The Importance of Employee Recognition Programs

What’s the mood in your small business lately? How does it compare to the results of the latest Globoforce Workforce Mood Tracker?

employee recognition

This six-month survey of U.S. employees’ satisfaction levels had some good—and bad—news for small business owners.

First, the good news: U.S. workers are feeling more satisfied than they did six months ago. Half of employees report having been recognized for their on-the-job efforts in the past three months, up from 44 percent in Fall 2011 when the last survey was conducted. And more than 80 percent say receiving recognition in the workplace makes them more satisfied with their jobs. Additionally, more than half believe their employers are doing a good job offering adequate recognition for work well done.

Now, the bad news: Even though many employees are happier with their jobs, things could be better for the 55 percent of employees who say they’re ready to leave their current jobs for a company that would better recognize their efforts.

Not convinced that recognizing your employees’ efforts is directly related to their satisfaction? Check out this data:

  • Just 23 percent of employees who have been recognized at work say they plan to search for a new job when the economy improves, compared to 51 percent of those who have never been recognized.
  • A vast majority—89 percent—of those who have been recognized feel appreciated at their job, compared to 17 percent of those never recognized.
  • Most—76 percent—of those who have been recognized by their employers love their jobs, compared to 37 percent of those who haven’t been.

If you haven’t implemented some type of employee recognition program, now is the time. For a small business, recognition is easy.

For one thing, you’re probably out walking around and interacting with your team already (at least, I hope so). Be sure to provide ongoing recognition of their efforts by acknowledging them, thanking them, and calling them out in front of the rest of the team. Recognizing people’s efforts publicly is important—don’t just do it behind closed doors.

Of course, another often-appreciated way to recognize your people is with a written note. I know many workers who have treasured little mementos like this for years. In today’s instant-communication world, taking the time to write a note means a lot. (That doesn’t mean you can’t send a quick email to thank workers for their efforts, of course.)

Finally, consider recognition in a more tangible way, such as a gift card, cash or a paid day or afternoon off.

How do you recognize your employees?  How has it helped you retain key people?

Employee Recognition Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

12 Reactions
  1. I was just reading the previous post on getting gold medal employees ( and this post hits on a related vein. To keep the best people they have to feel appreciated whether it’s a raise, unexpected perks or just public acknowledgement.

  2. Thanks for commenting Robert. You’re exactly right, treat people well and they’ll stay. Don’t and they soon be gone.

  3. This kind of makes the President’s comment “you didn’t build that” even more concerning. The current emphasis on the collective vs the individual flies in the face of this poll. Not trying to politicize anything… but these two philosophies of “wanting recognition” vs. “no one is a star” certainly clash.

  4. I try to discourage “Employee of the Month” awards with any companies I work with. It’s much better and easier to find some way to publicly recognize something every employee did right every six months. If you are a large company put your middle and lower level managers on notice that you are looking for what people are doing right… not what they are doing wrong. You, as the business, owner should take responsibility for recognizing your managers efforts too. Negatives always flow downhill; positives flow both ways and are good for everyone. Great article with good reminders, thanks for posting it.

  5. Thanks Tom. I tend to agree. Employee of the month programs can backfire, causing jealousies among the staff. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with occasionally calling out someone who’s gone above and beyond, even rewarding them with a free dinner. I also believe in group rewards–bring in lunch, give people the afternoon off.

    Vickie, I am not sure I’m following your comments. I think there is power in the collective, but I don’t think that precludes congratulating people on a job well done.

  6. Hi Rieva,

    Really interesting piece – thank you!

    One thing I want to mention: if a manager is giving verbal or written feedback to an employee, it’s important to keep a record of that interaction. This will come in handy during performance reviews and other personnel discussions. Having a paper trail will jog everyone’s memory and reduces the “recency effect” problem of performance reviews.

  7. Recognition and appreciation are powerful tools that are available to any organization, however few people truly appreciate how effective these things can be. In our experience there are 3 kinds of organizations: those that understand the power of recognition and use it effectively; those that have never used recognition, and those that have used low quality recognition and decided that it doesn’t work.

    When you’re considering using recognition awards, be sure to invest in awards that are personalized and well made – these will properly convey your message of recognition and appreciation and in some cases may even amplify it. Conversely, if you use cheaply made awards, you could in fact send the opposite message. Think of taking someone special out for dinner…you want to take them somewhere lovely to make an impression, you don’t take them out to the cheapest restaurant you can find. It’s the same with your recognition awards – quality begets quality. Invest in your people and social capital.

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