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Employee Recognition Practices that Cultivate Top Workplaces + Infographic

“Engagement” is a buzz word that gets thrown around a lot in the business world.  What does it really mean, and why does it matter?

At Roth Staffing Companies, we consider coworkers “engaged” when they are passionate and excited to fulfill our Purpose, “To make life better for the people we serve.”®  We know firsthand from our organization’s history, as well as client feedback, that engagement can lead to remarkable business relationships, improved productivity, financial success, and a Top Employer workplace culture… and a critical component of employee engagement is recognition.

Whether your workplace is a well-known culture champion or one struggling to prevent employee burnout and disengagement, the following recognition practices that can boost your employees’ job satisfaction and engagement.  Additionally, we will outline how to tailor recognition to different types of coworkers and explain why establishing effective recognition practices can transform coworkers into top performers, and ordinary workplaces into “Best to Work For” organizations or departments.

Engagement Leads to Productivity and Profitability

The Gallup Organization determined that only 13% of the world’s working population is engaged at work.  Similarly, according to Roth Staffing’s research, merely 7% of employees at all companies claim that they are recognized and praised when they do a good job at work, versus a whopping 82% of top performers at organizations that have been recognized as Top Employers.

The “Best to Work For” businesses employing these engaged top performers are seeing massive benefits over organizations with disengaged workforces.  Gallup found that workplaces with high engagements levels have much higher rates of:

  • Productivity
  • Profitability
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Safety
  • Attendance
  • Employee retention

It should come as no surprise that high engagement levels often stem from employees who feel valued and cared for.  In fact, employee recognition is one of the key drivers of employee engagement across industries and job classifications.

Quantum Workplace, an organization that specializes in measuring employee engagement and hosts numerous Best Places to Work awards programs nationwide, supports this research.  A survey of nearly 400,000 employees across thousands of organizations determined that hostile employees are 4 times more likely than engaged employees to claim that they didn’t receive enough recognition.

“Our internal engagement survey results mirror these findings,” says Lori Eade, Manager of Customer Experience at Roth Staffing Companies.  “Generally, all types of coworkers—from senior leadership to our entry-level positions—rank ‘I have been recognized for doing good work’ near the top of their workplace needs list. Every time we complete internal engagement surveys, Roth Staffing Companies sees a direct correlation between how ‘recognized’ and valued a coworker feels and his or her overall engagement.”

How Top Employers Recognize Their Employees

Although it would be impossible to address every recognition program that Top Employers promote, there are several common philosophies and practices that Best to Work For organizations and departments implement across the board.  These include:

  • Pay increases and cash bonuses
  • Verbal and written praise
  • Relationship building
  • Compassionate leadership

Financial Rewards

“Consider creating a Top Performers brochure or packet that outlines the criteria for each reward,” says Staci Johnson, Vice President of Marketing for Roth Staffing Companies.  “At Roth Staffing, our Top Performers earn an all-expenses-paid trip to a fantastic destination such as Hawaii.  We launch our Top Performers Club brochure each year to ensure that everyone is in the know regarding their individual and team sales goals and it builds excitement and buzz.  We also invest lots of energy and time into recognizing those who earn the status of Top Performers to make it a very prestigious and special achievement.”

Abundant Praise

When brainstorming ways to improve recognition efforts in your workplace, don’t underestimate the power of praise.  Words of praise can go a long way, particularly when received from a direct manager or senior leadership.  In Quantum Workplace’s survey of thousands of employees, hostile coworkers experienced far fewer instances of praise from senior leadership than engaged employees did.

