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Employee Recognition: 5 New Ways to Disrupt Status Quo

Written by
Laura Saracho
Laura Saracho

Company birthdays. Work anniversaries. End of year holiday parties. There are so many moments throughout the year to recognize your employees. As you should!

But are you only focused on big milestones throughout the year? If so, keep reading to learn why certain holidays and celebrations are important to recognize, but also shouldn’t be where you stop. 

Company-wide recognition touch-points

Look: we love Employee Appreciation Day. Holidays like this are critical moments throughout the year to get the entire team together to say thanks and reinforce the great work that’s happening.

We recently hosted a meaningful discussion with Vicki Yang, Bonusly’s VP of People Ops, Kalyn Wilson, CEO of Dream Forward, and Victoria Melcher, Manager of Culture and Engagement at BigCommerce, to talk about recognition best practices. 

At the top of the hour, Victoria shared how her team uses Employee Appreciation Day to tug at some heartstrings. How it worked was this: someone would record a thank you message to another team member, and the receiving teammate would record their reaction. 🤗

“It was incredible,” reflected Victoria. “There were smiles, there were tears, and there was laughter when you got to see and hear that reaction happening about how that person impacted their work experience.”

Listen in for yourself: Download the free recording of our virtual event on tips for Employee Appreciation Day and how to build a year-round culture of recognition.

5 expert insights for your recognition culture

We’d be remiss if we celebrated the heck out of Employee Appreciation Day and returned back to the work grind for the other 364 days of the year. The rest of the webinar conversation zoomed in on year-round recognition—how to rethink (or totally revamp) the way we recognize, and some best practices to see the powerful effects of employee appreciation.

The conversation had roughly one million nuggets of wisdom—we tried to distill those into five main takeaways: 😅

Employee Appreciation Webinar Speakers-1

1. Question—or disrupt—your current patterns of recognition

Before introducing and reinforcing a culture of recognition on your team, it’s important to reflect on what you believe recognition truly looks like. As Vicki stated, “if we are of the same mindset, we might be missing something.”

Rather than Google recognition best practices (though this may be a good place to start) begin by asking how your teammates want to be recognized. As Kalyn explained:

The reality is that everyone has a very different way of being recognized. I’ve been at a workplace where they had a spreadsheet that included not ‘when's your birthday?’ and ‘favorite color?’ but: ‘do you like public recognition or private recognition, do you like it put in writing, or do you like verbal recognition?’ It can be a great team-building exercise to get people to think and reflect for themselves.

2. Make sure your recognition practices are inclusive

When uncovering recognition best practices, it’s important to be mindful of what you are recognizing people for, and how you are doling out that praise. Recently at Bonusly, our company celebrated a milestone via a toast on Zoom. Our People Ops team sent bubbly drinks to everyone in the organization. And guess what? 20% of folks requested a non-alcohol beverage. If our team never asked, 1 in 5 employees would have likely skipped out on the celebration. 

Vicki shared a similar example during the webinar:

We often reward and recognize people for all their hard work, but maybe this person is burnt out because they’ve been working 60 hour weeks. And you know parents can't do that. So are we rewarding the right thing? Think about what you're recognizing people for, because through this recognition, you are also doubling down on what you want people to do more of. 

3. Understand that recognition can look different from verbal praise

Recognition isn’t only about that virtual pat on the back. It’s also about affirming someone, making them feel validated safe in the workplace, and giving them the resources they need to be productive while avoiding workplace burnout

Both Kalyn and Victoria provide alternative examples of recognition that we believe should be the new normal. Kalyn discussed why feeling safe at work is a form of recognition:

I was talking with one of my clients about the tenants of psychological safety that would show that someone feels safe—and one of them was collaboration. When you think about recognition, how does your organization support or minimize opportunities for people to work together? Does that mean that folks know, even if five people were working on a project, only one person will be credited? Or will they know that everyone will be able to share credit? To be a part of something—that is an impact of psychological safety.

When supporting leaders of BigCommerce’s ERG groups, Victoria shared two specific ways her team provides recognition: time and mentorship.

One was giving them the time to be able to participate and organize those events so they were able to have balance as part of their regular day job. We were also able to get them mentorship and a specific coaching program—when you think about someone who aspires to be a leader, what is more powerful than getting them enrolled to an opportunity to sit down with a mentor and be able to grow that skill together?

Download the free recording of our virtual event on tips for Employee Appreciation Day and how to build a year-round culture of recognition

4. Lean on your managers

Managers are a valuable piece of the recognition puzzle, setting an important example for how to regularly appreciate one another. Victoria shared how managers are typically the ones setting the tone for your organization’s company culture, and that your team is looking to them for taking the lead. She adds:

If a manager is taking the time to appreciate the work that's going on, they're creating a group dynamic of inclusiveness and belonging. That manager is saying, ‘I see the value you're bringing and I’m taking the time to recognize it.’ That's going to give that employee the motivation to continue to come back and work hard and want to be part of that team.

5. Reinforce peer-to-peer recognition

There can’t be a Bonusly blog without talking about peer-to-peer recognition, right? 🤣 We’re serious, though: peer-to-peer recognition is an important way to create an inclusive appreciation practice on your team. When you rely *only on managers or execs to recognize others, you’re limiting the number of people who can give recognition. If you want the full benefits of employee recognition, you need to involve everyone. Plus, peers are often more in the know of those small, daily wins that should be celebrated.

When Victoria talked about BigCommerce’s experience using Bonusly, she explained:

Peers can continue to jump in and shout out the work that they're seeing. Because a manager sometimes misses things, peers are getting to see and reflect and be in those conversations. This peer-to-peer recognition makes us part of something larger, and we've been so thankful for Bonusly helping us allow those peer recognition to come through organically—it's just been so helpful for keeping us together.

 

If you want to see the power of our peer-to-peer recognition platform, take a free tour of Bonusly! 

The takeaway

Recognition isn’t as simple as saying thank you. There is a lot of thought that must go into creating a culture of recognition on your team to ensure it is inclusive, valuable, and effective. We highly recommend you listen to our entire webinar to download all of the thoughtful insights from our panelists. Until then, we hope this blog post was a good jumping-off point for some inspiration. 💚

Kickstart meaningful recognition with this hilarious team activity to appreciate your employees!

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Originally published on March 01, 2022 → Last updated March 17, 2022

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Laura Saracho

Laura is the content marketing manager at Bonusly and is passionate about employee engagement and uncovering creative, data-driven ways to drive impact. She loves writing and going on excessively long trail runs.

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