel optimistic about their organisation will have a knock-on effect on those around them.

Employee recognition for work is one of the top drivers of candidate attraction. If reward and recognition schemes are implemented well, your reputation will improve and your employer brand will shine brighter!

Increased employee retention will stem from this too. Attracting top talent and improving your employee retention metrics will ensure your organisation has highly skilled individuals supporting its goals. Employees treated well will be loyal to an organisation and considerably less likely to jump ship.

How to Recognise and Reward Employee Achievements

  • It creates a strong company culture

Employees won’t just feel well-rewarded and well-recognised; they will enjoy entering the workplace. Content employees will be likely to rave about their workplace culture and word of mouth is a powerful tool for attracting talent; nothing spreads faster than chatter about positive company culture and employers that care about wellbeing. Plus, having a team of individuals who are active advocates of your business will drive a culture of recognition and high performance. Employees are 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged if they believe employers will recognise them for their contribution.

  • It drives profitability

On top of that, Gallup research tells us that companies with a highly engaged workforce are 21% more profitable due to increased productivity. Your organisation’s bottom line will also be positively impacted through reward and recognition in the workplace.

How to Approach Recognition to Staff

Organisations thinking about reward and recognition in their workplace should be mindful of how they do it. An employee recognition strategy should be considered.  An employee recognition program should be well-thought-through, as employees who feel their achievements aren’t genuinely recognised and rewarded might become less motivated.

Employers should consider the following:

  • Define what great performance looks like for your organisation

Employees need to have a clear understanding of what ‘good’ looks like in your organisation for them to be able to strive to work to the best of their abilities. Organisations should set clear expectations for employees to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

  • Be authentic

Employers must reward and recognise authentically aligning with their company values and working practices. Organisations must genuinely want to celebrate their team’s achievements and it should be done so in a meaningful way. Employees will see straight-through attempts to reward and recognise just for the sake of it – or even because HR told managers to! Some employers reward employees for the photo opp, and the sentiment isn’t genuinely reflected in the day-to-day working environment. Employees are switched on to knowing what initiatives are done with employees at heart and what ones aren’t.

  • Be timely

So, your employee worked really hard on a project, but the project ended two months ago. If you don’t recognise and reward great performance at the time it happens, employees will think you either didn’t notice or you’ve forgotten bout it. Neither is great for morale. Timely and meaningful recognition is key- celebrating great effort as soon as you notice it will make all the difference. The longer you wait, the less impactful the staff recognition or reward will be.

  • Be inclusive

The entire workforce should have an equal opportunity of being recognised for their work. Some individuals may work exceptionally hard but won’t work at the same level as others and that’s ok. There are many neuro-divergent individuals in the workforce who have strengths in unique areas but they may struggle with things that others find straightforward. To have social recognition have a positive impact across the entire team, it’s important that each individual is recognised for their individual great performance, in relation to their own abilities.

  • Notice achievements in all departments

It’s important to acknowledge that not all jobs are the same. Some roles will have obvious business outcomes, which can be celebrated. For instance, sales teams who smash their targets are often noticed for their great work. Also, front-facing employees are noticed for providing better customer service. However, individuals in HR, for instance, can do great work which is sometimes less obvious. Holding a difficult conversation with another employee may have been handled particularly well. But, because it’s part of the job, others don’t always recognise these achievements.

  • Make it personal

The best way employers can recognise employees is by taking notice of the individual and incorporating this into how they celebrate their achievements. For example, if your employee has a young family, a valued benefit may be an additional day off work to spend time with them (you could even throw in some cinema tickets!).

