Employee recognition - what you need to know

6 min read  |   11 May, 2021   By Breathe Australia


When you think of employee recognition, ‘employee of the month’ awards might spring to mind. While receiving an award would certainly be uplifting for an employee, the real power of employee recognition is how it makes employees feel valued and inspired to pump out even more thoughtful, productive and profitable work - exactly what every small business needs. Implementing effective employee recognition strategies will also boost your company culture by encouraging desirable behaviours and profitable activities that will in turn catapult your company to more sales.


What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition encompasses the ways a company acknowledges their employees for making an outstanding contribution to the workplace, customers and/or their colleagues.

It can come in many forms and it’s important to find the ways which suit you and your business model best. For example, you might be interested in launching a full-scale employee recognition program or more keen to start small by encouraging your managers to find small and simple ways to show their appreciation to your employees. Either way, amping up company-wide gratitude can only stimulate good outcomes.


Why is employee recognition so important?

There are three main reasons that make acknowledging your employees’ excellent contributions so important:

  • You can make your employees happier and more engaged
    Making your employees happier will make you (and them) feel good. Plus, more engaged employees equal higher levels of productivity and a more profitable bottom line for your business.
  • You will encourage a values-centric company culture
    When you align your employee recognition strategies with your company’s core values your employees are more likely to a) be aware of them and b) carry out their work in line with them. Well thought out values reflect what your business stands for and provide a helpful roadmap for the type of organisation you want to grow into. They form the building blocks of your company culture.
  • You are likely to improve employee retention
    Happy, engaged and value-minded employees are much more likely to stay on board with your business. This not only keeps great talent (that you have trained) within your business it will save you a tonne of outgoings that you would have spent on the recruitment process.

How can employee recognition benefit your workplace?

The main way that employee recognition will benefit your workplace is by reducing the probability of employees leaving and the costs associated with recruitment. This is a result of employing happier, more engaged and productive people.

If you haven’t yet settled on an accurate way to analyse the potential cost of employee turnover, according to some of the respondents who participated in a 2018 turnover and retention research report by the Australian HR Institute (AHRI), you can calculate turnover costs by:

  • Multiplying an employees annual salary by 1.5
  • Adding 28% of the average weekly earnings of an employee multiplied by 12 weeks. This includes the time taken to find a replacement and on-board and train them. 
  • Adding up recruitment and selection costs including: 
  • Manpower (time to review applications, sit on panels)
  • Hours of colleagues taken up as work needs to be redistributed
  • The cost of advertising, and other associated costs until a position is filled

As you can see, the costs of employee turnover can be significant. So, investing in some form of employee recognition is clearly valuable. In fact, leading experience data (X-data) company, Qualtrics, in their 2020 Global Employee Experience Trends report, found that “highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their companies than their less engaged counterparts”.


How you can implement employee recognition?

The best way to implement an employee recognition strategy is to start with a solid, purposeful plan. To help maximise the success of your strategy consider including:

  • Meaningful criteria
    Specific criteria will help you and your managers avoid arbitrarily choosing employees or favouring some over others. Make being recognised something distinctive and achievable.
  • Rewards or recognition that your employees value
    Do a quick survey or have some one-on-one conversations to find out what your employees like and appreciate. Would a group shout out at the next team meeting suffice? Or would your employees prefer a private note that maybe gets shared in the next internal newsletter. Would your employees prefer massage vouchers or to be taken out to lunch?
  • Personalised touches
    Try to avoid fully outsourcing recognition to your HR team. Involving managers and their personal thoughts and feedback in the process is crucial for the recognition to hit home with your employees.
  • Branded comms and rewards
    Not only does it help to reinforce your brand it encourages a level of pride in your employees.

Rewards and recognition programs and other effective ways to recognise your employees

here are a number of simple ways your business can weave employee recognition into your work week, including:

  1. Tailored positive feedback
    Employee recognition can be as simple as a short email or in-person comment. Sharing specific positive feedback regularly will give your employees small but mighty boosts of confidence. Remember though to offer positive feedback as quickly as possible following a good deed so it has the full effect.
  2. Lunch on the house
    Whether you take your cherished employee out to a private lunch or offer to shout them some takeaway, taking time to have a short, meaningful conversation about how much you appreciate their hard work over some tasty food will do wonders in encouraging them to keep up the great work.
  3. Gift some company merch
    A branded jacket, overnight bag or umbrella are not only practical, but also a great way for your employees to promote company pride. You could even customise the item for something extra special.
  4. Sponsor a volunteer day
    If a celebrated employee is passionate about giving back, consider giving your employees the opportunity to volunteer at a local community initiative instead of working one day (while still being paid).
  5. More time off
    Everyone wants more time to relax, pursue personal interests or spend more time with friends and family. As a reward for exemplary performance at work, offer your employees an afternoon or entire day off in addition to the leave they have already accrued. If your small business can’t afford to pay your employees for more time off yet, consider offering more unpaid leave. You would be surprised how many employees are happy to sacrifice a bit of their salary for some more down time.
  6. Surprise treats with a handwritten note
    Taking the time to bake your hardworking employee a delicious treat has “I appreciate you” written all over it. Not only is the effort you put in super thoughtful, they will also have something sweet to give them a bit of pep during the day. Add a handwritten note explaining exactly how much their contribution means to your business for the perfect finishing touch.
  7. Rewards and recognition program software
    Intuitive recognition and rewards program software often pays for itself in boosted employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement, and retention. Breathe’s powerful people and performance management platform helps you recognise and reward your people for their hard work. It lets you easily track employee performance, arrange one-to-ones, manage annual appraisal meetings, and set goals or targets for staff to strive for.


Author: Breathe Australia

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