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How to use recognition to strengthen your team 6 min read
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When was the last time you received a “good job” from your team leader or a coworker?

Employee recognition helps employees know that their contributions and behaviors are impactful and appreciated, among other benefits including increased productivity and engagement on individual, team, and organizational levels.

In this blog, we’ll explore the potential consequences of a lack of employee recognition, the lasting impacts of dedicated recognition, and some best practices to get your team on track.

The consequences of feeling unappreciated at work

When employee recognition isn’t the norm, it can have a negative impact on your organization’s culture and performance. Here are two ways it could have an effect:

Less engaged, less productive workforce

If people don’t feel seen, valued, or recognized by other employees or their employer, they’re less motivated to put their best foot forward. This can be reflected in either the quality of their work, or their overall attitude towards other employees and stakeholders.

A study by WorkHuman found that 49% of employees hadn’t even received a “thank you” from their boss during the pandemic. While stressful and uncertain times certainly call for even more dedication to employee recognition and support, making it a standard practice is a good idea, too. More on how to do that later.

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Higher employee turnover 

Unrecognized employees may even leave their jobs. According to this study by OfficeTeam, an overwhelming two-thirds of people are willing to leave their jobs if they feel unappreciated.

Consider the costs of training a new employee to replace a veteran who knows your processes inside out—the time and resources required are reason enough to strive for happy, valued employees. If this is kept in mind, it also can benefit your organization’s reputation and overall talent acquisition efforts, as you will be able to showcase a track record of satisfied employees.

How employee recognition fosters individual engagement 

Employee recognition clearly has wider positive impacts for an organization. Let’s zoom in a bit to see how it impacts individuals.

Employee happiness

Feeling appreciated is a fundamental human need. From our earliest years, we crave recognition from all of the people around us, and we respond positively to credit because it gives us confirmation that we’re valued by others. A survey also found that 70% of employees would see a morale boost if their managers said “thank you” more often.

How exciting is it to experience that surge of excitement and momentum when you’ve been performing well? Research shows that there is a positive correlation between employee happiness and recognition at work.

Improved quality of work 

When satisfaction and productivity increases, individuals feel more motivated to keep up, or even improve the good work. Great Place to Work found that 37% of people viewed recognition as the most critical driver of great work.

In fact, this far outweighed the other options such as autonomy, promotions, and training opportunities. When workers feel that they’re being cared for, you’ll see better results in the way they produce at work. Why? Recognized employees are more invested and devoted to their company’s success, rather than viewing their job as “just work”.

Team-level impacts of employee recognition 

The majority of the employee experience happens at the team level, where the leader is a crucial touchpoint of communication. But how does it work?


Reinforced core values and strengthened culture 

Regular recognition of team member’s work and contributions demonstrates what a workplace values in terms of deliverables and behavior. Achievers’ 2020 Engagement Retention report found that 92% of employees are more likely to repeat a particular action again when they’re recognized for it. By using shout-outs, leaders can easily demonstrate how employees are living by their organizational values and therefore solidify their culture.

Closer team connection and trust 

Regular top-down and peer-to-peer recognition will foster vital trust and higher engagement, leading to better performance. The bond between employees gets stronger when teams celebrate both small and large wins. Furthermore, when employees understand that their efforts contribute to a higher cause, they feel a deeper connection to leadership and their vision.

Employee recognition best practices

Employee recognition shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Everyone reacts to recognition and gratitude differently—the way it’s presented can have an effect on this.

Acknowledging effort starts with small things like:

Be specific with your thank yous 

It’s important to acknowledge what you are thanking a team member for—whether it’s in a one-on-one meeting or in front of a group. As an example, “Stephanie, I am really grateful for all of the extra hours you put into getting those dashboards ready for our company meeting—it really helped support our proposal in a visual way.”

Publish an organization-wide shout-out

Whether it’s a new article on your intranet, a post on social media, or a section in your company newsletter, recognizing accomplishments on a larger level or from leadership is important, too, because it also communicates to the whole organization how valuable someone’s work is. It also provides an opportunity for others who might not be on the same team to congratulate colleagues.

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Create opportunities to celebrate 

It is important to create time and space for team bonding and celebration. In lieu of budget draining team retreats, consider monthly “team night outs”, where you can all relax or learn a new skill unrelated to work.

Send care packages

From quarterly milestones to personal life events and holidays, gifts can be a great way to recognize employees and make them feel appreciated. Depending on the occasion, you could consider general fun gifts or interesting experiences or something related to their professional development, like a skills course they’ve been eyeing.

Hats off to your employees 

Employee recognition is a relatively low effort, but worthwhile practice for an organization and its leadership and teammates. It’s crucial for recruiting and retaining top talent, increasing employee engagement, and encouraging higher performance.

Thoughtful and genuine applications of employee recognition can be achieved in many ways, with applications in and out of the boardroom.

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