In a digital world with increasing transparency and the growing influence of millennials, employees expect a productive, engaging, enjoyable work experience. In response, organizations are focusing on an integrated employee experience, bringing together all workplace, HR and management practices that impact people on the job. In this journey employee recognition is undergoing a significant change.
We have always intuitively known the importance of recognition. Since people started organizing themselves in large groups to accomplish certain tasks, starting with formation of armies, recognition of various types has been in vogue. In recent years numerous studies have also been done to statistically identify the linkage between recognition and organizational performance. According to certain studies employees are likely to put more energy – almost 40 percent more – if they felt they were recognized more often. In some other studies it has been highlighted that organizations with recognition programs outperform those without them by an average of 14 percent, and companies who focus on improving engagement via their recognition programs see 31 percent lower attrition.
While we all recognize the importance of recognition at workplace, the practice of recognition has undergone some fundamental changes over the past few years.
In the industrial age, recognition practices were typically designed as one-size-fits all. The recognition programs were primarily defined based on achievement of specific milestones like years of service and signified loyalty. They were often specific awards or trophies given to individuals with no or minimal personalization. The early days of recognition practices also were focused on specific big wins or milestones. If you did something spectacular only then you can expect to receive some recognition, while your day to day tasks went without much appreciation. These recognition practices were also largely driven by the managers. The managers were given the power to recognize certain employees and would hand over this recognition selectively based on their discretion. In most cases the recognition was limited to the location or the team that individuals belonged to thus providing limited visibility to the employee being recognized across the organization. Many a times, the recognition program was highlighted as a perk or a benefit offered to employees at the organization.
With the growth of internet and dramatic changes we are witnessing in the world of work, employee recognition is undergoing some fundamental changes. One of the first changes is the periodicity of recognition. While many companies continue with age old practice of recognition of specific milestones like years of service, many companies are moving to a continuous recognition framework. The idea is to recognise any thing small or big done immediately after it is done.
Such recognition is not necessarily top down and even colleagues and team mates from other work teams can send a quick “thank you” note or other ways of appreciation if a particular person has made a positive difference to their work day. This democratization of sorts of recognition is a very important change in the workplace especially with the advent of continuous feedback culture in many organizations.
People work in geographically distributed work teams more often now and hence such recognition is gaining importance and prominence. Such recognition can be given across geographies and even functional boundaries within an organization. Such virtual appreciation has evolved over time to include various ways including email, e-card, or team collaboration platforms.
With recognition becoming real time and continuous, it is also becoming more personalized. Companies are increasingly trying to understand what the employees like and offer them such choices while keeping the basic framework of recognition the same. Companies have realized that depending on the life stage of particular employee, he/she is likely to appreciate different types of recognitions. Offering recognition in terms of monetary rewards has given way to offering options for employees to choose from and technological solutions have evolved to service these needs.
One of the other fundamental changes is awareness within organizations about the use of recognition as a way of building a culture. Recognition is no longer confined to just tenure, performance, and retirement, but focuses on various other aspects of the employee journey. Many companies are looking to acknowledge behaviour and values along with other aspects that are seen as means to an end. While in a corporate world outcomes are important more and more companies are also recognizing the importance of the intermediary behaviours which lead to those outcomes.
With continuous recognition companies are now focusing on gaining deeper insights into what actually motivates employees in terms of recognition and look to continuously adapt the program based on such insights and employee feedback. It is no longer a approach where companies decide on the recognition program and then continue to execute the same program for years together. Companies are increasingly looking at programs that can be tailored to their business needs and the ones that can also change and adapt with their changing needs.
While a lot has changed and will continue to change or evolve about employee recognition, certain things are likely to remain the same. Firstly the best way for recognition to make the desired impact on employee it has to be timely, personal, and specific. Secondly, how you present the recognition is equally important along with it being timely and specific. Thirdly across geographies and age groups, recognition continues to be the best motivation for employees at work.
So while designing your employee recognition program; you need to keep these fundamentals in mind, while ensuring that you are looking to continuously adapt your program to the changing business and employee needs and aspirations, you can have a great recognition program that delivers business results.