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Employee Recognition: A Management Tool That Gets Results

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Updated on February 23, 2024

Finding meaning in what we do is essential. Everyone needs to be recognized for their efforts. Does your company have a policy in this sense?

As the pool of competent resources grows smaller, effective and optimal human resource management has become a common goal.

Businesses have been dealing with this issue for many years. Managers need to invent a whole array of strategies to attract and retain the best human resources.

How can you, as an employer, make sure that your employees are motivated to work for your company and to give their best? There is one simple, easy-to-apply tactic that can optimize employee productivity: recognition.

Recognition, a powerful tool

If you recently conducted an organizational climate or satisfaction survey in your organization, the results may have shown that recognition is a strong motivator, perhaps even more so than salary.

Human resource specialists and experienced managers all agree that recognition is a very powerful management and mobilization tool.

How can employers use recognition efficiently and consistently so that employees feel involved, accountable, motivated and valued and actively contribute to the organization’s success?

What is recognition?

According to the Institut national de la santé publique du Québec, it is essential to maintain a balance between the efforts made by a worker and the recognition received. The greater the effort required, the greater the risk to physical and mental health if measures such as recognition are not taken.

Several aspects can be evaluated and recognized:

  • daily efforts, regardless of results;
  • achievement of specific goals;
  • work methods and behaviour.

Recognition program: a few questions

Before an organization introduces a recognition program, it must consider three points. It needs to:

1. Define the initiative’s objectives

Does it want to recognize behaviour, competencies, effort or results?

2. Determine how employees will be recognized

Individually or as a group, with a monetary or a non-monetary reward?

3. Determine the type of recognition, based on the context


If employees have done their work very well, if client meetings have gone well or if employees have done a very good job of representing the company at an event, management or supervisor recognition would be informal (pat on the back, word of thanks, forwarding of an acknowledgement email from a client. etc.),


The employer sets up a structure – ideally with some employee participation – to recognize special employee work or initiatives. This could be done with a breakfast meeting, a “happy hour” event, the presentation of an award in an informal setting, provided it’s been organized by management. Such events provide an opportunity to recognize individuals or groups before their peers or even clients or business partners.

There are many small ways to recognize employees and promote their commitment, for example:

  • Personalized thank you notes;
  • Acknowledging significant life events (birth, marriage, etc.);
  • Authorizing some time off after a particularly intense work period;
  • Inviting employees for dinner;
  • Forwarding praise about employees from clients or business partners.

To improve success

Once these methods have been clarified, it’s important that all managers be informed of the guidelines so that the various initiatives selected by managers are standardized and fair.

Additionally, recognition and reward programs implemented by employers should be consistent with employee wishes.

However, a number of prerequisites are key to ensuring that these initiatives actually achieve their intended objective. Here are a few that will bolster the effect:

  • The recognition must be sincere. A stock greeting or thank you card, as nice as it may be, could have the opposite effect. The employee will feel that he or she is not even worth the effort of a few personal words of praise;
  • Act immediately. Recognizing someone days (or weeks) after the fact has much less impact;
  • Be positive and do it in person. Managers should talk to employees directly rather than sending an email.

Positive results

Recognition is a simple concept that is sometimes trivialized by senior management and some human resource specialists. Yet, it has a proven track record with employees. Additionally, it can easily be adopted by all managers in an organization.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to adopt simple but telling ways of showing recognition on a daily basis. The best way is to instil recognition practices in the corporate culture. With such an approach, managers will see higher staff retention levels and, perhaps even improved organizational competitiveness.

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