Recognition: we all want it. Most of us feel we don’t get enough of it at work—in fact, one survey found that 82% of Americans find their employers’ appreciation efforts lackluster. It’s a little surprising that many leaders are less than appreciative when their employees do well, since recognition is such an easy and inexpensive way to improve employee happiness—but it happens all the time.
If you’ve ever gone beyond the call of duty and put in extra hours or intense effort on a project, and received no appreciation or recognition for your efforts, then you probably remember how it felt. As a leader, you don’t want to make your employees feel the same way. Recognition is an interesting motivator, because it can take many forms. From a positive conversation to a free lunch to a promotion, the recognition needs to be scaled to match the situation. Unfortunately, this can get tricky—which sometimes results in little to no recognition at all. Other leaders don’t bother praising employees for another reason—they’re too busy.
There are many problems that can stem from a lack of recognition in the workplace. Low morale, high turnover, resentment, and reduced productivity are just a few. We’re not only motivated by money—we want to feel that what we’re doing is valuable. So how can improving your recognition efforts benefit your organization?
It Increases Morale and Teamwork
Appreciation can be a major factor in overall team morale. Good morale is hugely important to a healthy work environment. In a positive atmosphere with high morale, people are more likely to push through challenges and obstacles instead of giving up, and work together instead of working toward only their own goals. Providing recognition whenever it’s warranted is a great way to pull the team together. This is especially important for remote teams (58% of Americans work this way at least sometimes), since it’s more difficult to maintain strong teamwork when the team isn’t physically working in the same space.
It Encourages Better (and Harder) Work
If one of your employees has put their heart and soul into a project, engineering a seamless and high-quality result, how do you think they’ll feel if they don’t get any appreciation for it? Do you think they will work that hard the next time? Not getting recognition for excellent work feels a lot like being taken for granted, which can knock the wind out of work ethic. To ensure ongoing productivity and quality work, recognition is essential.
It Strengthens Culture & Innovation
When people are just going through the motions, your company’s culture will quickly suffer. A positive environment fueled by recognition will help inspire and encourage everyone. A strong business culture is built on relationships, teamwork, and creativity, all of which thrive when employees’ contributions are recognized.
It Fosters Loyalty
A leader who offers employees the respect and recognition they deserve will offer respect and loyalty in return. The old sentiment that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers, rings true when it comes to recognition and loyalty. We all want to work for a boss who recognizes our contributions and cares about us as individuals.
It Helps Retain and Engage
Higher morale, a more positive environment, and improved teamwork are all reasons that employee recognition helps retain and engage the best talent. In today’s culture of job-hopping and poaching talent, remaining effective managers while retaining your best employees can seem like a monumental task. While it’s true you won’t be able to engage and retain every employee, offering the right kind of recognition at the right time can help you reduce turnover rate and result in a happier, more productive workforce.
Offering Appropriate Recognition
There are so many benefits to employee recognition, but offering recognition isn’t as simple as it seems. A verbal pat on the back may be entirely appreciated and appropriate in one case, but a raise or a promotion is sometimes the only way to show your most valuable employees you appreciate their work. Another factor to consider is how the recognition is distributed—is everyone who deserves recognition getting enough? Do you have standards in place to determine fair recognition gestures to prevent resentment? As a leader, it’s up to you to make these decisions and monitor the results. Getting recognition right isn’t easy, but it will help ensure that your team knows you appreciate them and want them to stay. There are so many reasons that being a leader is challenging, but giving recognition is a privilege—not a chore.