Reward and recognition have been buzzwords in business for longer than most of us have been in business. But what do they actually mean and when do they work?

Most managers and leaders would agree that maintaining an engaged, motivated, driven workforce, improving productivity, employee happiness and reducing turnover of the team, is vital to a successful business.

The question is: how do I reward my teams and what are the most effective forms of employee recognition?

What is Recognition?

The business dictionary defines recognition is the communication between management and employees which rewards them for reaching specific goals or producing high-quality results in the workplace. Recognising or honouring employees for this level of service encourage repeat actions, through reinforcing the behaviour that management would like to be repeated.

Recognition is the acknowledgement of an individual or a team’s behaviour, effort or accomplishments that support the organisation’s goals and values. It is vital for leaders to understand and to build a culture of recognition within their team, giving thought as to how each individual should be recognised. Appreciating an employee’s contributions, saying THANK YOU and confirming why the member of the team has done such a great job, engages the team and builds positive cultural foundations for an organisation

Who gives recognition?

Traditionally, recognition has been given ‘down the line’ from the leaders to the teams, from team leaders to their employees. Recognition takes many forms: verbally, formally through an appraisal process, via an informal card or more formal letter, as part of the working week or at awards events. The recognition is usually given by an employee’s direct line manager or by the top management layers within a business.

Why does recognition work?

Recognition is one of the best motivators for people to continue repeating the action that gained them the recognition- by its very nature, a positive action! Back to the forefather as phycological thinking, if we recall Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, once our basic needs of food, warmth, rest, safety and security are met and we have the ‘belongingness’ that friends bring us, it is esteem needs that require meeting. Esteem needs address the prestige and feeling of accomplishment that we can provide to ourselves, if confident enough, but for most employees, these needs are met through positive feedback from line managers. Being recognised for having completed a good job increases confidence, gives the feeling of achievement and drives the employee to continue to provide that same (or higher) level of work.

What will it cost?

Informal recognition will cost you nothing. However, if you want to run an event or an awards evening, costs will reflect the type of event you wish to run. Using a platform to run your internal recognition is an extremely cost-effective way to ensure that recognition stays on everyone’s radar and becomes a part of the natural culture of the business. Reward- when an employee is given a gift, bonus, sum of money or another award, will obviously cost more and should be used in a different way to recognition.

Why is Employee Recognition important?

Employee recognition is important both for the wellbeing and positivity of the employee, but also to improve output, increase employee retention and lower the need to recruit to fill the gaps left by leavers. Retaining and motivating an existing employee is a far more cost-effective use of funds, resources and time than recruiting new employees because the existing workforce does not feel valued.  When employees and their work is seen as valued, their satisfaction and productivity rise and are motivated to maintain or even improve their current good work. People want to be respected and valued for their contribution and recognising good work is vital for an outstanding workplace.

Employee engagement

According to Recruiterbox, 90% of employees say that recognition from the line manager through a recognition programme positively impacts their engagement with work. What is interesting within this set of statistics is that peer-to-peer recognition is 35% more likely to have a positive financial impact on the business than manager only recognition. This financial impact could be through increased retention, more productivity leading to better profitability of the company.

Turnover and retention

A business who can recruit, train, motivate and retain great employees is the panacea of productivity. Analysts report that companies with recognition programmes that are highly effective at improving employee engagement have 31% lower voluntary turnover (Bersin and Associates, Forbes).


According to Globalforce, 78% of employees would work harder if they were better recognised. Compensation (encompassing salary + benefits) is no longer enough- if it ever was! The workforce of 2019 wants a meaningful, close-knit culture, genuine work recognition, frequent praise- and rewards! A recent report by Inc. states that organisations that give regular thanks to their employees tremendously outperform those who don’t. Companies with engaged employees have revenue two-and-a-half times greater than companies with low engagement levels, and higher-than-average employee engagement translates to close to a third higher profitability. From a bottom-line perspective, it makes sense for a business to focus attention on recognition!


Reducing turnover, meaning that team members are not coming and going every couple of weeks, increases teamwork and camaraderie, team members will work better with one another, understand how to best engage each other and work will become far more enjoyable. Team members will support one another, ensure work is completed even when their colleague is on holiday or sick and will want to work for the team as well as for themselves. The outcome? Quicker delivery of results, increased productivity and a healthier bottom line. Making a short, open-office speech about an employee’s work to recognise their successes will ensure that the employee feels good about themselves and with a positive team morale, the rest of the team will feel proud of their team colleague. Even your most stone-faced employee may even crack a smile!

