The Importance of Frequency in Staff Appreciation

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Have you ever done something a particular way, even if that way isn't the most efficient, because that's the way you've always done it? We all have.

Whether we're attached to tradition or habit, we continue doing what's comfortable.

This kind of behavior is often harmless at home, but in a business context, there's no room for costly, inefficient practices. Despite overwhelming evidence demonstrating the benefits of frequent staff praise and recognition, many organizations continue to neglect day-to-day wins and reward things like tenure.

Years of service awards are ineffective. According to a research project on employee recognition conducted by Forbes, tenure-based rewards programs have virtually no impact on organizational performance—yet they represent 87% of all employee recognition programs.

Why is that?

Companies commonly spend between one to two percent of payroll on employee recognition products like trophies, plaques, gold watches, and pins—stuff traditionally awarded to employees for their years of service. That's a lot of money to throw at an ineffective employee appreciation program.

Not convinced these programs are ineffective? Consider this:

42% of employees don't even know about their employer's recognition program.

So, a company recognizes employees for five, ten, or 20 years of service, the program adds practically no value while costing a small fortune, and a large percentage of employees don't even know that the rewards program even exists? That's not a sound methodology.

At bare minimum, an effective recognition program is one employees are aware of. So how do you build one?

The most effective staff recognition programs express appreciation frequently, and are tied to desirable behaviors, goals, culture, and personal accomplishments  not some arbitrary milestone.

In order to be effective and culturally present, recognition should be:

Specific

Recognition should be given to a specific employee for a specific reason. It's much more meaningful to be recognized for successfully resolving a customer's problem than having your name picked out of a hat for an "Employee of the Month" honor.

Frequent

Recognition should be given whenever you notice an accomplishment or behavior worthy of praise, not during designated employee appreciation days.

Timely

Recognition should be given soon after the praise-worthy accomplishment or behavior occursbefore its impact has time to fade.

Why is frequency in staff recognition so important?

A Bersin & Associates Research report, "Making Recognition and Rewards Matter: Five Practices to Drive Better Business Results," looked at recognition programs and frequency and found that 71% of highly engaged employees work in organizations that recognize employees at least once per month.

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to happen enough. Our friends at Officevibe wanted to better understand the relationship between recognition frequency, one of the most challenging metrics for most organizations, and other aspects of employee engagement.

By analyzing their pulse survey platform’s network averages, they found that out of 120 engagement questions, respondents rated recognition as highly meaningful (placing it in the 10 highest scoring questions), yet the frequency at which they received recognition was troubling (in the 10 lowest scoring questions).

That's a huge opportunity for most organizations. Related, Officevibe also found that out of 26 submetrics, Recognition Frequency and Happiness at work had the strongest correlation.

Do engaged employees seek great companies or do great company cultures produce engaged employees?

Companies that are highly effective at integrating technology into their recognition programs are three times more likely to report strong business results. Recognition technologies make it easier for employees to recognize each others' contributions.

Organizations that implemented recognition programs targeted at improving employee engagement reported a 31% reduction in voluntary turnover.

If you recall from earlier research by the U.S. Department of Labor, 64% of working Americans quit because they don't feel appreciated.

The takeaway? Frequent recognition translates into engaged employees, stronger business results, and lower turnover.

How frequent is frequent enough? While there's something to be said for annual banquets and quarterly celebrations, yearly and quarterly recognition is not frequent enough to be highly effective.

You can certainly continue recognizing your staff for achieving yearly and quarterly goals, but if you want to see improved engagement, performance, and retention, you'd be wise to dish out praise monthly, weekly, and even daily.

Strategies for implementing frequent staff recognition

Frequent staff appreciation is easier and less expensive than you may realize. Below are three simple and inexpensive strategies to implement frequent staff recognition into your company's culture.

Want a full list of staff appreciation ideas? Click here. 

1. Start meetings with a quick congratulations or thanks

You're holding staff meetings frequently anyway, so use them as an opportunity to recognize individuals and teams for their recent accomplishments. Try to focus on different accomplishments so that the same superstars aren't being singled out to the exclusion of others.

2. Encourage your staff to recognize their peers

Forbes found that employees feel that recognition from their peers is more meaningful than when it came from the top because peers know what they're doing on a day-to-day basis. Encouraging your employees to recognize one another can be as simple as putting up a bulletin board for shoutouts and "kudos."

3. Deploy a peer-to-peer recognition system

Peer-to-peer recognition software and systems make it easy for employees to recognize other employees frequently. Bonusly, for example, allows employees to show their appreciation by awarding small bonuses. Not only do employees feel genuinely appreciated by their peers for their contributions, peer-to-peer recognition programs create a sense of camaraderie, which further drives employee engagement. You can get started in just a few minutes.

Though you may be tempted to reward employees the way "it's always been done," tenure-based rewards don't work.

They're also expensive. In contrast, small, frequent rewards drive employee engagement, boost business performance, and reduce turnover. Stop wasting your money on meaningless trophies and implement a peer-to-peer recognition program with small and frequent bonuses.

For more information on getting employee recognition right, check out this webinar we presented with Namely:

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Originally published on August 19, 2015 → Last updated December 4, 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.

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