  • 360 degree

Staff recognition doesn’t always have to come from above, and peer to peer recognition shows that. Employees’ peers are often the first people to notice exceptional work or when their colleague has gone above and beyond. Facilitate a way for all job levels to shout about excellent performance in your organisation in their own words. Managers could do this by allowing employees to nominate their colleagues or creating an employee recognition platform where employees can post comments of appreciation.

employee performance review template freebie

  • Be consistent

Any initiative should never be a one-off – frequent recognition is an important part of any reward and recognition strategy. Employees will just be left frustrated that their employer has shown they can recognise and reward, but they choose not to regularly. Pick a set day, perhaps weekly or monthly, to select and reward individuals for their achievements in the workplace. This is something employees can look forward to and get excited about! It will also create stronger bonds between team members.

  • Be creative

Employers should remember to think outside the box when it comes to rewarding employees. How you reward your employees’ contributions should be varied. If you do the same thing every time you want to celebrate performance, your employees will become disengaged. They won’t be motivated to work at their highest gear. If you think of new and different ways to say thank you, this will boost employee engagement when it comes to your reward and recognition program.

  • Create a clear framework

Fairness is a huge thing when rewarding and recognising outstanding performance. If one employee goes above and beyond one week and is awarded employee of the month with a financial bonus, you must replicate this for others. If another employee works just as hard to exceed expectations but isn’t recognised, this can harm employee morale. Organisations should consider what the criteria are for receiving rewards in the workplace and create a thought-through employee recognition program. This can be applied equitably across the teams. Employees will know where they are and what they’re striving for.

It’s also important to consider how often your organisation will celebrate employee achievements. Having a regular weekly or monthly meeting to shout about achievements will be something the whole team looks forward to in the calendar.

Reward and Recognition Examples

We’ve looked at why it’s essential to reward and recognise employees in the workplace and how to approach it. But let’s look closely at some real-life examples of reward and recognition initiatives in practice. These should also inspire when building your employee recognition programs.

Here are some great employee recognition ideas for your organisation:

  • Prizes

Giving out prizes and awards for exceptional achievements shows the individual that you value their input and demonstrates to the whole organisation that working to the best of your ability will get you seen. Employee rewards like a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the completion of a project will incentivise your team to continually strive to achieve great things and work hard in their roles.

  • Employee of the month

Another way to demonstrate employee appreciation is by offering employee awards such as ‘employee of the month’. This type of recognition program is a common fixture when it comes to organisations showing their awareness of high standards of work. Employees of the month could be announced in a formal ceremony or even just in a company-wide newsletter – whatever works best for your organisation.

  • Gift cards

Gift cards are a crowd-pleaser. These are tangible rewards which employees can use there and then on a guilt-free treat. Why not use a gift card that can be used in various outlets, rather than just one shop?

  • Support deserving causes

Another great way to recognise employees’ great performance is by offering paid time off to volunteer. This initiative can both celebrate employees when they go above and beyond and also help embed admirable company values. What better way to thank a member of your team than by allowing them to help a cause close to their heart?

  • Team events

Team events are a great way to celebrate team goals being achieved and to demonstrate employee appreciation is top of the agenda for your organisation. Employers may want to congratulate a team for finishing work to an excellent standard with a team meal paid for by the company or a team building afternoon.

On a company-wide level, organisations might even consider hosting a whole company party to celebrate an achievement, such as exceeding targets for the financial year. It’s a surefire way to build a sense of belonging when you celebrate as a collective.

How to Recognise and Reward Employee Achievements

  • Celebrate individual achievements

Reward and recognition don’t just have to be in relation to performance. Organisations could also celebrate and recognise other achievements such as workplace anniversaries and birthdays! Singing happy birthday, sharing a cake, or even just a card will drive your company culture and build a stronger emotional relationship with your team.

  • Internal promotion

Another fitting way to let individuals know you value their hard work is by promoting them internally. Internal promotion has many advantages – boosting morale is just one. When employees can visualise a clear career path, it will create loyalty with your organisation. Formal recognition such as this is also a great way to motivate individuals to keep learning and improving and also a way to retain their skills and knowledge within your business.

