Employee Recognition: Why the Lighter Side of Business has Serious Results

by Jennifer Miller on September 14, 2011

in Leadership, Team Effectiveness, Workplace Issues

I believe that employee recognition is a vastly underused tool in a leader’s toolkit. Recognition need not be expensive, elaborate or time-consuming—but that’s how many leaders see it.  Therefore, I’ve teamed up with the recognition specialists at Baudville. They’ve agreed to pass along some great advice to the readers of The People Equation on how to use recognition (hint: it’s not just for bosses anymore!) to build employee morale, foster teamwork and achieve business results. This is the first of a three-part series on Employee Recognition. I invite you to read, enjoy and pass along to those who would benefit.

Guest Post by Cori Curtis, Certified Recognition Professional

In business these days it’s easy to become so focused on the top and bottom line that we forget about the people in the middle: employees. Your staff is the lifeblood of the organization. Without their unique talents, contributions, and efforts, you wouldn’t be in business! So how are you showing your appreciation?

Many leaders may delegate the responsibility of employee recognition to an administrative assistant or human resources, but top management needs to be actively involved and supportive of all recognition efforts. Particularly now; surveys show that 50-60% of employees are looking to change jobs.

Some organizations may downplay employee recognition as being purely about making employees feel warm and fuzzy. What they may not realize is these tools are part of a larger strategy designed to improve employee relations and ultimately business results.

If leaders want to develop a strong and successful team, they need to take employee recognition seriously. The regular practice of employee recognition has been shown to improve employee engagement and retention, saving organizations from turnover headaches and expensive recruiting campaigns.

Employee Engagement. Employee engagement is the degree to which employees are satisfied with their job, believe their work is meaningful, and are dedicated to their employer. Recognizing employees on a regular basis can have a significant impact on their level of engagement. When employees are recognized for their work, they feel better about themselves and their employer. The Gallup Organization has found that companies with higher employee engagement yield higher sales, higher productivity, and higher retention than companies with low employee engagement.

In a recent employee recognition case study , we implemented a recognition program for an organization that suffered from low employee morale, engagement, and retention. After the program had been implemented for two months, the organization experienced a 66% increase in overall satisfaction. With the simple yet strategic use of employee recognition, they were able to turn around engagement and retain valuable talent.

Employee Retention. According to the Department of Labor, lack of appreciation is the number one reason for voluntary turnover. It costs approximately 150% of the position’s annual salary to find and train a replacement. Thankfully, this expensive problem can be remedied!

Regular employee recognition can cultivate loyalty and dedication to the organization. When employees feel their contributions are appreciated and acknowledged, they are more likely to stay. Let your employees know they’re doing a great job, and they’ll strive to do even more for your organization. 

Employee engagement and retention are just two of the benefits of practicing employee recognition. Organizations that focus on employee recognition also experience higher employee morale, greater teamwork, innovation, and cost savings. For more information on the return on investment in employee recognition, download Baudville’s free employee recognition white papers.  

Cori Curtis is a Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) and Marketing Communications Specialist at Baudville. She speaks at industry events about the strategy and benefits of employee recognition and blogs regularly on the topic on the Baudville Blog.  Baudville, the place for daily recognition, is a leading provider of employee gifts and employee awards and has a robust Recognition Resource Center with articles, ideas, and resources on employee recognition.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alana May 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

Cori, excellent article! I am currently participating in the employee wellness/engagement committee at our company. In our organization, it is absolutely true that if management is not on-board with the initiatives, the efforts made by the committee lack effect. The committee has made a few efforts toward creating “centers” for connection (purchasing a picnic table, a basketball hoop and creating a break area with cable tv). Most days, these areas go unused. Murmurings have been made by employees – they do not feel comfortable using these areas because they fear they will be viewed as unproductive. Unfortunately, although management has approved these initiatives, it does not seem to be enough. I firmly believe if these areas were personally utilized by members of upper management, the employees would soon believe it is OKAY to participate themselves. What are your thoughts on this? What advice would you give to an employee who is looking to “engage” their managers? Is it possible? How could I do this?

Jennifer Miller May 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Hi, Alana,

It’s Jennifer from The People Equation. I’ll pass along your question to Cori, and add my own 2 cents’ worth here.

I applaud you for striving to make your workplace engaged and healthy!

Yes, it’s absolutely appropriate to enlist the support of management. I’m assuming someone in management approved the budget for the wellness “centers”, correct? If so, it’s possible that members of management “assume” that the purchases indicate consent on their part to use them.

As you have seen, employees are skeptical. My suggestion is for the most influential member of the committee to approach a person in management whom you perceive to be receptive to actually using the equipment him or herself. Invite that person to join the committee member during an appropriate break time. Explain to the manager that by “showing up” at the center he/she is giving strong consent to use the centers’ equipment.

People believe what they see with their eyes, not always what’s written in an email. If the manager resists with, “I’m too busy!”– come back with, “That’s what the employees are saying too. We need somebody to break the cycle and demonstrate what a health break looks like.”

Best of luck to you.

Cori Curtis May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Hi Alana,
Thanks for your question! I completely agree with you that upper management needs to be seen using these areas, and Jennifer’s advice above is spot on.

Actions speak louder than words – especially from leadership! When employees observe their managers taking time to use the space, they will interpret their usage as acceptance and begin to follow suit.

To get things rolling, you could speak to managers during a regular meeting and deliver a challenge to use the space. If they’re spotted at the centers, give them a small reward on the spot, like a candy bar, $5 coffee gift card, or casual day sticker (a favorite at my company!). Equip several committee members with rewards so you have multiple eyes keeping a look out. Managers are people, too, and the positive reinforcement will be effective at encouraging desired behaviors!

I hope it goes well!

Jennifer Miller May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Thanks, Cori! I like the idea of having several committee members be “on the lookout” to reward the management staff. It turns the tables a bit and demonstrates that rewarding behavior isn’t just the domain of someone with a formal leadership title.

Jennifer Miller May 22, 2012 at 8:06 am


Glad our suggestions were helpful!

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