The benefits of employee recognition that organizations still struggle to tap into


May 12, 2017

Human resources managers understand that human talent plays a key role in their organizations’ productivity. Finding new ways to tap into the benefits of employee recognition is a key factor in effectively leveraging employees’ impact on the bottom line. However, despite overwhelming consensus about the benefits of employee recognition for productivity and employee motivation, companies continue to struggle with building a workplace culture of recognition.

Leadership knows employee recognition benefits their organizations and it makes good business sense. Managers in every area have experienced firsthand the benefits of employee recognition in the workplace. And, research conclusively—and repeatedly—has found that employees value a workplace culture of recognition and positive employee recognition.

So, why is employee recognition one of the biggest pain points in talent management? Why do so many organizations struggle to instill positive employee recognition in the workplace as a core value of their culture?

It isn’t for lack of trying. In fact. in a 2018 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 80% of the HR professionals surveyed reported that their organization has an employee recognition program in place.

The evolving culture of recognition in the workplace

Typically, employee recognition programs recognize length-of-service milestones or strong individual or team performance. According to the 2017 World of Work Employee Recognition study, not much has changed in the past five years. Since 2013, the top five employee recognition programs have ranked as follows: length of service or tenure (85%), above-and-beyond performance (77%), programs to motivate behaviors associated with the business initiatives (e.g., customer service, collaboration) (51%), peer-to-peer recognition (49%) and retirement (34%).

Top five employee recognition programs


The first clue to why employee recognition is persistently one of the top concerns for HR managers (and leadership teams, in general) may lie in the fact that the ranking hasn’t changed in five years. In today’s fast-changing job market, it would seem that too many organizations’ employee recognition initiatives are not evolving at a quick enough pace.

While a 10-year work anniversary should not be overlooked, and the landing of a new big account should be celebrated, these types of rewards are not the most effective. In order to tap into the power of positive employee recognition, organizations need to focus on the benefits of employee recognition programs that create a culture of recognition in the workplace. They must incorporate new ways to recognize employees’ contributions to their organizations. (No one is sticking around for a gold watch and lapel pin.)

Organizations are calling on employees to ‘go the extra mile,’ but their recognition efforts are not always structured in a way that makes it possible to recognize those employees who demonstrate discretionary effort. As employees accept the challenge and contribute in new ways to their organizations, recognition in the workplace needs to measure and celebrate their efforts.


The ‘how’ of creating a culture of employee recognition in the workplace

It’s not just what organizations are recognizing their employees for but also how they are doing it. Specific rewards or benefits aside, employee recognition programs must drive positive recognition in the workplace.

Gone are the days of managers acting as the sole decision-makers in dolling out employee recognition—who is recognized; what they are recognized for; and, how they are recognized. No more year-long processes and one-off announcements.

In working to determine whether your employee recognition efforts are best serving your organization, there are five questions you can ask yourself:


Digital employee recognition platforms like StarMeUp allow employees to congratulate each other in the very moment they feel that someone is making a difference. Anyone, wherever they are on the organizational structure, can recognize a peer, whenever they are moved to do so. StarMeUp, for example, also includes a social media platform called BetterMe that allows employees to share their biggest achievements and accomplishments with their peers.

To see how peer-driven, timely recognition can impact an organization, read our post: Grupo Santander and Employee Recognition [StarMeUp Case Study]

Not all platforms are built the same and there are a lot of options. When choosing a platform, there are some critical components that you want to check for before deciding which platform would benefit your employees best.

Real-time recognition:

One of the biggest reasons that employees leave organizations is because they feel undervalued, including companies with employee recognition initiatives in place. Why? Sometimes it’s simply because recognition is handed down infrequently or only once a year. Being recognized for a job well done immediately following the act helps employees make the connection between their actions and the positive reaction from a manager or a peer. Real-time or instant recognition of a job well-done also increases the chances of repeated behavior.

Values-based recognition:

Recognition aligned with an organization’s core values underpins everything that happens at the organization, establishing clear criteria for recognition. By tying recognition to your organization’s values, employees understand how their actions and behavior shape the company’s identity and their own as individuals.

Upward-spiraling recognition:

When employees feel valued and recognized, the effect is a force that generates an upward spiral, driving constructive cycles that pull groups up to their highest level of performance.

Benefits of employee recognition in the workplace

Like in society, in workplaces where people helping one another is the corporate norm, there are lower levels of anxiety and stress among employees. Fostering interactions based on positive reinforcement creates a better environment for everyone involved. Moreover, not only does it feel good to be recognized by our peers and our managers,it also feels good to recognize them.


It is not enough to have an employee recognition program. HR managers need to evaluate whether their initiatives are up to the task of fostering a culture of recognition in the workplace by helping managers and leadership teams to develop the necessary skills to drive positive recognition.

StarMeUp empowers employees to become the best versions of themselves, and become even more significant contributors to the organization, by helping them overcome natural human limitations through technology and AI. Start the digital transformation journey: Request a Live Demo Today!

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