How to Give Recognition Like a Pro

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Recognition is one of the most impactful engagement tools a leader has at their disposal, but many fail to use it effectively.

Some leaders disregard giving recognition as 'fluffy,' and so put in a half-hearted effort. Some give well-meaning recognition that ultimately falls flat, and some take a mechanistic approach that can feel forced.

Nobody means to give recognition poorly, but it's important to know that how you choose to give recognition is a determining factor in its effectiveness. So how do you give recognition effectively?

Giving recognition should be frequent, genuine, and organic interaction — not only between leaders and their team, but also between peers.

In The 10 Best Practices for Enhanced Employee Engagement, Henry Miller states,

"Rewarding the right people for the right reasons – both formally, “in the moment,” and “peer to peer” when employees achieve important milestones and objectives  both large and small  goes a long way to enhance employee engagement."

Miller touches on several points that are crucial to understanding how to give recognition effectively:

  1. Peer-to-peer recognition is just as powerful, and in some cases more powerful than the recognition employees receive from their managers.
  2. Both large and small contributions to an organization are valuable and should be recognized.
  3. Timing is everything. Recognition needs to happen in the moment when it has the most potential impact, which will fade quickly over time.

Meghan Biro offered some additional key points on effective recognition in her Forbes article, "5 Ways Leaders Rock Employee Recognition," stating that it should be:

"In context: It's important not just for an employee or coworker to know you're pleased with the work they've done, but also why you're pleased. Communicate the specific value their contribution provided to you, and to the organization as a whole."

If you want the recognition you give to have a significant impact, think beyond "Nice work," or even "Nice work on the new app." Show the value their contribution is providing, and why you appreciate it. "Nice work on the new app. The UI is excellent, and it's going to change the way people use our platform."

Tied to the receiver's perception of value: Money can be a nice gesture, but isn't always the most effective means of showing your appreciation. Make sure the recognition you give coincides with the values your team holds.

Giving recognition effectively is easier than you think. There are some great tools available to simplify giving recognition, and help make it a natural part of your company culture.

Read more about how to give recognition in:

Are you ready to take the next steps toward empowering yourself and your team? Check out our latest guide:

Read the Guide to Modern Employee Recognition

Originally published on May 22, 2015 → Last updated July 11, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


Bonusly is a fun, personal employee recognition and rewards program that helps people feel engaged and successful at work. ✨