With regard to praise, be sure to encourage all types of recognition such as:

  • Verbal recognition in a group setting like companywide or team meetings
  • Verbal praise from individual to individual
  • Written recognition via email, notes, or a recognition white board/leaderboard (either hung in the office or hosted online)

“Nurture a culture of abundant recognition by promoting all forms of praise such as peer-to-peer, top-down, bottom-up, within teams, and across departments,” says Jennifer Simonson, Roth Staffing’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel.  “Workplaces where everyone is encouraged to praise and thank a fellow coworker often experience a self-sustaining cycle of praise and good deeds: coworkers go above and beyond to create remarkable experiences, another employee appreciates and recognizes that coworker’s efforts, and both employees are motivated to create more remarkable experiences that result in praise.”

“At Roth Staffing, we have a weekly manager’s meeting.  About once a month, our President & COO brings in a blog post or some research about the power of verbal recognition,” says Johnson, “Just that simple reminder and discussion keeps it top of mind and I find myself more aware of the things I am saying to my team.  I know that there I utter more words of recognition after that monthly refresher – and it’s contagious.  I hear peer-to-peer recognition increase as a result.”

Relationship Building

The Gallup Poll organization found that one of the twelve tenets of engagement centers on the depth of relationships built in the workplace.  “I have a best friend at work” is included in their survey measuring the level of employee overall satisfaction.

The lesson learned from this intriguing research is to make time for activities that allow employees to develop personal relationships:  department lunches, office bowling, holiday fashion shows, cubicle decorations, community service activities, etc.  Another strategy used to facilitate friendship-building is designing work stations that allow coworkers to sit in open areas or work close together.

Compassionate Leadership

When a coworker leaves a company, the manager will generally say it was because of the pay—“they got a better job offer.”  But ask the employee and generally money won’t pull an employee away from a good manager.  In fact, the #1 reason an employee quits a job is because of their boss.

If you want a workplace that is abundant in recognition, it begins with your leaders.  Make compassion and recognition key components in your leadership development training (make sure you HAVE leadership development training).

Here are three tools your managers need to be consistent and frequent with recognition:

1.      Managers need an easy way to recognize great work.

2.      Managers need to know what is appropriate.

3.      Managers need a variety of tools and ideas for offering recognition.


Do This, Not That!: Recognition Edition

Tenure-Based Systems

While it is important to recognize employee loyalty and dedication within organizations and departments, the data demonstrates that tenure-based programs do not work as well as other recognition practices that focus on praising employees for good deeds or providing coworkers with learning opportunities.

“The key to tenure-based programs is to implement them in conjunction with other recognition practices,” explains Regional Vice President Leslie Prince.  “Roth Staffing’s Loyalty Wall celebrates coworkers who have dedicated themselves to the company for at least ten years, but many of those very employees made it to that wall because of the day-to-day recognition and engagement programs such as our Shining Moments program, where coworkers send each other notes on diamond-shaped cards telling them why they deserved special recognition, and Shout Outs, which are computer pop-ups that appear on all of our coworkers’ computers nationwide in real time.  They recognize individual coworkers or teams who have created remarkable experiences for customers and Ambassadors … Our coworkers love Shining Moments and Shout Outs!”

Relying Solely on Money

As discussed above, financial rewards and incentives can help employees feel recognized—to a certain extent.  Once coworkers reach a level of comfort regarding their compensation, further financial rewards do not impact job satisfaction.  Instead, other factors such as “doing meaningful work” and having the ability to develop new skills become important.

A Recognized Workforce is an Engaged Workforce

Most Top Workplaces overwhelmingly experience the perks of employees who feel recognized and valued at work—higher employee engagement, less turnover and absenteeism, a more productive workforce, and increased profitability.  Conversely, many organizations or departments experiencing significant rates of absenteeism and suffering customer service may discover that their employees feel disengaged and undervalued.

Yet, disengaged workplaces do not have to remain that way forever.  Using Roth Staffing’s tips above, organizations and departments can demonstrate that they care about their employees’ wellbeing, development, and job satisfaction… and reap the benefits of a motivated and engaged workforce that is passionate about achieving business goals!

Sources: Quantum Workplaces, Gallup, Great Place to Work, Great Rated, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Towers Watson, OC Tanner, MetLife, Northcoast99.org