Recognition is one of the most effective ways to reinforce an organization’s culture, support its objectives, and retain top performers. In fact, recognition means the acknowledgment of an individual/ team desired behavior, effort or business result that supports the organization’s goals and values. Study after study has shown that what workers want from their jobs is not necessarily better benefits or more money. Rather, it is the small things that make workers feel commitment to an organization. One study shows the top three things workers want are interesting work, full appreciation for the work they do, and a feeling of being in on things. Leaders today need to respond to workers as human beings and to foster an atmosphere that is inclusive, caring, creative, appreciative and pleasant. People are looking for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in their work, and above all, they want to be respected and valued.

In an era characterized by downsizing, right sizing and restructuring, the most successful companies are those that have learned to focus on recognizing the importance of their most important asset: their people. Recognition is critical in motivating, satisfying, and retaining employees. 

Fortune magazine recently featured the “100 Best Companies to work for in America.” According to the article, the 100 Best are all leaders in their own right when it comes to recognizing the value and importance of their people to their success. Another study recently conducted by the Gallup organization identified 12 key dimensions that describe great workplaces. High on the list was “ employee recognition.” According to the study, praise and recognition are essential building blocks of a great workplace. Positive recognition is often considered to be the responsibility of managers, but Gallop has found that employees also cherish praise and recognition from peers. So, praise and recognition do not just come from the top down anymore! Successful companies find that a balance of formal and informal recognition is the best way to keep employees motivated and happy.

So how do we go about offering and implementing effective recognition programs? Think outside of the box! Employee recognition awards can take many forms – thank you notes, award ceremonies, company products, contests, spot cash awards, and food, to name just a few. The nice thing about employee recognition awards is that the number of ways to say thank you for doing the “right thing” is unlimited. And, they are not all necessarily expensive.

There’s nothing like a contest to motivate people. Contests bring out the best in people, encouraging them to stretch themselves and really tap into their abilities. Contests are an effective tool to use for encouraging innovation in an organization. Employees can be one of the best sources of innovation. They know the company, its challenges, needs, clients and capabilities. Rewarding people for good, profitable ideas are the best way to generate them. Good ideas are hard to come by. Profitable ideas are even harder.

Open up your search for great recognition solutions and cast the widest net possible by including your employees in this worthwhile process.

Spot awards are also a new trend in employee recognition. These are typically given to those employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. This type of recognition focuses on one time achievement, rather than sustained performance. A common award for this type of program is an on-the-spot cash award/certificate of $25, $50 or $100. It provides instant gratification and enforces immediate recognition. 

Once a month or each quarter, ask your senior managers to do something creative for all employees or for employees in their divisions: serve coffee and Krispy Kremes, bring around an ice cream cart on a hot summer day, or pass around M&MS. Collect drawings from each employee’s children and display them in the employee break room. These small acts of appreciation will be remembered and talked about for weeks!

Retaining great employees today is harder than ever. Employees must know that if they work hard and are loyal, they will be appreciated and valued. Don’t forget, having fun at work is okay! When employees enjoy their jobs, they enjoy coming to work!