If you are a business owner or manager, you should be thinking about employee recognition. Whether you realize it or not, your organization has a deep-seated and complex culture. This is true of any group of people that work together for a while. Employee recognition is one of the most powerful tools are your disposal for guiding that culture in a positive direction.

The Power of Culture

Culture is something that a lot of management thinkers and speakers talk about. However, there are many organizations with managers who simply don’t think about culture. Despite this, even without trying to, they are affecting their company cultures. Often, this is in a negative way because they are failing to be intentional about fostering a positive culture.

Consider the last time you or someone you know was looking for a job. Chances are that the issue of culture came up. People want to know whether a team has a good culture or not. They also want to figure out if they will make a good fit. Certainly, a lot of hiring managers consider whether a potential candidate will fit in.

Your team culture is affecting how your people make decisions. Do they want to stick around another year to see that project through to the end or are they going to jump ship at the first opportunity? If you see a lot of people leaving, you may think it is a loyalty problem. The truth is that the problem is with leadership; you are the problem. The wrong culture is causing your people to want to leave.

There are many other areas that culture affects too. For example, it can be the difference between a happy cohesive office and a miserable one. Your team culture has an immense amount of power over your business’s success. It is time to start harnessing it for the better.

Employee Recognition Is at the Center of It All

Employee recognition may be one of the most significant ways that a manager can affect culture. When you recognize a team member for her or her successes, you emphasize how important those achievements are. For example, if you recognize a team member for hitting a sales target, that indicates that the numbers are a top priority. Alternatively, if you recognize someone for good customer satisfaction, that indicates that you are customer-centric.

Furthermore, recognizing people makes them feel good about themselves. Despite the fact that many business decisions are made based on numbers and facts, your people’s feelings matter too. Rewarding them by recognizing their hard work is a big motivator.

Create a Happier Culture

As mentioned above, people like to be recognized when they do something good. In particular, they like to know that their hard work paid off and mattered to someone. You may not realize this, but a lot of people are unsure if their efforts get noticed. Many people think that their hard work only earns them higher expectations. Simply thanking someone for his or her work can help make everyone happier.

Culture starts at the top and setting a tone of gratitude and appreciation can have effects all the way down the line. You may be surprised by how much people want to hear a simple “thank you.” Certainly, showing it with action and putting your money where your mouth is can help too. However, merely being grateful is an important first step.

Foster Better Managerial Relationships

By the same token, employee recognition enhances managerial relationships. Do you ever find that your connection with your people is strained? In theory, business managers should be leaders. They should be getting others to follow them with more than just a title and authority. In many cases, this isn’t the reality.

Part of the reason that so many managerial relationships are strained is due to a lack of trust and respect. Leaders often don’t show their people enough trust or respect. This leads to the people living up (or down) to expectations. However, recognizing people for their successes and trusting them to do great things in the future can help to build a stronger, more trusting and respectful relationship.

Again, a large number of business problems are leadership problems. While sometimes being a manager means making unpopular decisions, it doesn’t mean having to be unpopular. Instead, by showing your people how much you appreciate and respect them, you can help them see that you are trying to make the best choices for everyone’s interests. Be loyal to your people and they will be loyal to you.

Improve Employee Retention

People don’t usually quit jobs, they quit managers. If you are making them unhappy and not respecting them, they will be very likely to leave your team. After all, who wants to keep working for an unappreciative tyrant?

You may think that this isn’t the case for your team. Perhaps people often cite better opportunities or on-the-job challenges as reasons for leaving. However, the truth is that most of those reasons for leaving can be lessened or averted through good leadership.

Consider this, people are much more likely to stay at a job where they are happy, even if they could earn more elsewhere. This doesn’t mean that you should try to use employee recognition to exploit your people. That would be counterproductive. However, if they know that you respect them and care about their success, they may be much more willing to stick around.

This could be the difference between someone jumping ship just to get a less stressful job or the difference between a chance to match an offer and getting an outright resignation. Recognizing your people is one of the best ways to reduce turnover.

Achieve More Productivity

All of the above positive effects tend to also affect productivity. People who are happy tend to enjoy their work more and get more invested in it. They may put that extra bit of energy into making a project come together perfectly.

Additionally, people who have been working with your team for a while are typically more productive. Improving your retention means also having a more productive group. The same goes for working better with your people. When your manager/team member relationship is positive and constructive, your people will achieve more.

In short, you can greatly improve your productivity simply by recognizing your people more. As mentioned above, you can also emphasize and reinforce certain behaviors this way. If meeting your sales quotas is a top priority, you can use employee recognition to ensure that people are focusing on that metric. The same goes for any other important facet of your business.

Of course, your goal shouldn’t be to squeeze out more productivity from your team. Again, this would likely be counterproductive. People can tell when you have corrupt motives. However, it is a significant benefit.

Strategies for Leveraging Employee Recognition

There are some powerful employee recognition tools that can make planning a robust program simpler. A well-thought-out system makes it easier to stay consistent with your recognition efforts.

Think about how you will recognize people for their efforts. Obviously, saying thank you can go a long way. However, you may benefit from some more concrete recognition techniques. For example, you could give prizes to people for meeting certain goals. A very traditional version of this is annual service bonuses/gifts. However, you can take it further by recognizing other metrics such as customer satisfaction ratings.

It is often helpful to ensure that the recognition is personal and specific. While a metaphorical gold star may be nice, a personal note is even better. Additionally, making the recognition public is also useful. You can have your team gather for a meal while highlighting specific achievements.

Facilitating peer-to-peer recognition is also helpful. This can compound some of the culture-defining benefits. When people show their gratitude for each other, they get more from the recognition.

If you have a small team, consider recognizing something great that everyone has done each quarter. For larger groups, it can be nice to highlight a few standout achievements.

In some cases, you may want to have some consistent awards for accomplishments that are always important. Going back to earlier examples, this could be sales quotas or customer satisfaction. However, they can be whatever metrics or even scorecard of metrics that you decide on.

Additionally, it is a good idea to have more flexible reasons for recognition such as going beyond the call of duty. This gives you a chance to highlight someone for taking the initiative. That is almost always something you want to reward.

Get Started

Employee recognition is an extremely powerful tool in the right hands. Learn how you can harness it to make your organization a more positive one. Your people will appreciate your efforts to show how much you appreciate them.

It can be a good idea to really think this through. It is simple in concept but more challenging to implement correctly. One of the most important characteristics of a good system is that it is genuine. Take your time and do it right.