Why recognition and appreciation should happen in real time

It’s an accepted fact that recognition and appreciation benefit employees and employers. We know that motivation and engagement soar, and productivity and loyalty increase significantly.

By: James Blair on

Glassdoor reported that employers would retain half of their employees longer if their bosses showed more appreciation. Their appreciation survey also showed that 81% of employees are motivated to work harder when their efforts are recognised. The research of Frederick Herzberg, clinical psychologist and the pioneer of ‘job enrichment’, identified achievement and recognition as workers’ top two motivators. These came even before the nature of the work itself. And salary was relegated to a so-called “hygiene factor” along with work conditions and status).

But whilst many companies choose to recognise and celebrate individuals’ efforts and achievements at special events, annual conferences, or quarterly meetings, this may be missing the mark, particularly for the younger workers on our teams. I have written before about how Generation Z thrive on ongoing feedback and recognition. Research by EY showed that a whopping 97% of Gen Z workers like to receive feedback on an ongoing basis or straight after completing a task.

Millennials are similar. They will always choose a company with a culture of ongoing recognition and appreciation over one that pays that no attention.

Only a decade ago, Forbes research found that 87% of recognition programmes focus on tenure. They also, unsurprisingly, found that such rewards for long service have virtually no impact on performance. Would you work harder and stick around longer to get a carriage clock at ten years’ service? Nope. Nor me.

They found that frequent recognition and appreciation is significantly more powerful than the occasional big displays. In fact, their five best practice tips were as follows:

  1. Recognise people based on specific results and behaviours
  2. Implement peer to peer recognition instead of top-down
  3. Share recognition stories
  4. Make recognition easy and frequent
  5. Tie recognition to your own company values and goals

If all of this sounds too much like hard work for your already stretched HR function, it isn’t. Technology is your friend. An external employee recognition and appreciation platform can be open to all, regardless of working location and shift patterns. It can offer real-time, instantaneous thanks, praise and encouragement from everyone and anyone in the business to everyone and anyone in the business. The acknowledgement and boost to motivation are immediate and intrinsically linked to the act for which they were awarded. (Compare and contrast that with a voucher issued at the end of a meeting four months later, or received by post after the MD found time to sign the accompanying pre-worded corporate letter of thanks.)

Learning in real time that your actions helped a colleague (or just made their day that little bit easier) is intoxicating and contagious. Not only does it encourage repeat behaviour in the recipient, but it nurtures a sense of belonging and drives the desire to pay it forward – all good for a culture of team work, collaboration, and positivity.

If desired, the platform can easily, and with minimum effort, also be used to supply a monthly round-up of the best recognitions. Similarly, use it to shout about the most rewarded colleagues and celebrate those who shared the most love! This will, again, drive a wider culture of recognition, appreciation and collaboration, and encourage more of the same positive behaviours on an ongoing basis.

Another advantage of a peer-to-peer platform is that it encourages real-time recognition of the less obvious efforts and achievements that matter to our people and to the success of the business. That means that teamwork, support, innovation and collaboration get a look in alongside successes against financial targets, sales or mystery shopper results.

Research by Achievers found that 44% of employees change their jobs because they don’t get adequate recognition for their efforts. Why wouldn’t you enable, empower and encourage your people to recognise each other? Why wouldn’t you nurture that culture of recognition and that sense of belonging? Beats me!