Happy employees lead to happy cystotomes too. When the team has increased morale, their interaction with customers is likely to be more positive. An engaged team in a good mood will lead to a much better client interaction, increased service and the natural desire to be the best that they can be.

Top Down Recognition

There are several types of top-down recognition, including:

  • Years of Service Awards (87% of all reward and recognition plans are set up to focus on length of service)
  • Employee Recognition Day (only really in the USA presently, on the first Friday in March, but watch this space! )
  • Annual Bonuses
  • Quarterly Bonuses
  • Spot Bonuses

Peer to Peer Recognition

In addition to top-down recognition, employees recognising one another’s efforts, in some studies, is even more powerful than top-down recognition. Back to the Recruiterbox study, peer-to-peer recognition is 35% more likely to have a positive impact than manager only recognition.

  • ‘Gold Stars’
  • Verbal Praise
  • Microbonuses

How to build a Successful Employee Recognition Programme

  1. Be Timely

Millennials require immediate recognition for accomplishments, according to research from HR consultants, Tinypulse. And this rings true when everything else in the Millennials’’ life is so instant: from social media sharing to Amazon same day delivery, from Derilveroo to Netflix- so much of the world is at our fingertips, to the generation who was born into the Internet era, is there any wonder why waiting is seen as negative?

  1. Be Frequent

Fickle as we may be, a ‘thank you and well done’ although inspirational, motivational and effective, is soon forgotten. Recognition must become part of the tapestry of the company’s culture, woven into its DNA. Frequency does not mean scheduled, however, where recognition becomes a tick-list item. It should remain free and responsive.

  1. Be Consistent

The consistency of recognition is important. Whatever the work or actions that are being thanked, everyone should be recognised for the same good efforts. Being fair, consistent and transparent is key to a successful recognition platform. Ensuring that peer-to-peer recognition is not a test of favouritism or an opportunity to leave people out is an important balancing act.

  1. Be Specific

The rule of thumb for giving meaningful feedback is as follows:

  • Thank you for A,B,C.
  • What you did for the company by completing A,B,C was X,Y,Z.
  • X,Y,Z resulted in F,G,H.

For example: Simon, thank you for the effort you put in last week, for staying later than you should and ensuring that you launched the platform for the client when they wanted it for. What that meant was that the employees of Acme Trading could start to recognise each other having heard all about the platform at their annual awards event. In turn, we have a happy customer who realises that we will go above and beyond in terms of service and delivery for them. Your actions will support their loyalty and really begins our contract with them in the way we would want it to happen. What’s more, they have sent a testimonial about your work, which with your permission, we would like to publish on our website and social media. We all appreciate what you have done Well done and thank you.

  1. Be Visible

Not everyone likes the limelight, but most people do! Reflect your team member’s likes and dislikes when giving recognition. A spontaneous announcement in an open office or inviting everyone to take a coffee break and sharing the praise in front of the collective team will work well. Sharing that information at a board or director’s meeting- even if the person themselves is not there, will also help to embed the culture you are striving to achieve within the senior management team, as well as allowing the employee’s direct line manager pride about their employee’s achievements.

  1. Implementation

Using a specific, rewards and recognition platform to embed the culture into your organisation allows a launch, provides opportunities to shout about the platform and what your teams can do for one another, as well as receive for a ‘job well done’. Re-visiting the platform and engaging all teams to include a discussion around the platform into all team meeting agendas, including analysis of the previous month’s usage on board meeting agendas and reminding employees to use peer-to-peer recognition through posters in prominent dwell points in the office space will aid implementation.

Who to Reward and Recognise

The whole team- including the leaders & the CEO should all be eligible for recognition. A reward should be transparent and fair, with stretching but achievable targets that are communicated clearly in advance. Recognition should also include everyone for peer-to-peer awards and all teams for the top-down recognition streams.

What are the Benefits

As well as all of the benefits discussed above, which, if collated come down to: making the employee feel appreciated, improving motivation, lowering staff turnover, increasing productivity and generally improving bottom line profitability, further benefits of a successful rewards and recognition platform include: connecting the workforce, building a recognition culture and encouraging 360-degree feedback. Encouraging upward feedback, will, in turn, encourage employees to be brave with their thoughts and ideas- you never know where that may lead!

If you would like to engage in a demonstration of highfiveReward, please email in the first instance and take the first step to a motivated, engaged, highly productive workforce.