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How to give recognition to employees

employee recognition

Some might think, from the title of this blog, that this is going to be the shortest one yet. And yes, sure, I could have typed the words ‘say’ and ‘thank you’ and taken an early lunch (there’s a new café in town that does filled Yorkshire Puds I want to try out!), but, perhaps like someone who just says ‘thank you’ from time-to-time, I’d have only done “half a job”.

Giving recognition isn’t difficult or complicated (and that is never an excuse for not doing it at all!), but doing it properly may take a little forethought. That’s why we’re here – to do most of that fore-thinking for you.

In August, we looked at Gallup & Workhuman’s comprehensive ‘Transforming Workplaces Through Recognition’ report. I’m not going to repeat any of the stat’s and facts from that article here, so please feel free to grab a coffee and a nice (or even a Nice) biscuit and take a look at that here if you so wish. Besides, the very fact that you’re reading an article entitled “how to give recognition to employees” suggests that you already recognise the benefits of good recognition.

The point of this article is to look at the ‘how’ in a little more detail.

To quote the report:

“All recognition matters, from simple, day-to-day ‘thank-you’s to companywide awards. But not all recognition is equal. Five factors are critical to driving its impact: Recognition must be fulfilling, authentic, equitable, embedded in the culture and personalised.”

- Gallup/Workhuman

Let’s take a quick look at each of these in turn.


There is no finite number or frequency to aim for when it comes to recognition, nor should one be set, even with the admirable aim of increasing recognition. Everyone is different, and people have variable ideas of how frequently they would like, or expect, to receive recognition.

Organisations should aim to simply provide a consistent experience of feeling appreciated to fulfil the needs of their people. According to the Gallup data, most people want to receive recognition at least a few times a month. The “at least” is the operative phrase here – over 40% of respondents cited ‘a few times a week or more’ as the right amount. And yet, only 23% strongly agreed they are receiving enough.

There is no such thing as ‘too much recognition’ provided it is authentic, genuine, and appropriately given. Creating a fulfilling recognition experience is more important than simply hitting an arbitrary target for frequency.


Insincere or forced recognition, or empty words and gestures will not fulfil the needs of your employees. In fact, it can be as detrimental as not giving it at all. Recognition has significantly more impact when the recipient understands why they’re receiving it. We all want to feel that our work is valuable and contributes to our organisations' overall success, so understanding how that particular task or result has positively impacted the business makes the recognition all the more meaningful. To be fully authentic, recognition should mean something to both the giver and receiver.

According to the Gallup data, only about a third of employees strongly agree that the recognition they currently receive is authentic.


Whilst nobody would suggest that everyone should receive the same amount of recognition regardless of effort and achievement, recognition should be equitable and fair across all sectors of the business and all populations. According to Gallup: “only 26% of employees strongly agree they receive similar amounts of recognition as other team members at their company with similar performance levels.” This is not good for the sense of fairness and inclusivity, or the all-important feeling of belonging. Perceived favouritism (or the opposite) can, of course, be extremely damaging to morale and teamwork.

the importance of employee recognition


Having a recognition platform is a great start and will absolutely help to encourage recognition and appreciation. However, it is not the end of the story if a culture of recognition is to be fully and successfully embedded. To quote the Workhuman report again:

“A culture of recognition is one in which gratitude, praise, and appreciation are freely given, regularly received and reach all corners of the organisation. Where everyone feels empowered to take part in showing appreciation and commending achievements.”

- Gallup/Workhuman

The report confirms that it is as important to give as it is to receive. Perhaps predictably, however, they found that leaders and managers give recognition more frequently (67% of leaders and 61% of managers give recognition a few times a week or more) than other contributors (at 42%). A recognition platform that enables peer-to-peer recognition can really help here. And one that provides monthly data on who is sharing and receiving the love offers even more. Shouting about recognition and appreciation is contagious – it encourages more of the same good work and more of the same recognition. And employees who receive mostly public recognition are the most likely to believe they work for an organisation with a solid culture of recognition. It’s win-win-win.


Just as preferred frequency will vary across employees, so will the ‘how’ and the ‘where’. A few like to bask in bask in the glory of public recognition (7%) whilst others prefer private (29%). Only 10% claim to have been asked about how they like to be recognised. Leaders should take the time to find out how their direct reports like to be recognised, and comply with their wishes to the best of their abilities, the circumstances and surroundings.

The good news is that 64% prefer a mix of public and private; this is where your convenient recognition platform scores again.

“Technology-mediated recognition can strike a balance by "packing the punch" of public recognition while being more comfortable for employees who like a low profile.”

- Gallup/Workhuman

Recognition is invaluable and should be a fundamental part of an internal comms strategy. Not giving it the time and attention is deserves is incredibly foolish. Handing over much of the hard work to a suitable platform is a wise move. It’s actually not that expensive to invest in such software to get you started. The cost of not doing so, however, could be huge.


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