The power of recognition

Written by
Inji Duducu

05 Oct 2015

05 Oct 2015 • by Inji Duducu

Recognition can go a long way

Nowadays it is understood that employee appreciation is absolutely key to productivity, and most of us know from personal experience the impact some personal and well timed recognition has on our own morale. Exploring this, what would be the impact on performance in your organisation if everyone felt valued every day?

Currently, the processes of employee appreciation for many organisations is largely top down, financially motivated usually in the form of a bonus, pay rise or promotion and the power of simple ‘thank you’ is often overlooked. In many cases, employees will ask for more money, when actually what they really want is more time from their manager, more coaching, more development. Sometimes what is lacking is as simple as feeling “seen” and noticed.

Impact of performance appreciation

Sincere, personal and specific recognition of strong performance can be a powerful motivator to redouble an employee’s efforts and drive for even greater performance in the future. Cicero Group’s 2013 research, The Effect of Performance Recognition on Employee Engagement, reveals that employees receiving strong performance recognition are much more likely to be highly engaged at their job and, as a result, are more likely to perform at their maximum output and develop innovative ways to improve their company. 

It is clear to see from the report’s findings that strong levels of recognition foster a positive working atmosphere. Take for example the change in relationship between a manager and an employee if there is regular performance appreciation. Among the 2,415 employees questioned in the study, 86% of those who received strong performance recognition stated that they had a strong relationship with their direct managers whereas only 46% of those receiving weak recognition agreed. [1]

[1] Cicero Group, 2013: The Effect of Performance Recognition on Employee Engagement 

Instilling a culture of acknowledgment

As well as recognition by managers, peer to peer appreciation is huge factor in establishing an organisation wide culture of appreciation. Gratitude is also infectious; Dr Robert A. Emmons of the University of California found in his 2003 study, Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life, that people who regularly identified things they were grateful for would also offer others more emotional support and thanks[2]. Therefore, through encouraging regular and vocal displays of appreciation in the workplace employers can magnify the performance of their people.

[2] Dr. R. A. Emmons, 2003: Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life

Appreciation in practice

I believe that there is a culture in many businesses whereby showing appreciation and gratitude is saved only for reviews (or worse, when someone resigns!) and is seldom displayed on a daily basis. Obviously, for employers and HR professionals, this does not make life easy when attempting to motivate a workforce but understanding the how technology available can help, can play a part in changing this way of thinking. One such tool is an e-card store where companies can give people entertaining tools to make it even easier to say thank you to each other.

Benenden has recently gone live with such a scheme, and it has been positively adopted with enthusiasm by our people, allowing them to celebrate work they see on an everyday basis.

These range from eCards for everyday effort to a program that celebrates career achievements, so there is no reason that businesses can’t aim to let accomplishments, large or small, go celebrated! There has been over 400 e-thank you’s sent in the first 2 weeks and in a company of 650 employees, this represents a considerable amount of peer-to-peer recognition. It has sent a hugely powerful message throughout the company and the e-cards offer a more personal and fun alternative to an email at a very low cost. 

We have also seen people emailing to say thank you for their thank you, and I’ve had colleagues stopping me in the corridors to say how the ecard they received made their day, which in turn made my day.

As high-performing employees are the essence of any successful business, it seems to me that recognising and appreciating performance daily in order to improve engagement and overall performance is well worth the investment.