  • Personal development

Not all recognition needs to be shouted about. Sometimes it might be more appropriate to acknowledge employee achievements by offering them further training and development opportunities. If you recognise your employee is interested in a particular area of their work and you’d like to help them push that even further, why not source training courses for them to help them shine even more? Individuals will feel valued when you invest in them in this way.

  • Mentoring opportunities

To further enhance personal development in the workplace, mentoring is a great way to reward individuals who are shining in their roles. Employees could have the opportunity to work alongside a more experienced member of the team or simply meet with them to gain advice or further understanding. Staff will relish the opportunity of having one on one time with someone who can really support their development.

  • Financial incentives

Being rewarded financially is one of the most popular employee rewards out there. Although only some are motivated by money, most individuals will appreciate extra flexibility to do things they enjoy outside of work. Organisations might consider one-off bonuses or even a contractual annual bonus. It’s important to remember that contractual bonuses should be well thought through and have a clear framework so all individuals understand how they can qualify for the extra cash.

  • Time off

This is a great way to reward employees, primarily if their hard work has meant that they occasionally work beyond their regular working hours. Allowing employees extra time off shows that you value their contributions and acknowledge the importance of their work-life balance. Employers might consider offering an additional day’s annual leave, for instance, or even just an early finish or a later start.

 How to Recognise and Reward Employee Achievements

  • Provide a platform for peer-to-peer recognition

It’s also important to remember that not all feedback should come from business leaders. Colleagues should also be able to celebrate and congratulate each other’s hard work. This will also help organisations create a positive working environment and company culture where teams work collaboratively rather than in competition.

An easy way to do this is via Factorial’s employee portal which provides a space for team members to shout about the great work they’ve seen from their peers. Organisations could even use this platform for colleagues to nominate each other for a reward.

  • Flexibility and trust

Employee rewards don’t have to just be financial. When your employees show they can work to high standards and excel in their roles, managers should then reward them with trust. Trust is a powerful thing for employees and this will go a long way to making them feel valued and will boost employee morale. Why not consider allowing your employees to work flexibly? Be that in terms of hours or even location. Working flexibly will mean that you measure performance based on output rather than on time. Employees will value the trust and, in turn, continue producing high-standard work.

  • Public recognition

Employee recognition is always well received, but it can be amplified by shouting it from the rooftops. Organisations should celebrate employee achievements not just within their company, but also with their key stakeholders and customers. Employers can do this by sharing posts on social media championing great work. Newcsletters are also a great way to celebrate success in the workplace.

 How to Recognise and Reward Employee Achievements

  • Senior leadership recognition

A reward and recognition program should also involve top-down acknowledgment. Having senior leaders recognise great performance will really motivate your team. Employees will appreciate being seen and knowing their hard work is not going by unnoticed. Being an important cog supporting those wider objectives is a great way to motivate employees too.

  • Go the extra mile

Employees will feel so much more appreciated if you take time to explain to them why you’re happy with their performance. Go into detail in your positive feedback about why their work has been so well received or why you were so impressed with a certain aspect of their project.

  • Special projects

For individuals who demonstrate that they have excelled in a certain area and they are keen to develop, it’s great to recognise employees by offering them other special projects on top of their usual day-to-day responsibilities. Employees will gain skills and experience which will help them keep achieving high standards in the workplace.

  • A simple ‘well done’

More than 52% of employees want more recognition in the workplace. Employee recognition doesn’t have to be grand or complicated; simply saying ‘well done’ or ‘great job’ is underrated! This kind of acknowledgment is more powerful than it seems. Employees will feel seen and know their work is being consistently noticed. This will, in turn, drive motivation and job satisfaction.

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Amy is a knowledgeable People professional with over a decade of experience across a variety of private and public sector organisations. With a particular interest in employee engagement, Amy is an advocate for employee-centric approaches in all areas of HR which is reflected in her writing. Before a career in HR, Amy read English and Creative Writing at university and later studied for her CIPD, HR Management.

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