Human resources managers understand that human talent plays a key role in their organizations’ productivity. Finding new ways to tap into the benefits of employee recognition is a key factor in effectively leveraging employees’ impact on the bottom line. However, despite overwhelming consensus about the benefits of employee recognition for productivity and employee motivation, companies continue to struggle with building a workplace culture of recognition.
Leadership knows employee recognition benefits their organizations and it makes good business sense. Managers in every area have experienced firsthand the benefits of employee recognition in the workplace. And, research conclusively—and repeatedly—has found that employees value a workplace culture of recognition and positive employee recognition.
So, why is employee recognition one of the biggest pain points in talent management? Why do so many organizations struggle to instill positive employee recognition in the workplace as a core value of their culture?
It isn’t for lack of trying. In fact. in a 2018 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 80% of the HR professionals surveyed reported that their organization has an employee recognition program in place.
The evolving culture of recognition in the workplace
Typically, employee recognition programs recognize length-of-service milestones or strong individual or team performance. According to the 2017 World of Work Employee Recognition study, not much has changed in the past five years. Since 2013, the top five employee recognition programs have ranked as follows: length of service or tenure (85%), above-and-beyond performance (77%), programs to motivate behaviors associated with the business initiatives (e.g., customer service, collaboration) (51%), peer-to-peer recognition (49%) and retirement (34%).
Top five employee recognition programs
The first clue to why employee recognition is persistently one of the top concerns for HR managers (and leadership teams, in general) may lie in the fact that the ranking hasn’t changed in five years. In today’s fast-changing job market, it would seem that too many organizations’ employee recognition initiatives are not evolving at a quick enough pace.
While a 10-year work anniversary should not be overlooked, and the landing of a new big account should be celebrated, these types of rewards are not the most effective. In order to tap into the power of positive employee recognition, organizations need to focus on the benefits of employee recognition programs that create a culture of recognition in the workplace. They must incorporate new ways to recognize employees’ contributions to their organizations. (No one is sticking around for a gold watch and lapel pin.)
Organizations are calling on employees to ‘go the extra mile,’ but their recognition efforts are not always structured in a way that makes it possible to recognize those employees who demonstrate discretionary effort. As employees accept the challenge and contribute in new ways to their organizations, recognition in the workplace needs to measure and celebrate their efforts.
Benefits of employee recognition in the workplace
Like in society, in workplaces where people helping one another is the corporate norm, there are lower levels of anxiety and stress among employees. Fostering interactions based on positive reinforcement creates a better environment for everyone involved. Moreover, not only does it feel good to be recognized by our peers and our managers,it also feels good to recognize them.
It is not enough to have an employee recognition program. HR managers need to evaluate whether their initiatives are up to the task of fostering a culture of recognition in the workplace by helping managers and leadership teams to develop the necessary skills to drive positive recognition.