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Latest News / Employee Engagement

How to recognise employees with awards

Employee award submissions often get left in Manager’s ‘nice to do when we have time’ pile. But, formally and informally recognising your employee’s achievements and great work is equally as important as financial rewards when it comes to employee engagement and motivation. Understanding exactly why recognition is so important, and how you can use formal awards programmes to facilitate this is a smart way to build employee motivation, team morale and encourage sustained high performance.

To celebrate Roubler’s sponsorship of the Store Manager of the Year category for the 2018 National Retail Awards, we’ve decided to uncover the ins and outs of this topic.

Why recognising and praising employees is so important

“People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.” – Dale Carnegie, Leadership Training Guru

It improves performance

A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2016 found that 79% of employees believed recognition made them work harder, and 78% felt recognition made them more productive.

Similarly, an experiment conducted by the Centre for European Economic Research found a strong correlation between recognition and improved performance, when recognition was given to several top performers (for example the top three), rather than exclusively to the performer or to all employees. Positive effects were also seen in non-recipients who felt motivated to improve their performance to match their peers.

Significantly, they found that a factor in the success of using recognition and appreciation is that employees are reciprocal. When employers show that they care about and appreciate their employees, this will be reciprocated by employees in the performance and quality of their work.

It is valued more highly than money

Research has found that for highly complex tasks that require high levels of knowledge, skill capacity, behavioural ability, information processing and persistence, recognition takes on more importance for the person than other rewards such as money. Recognition fulfils a deep psychological need to validate one’s self-worth, technical and emotional abilities and contribution to a group. Vitally, this recognition represents an understanding that their manager values their skills, helping to build a trusting relationship with them.

Recognition is an endlessly effective strategy

 “The broad appeal of recognition is that most practicing managers believe it applies to everyone (top to bottom in the organization), no one gets too much of it (no satiation principle here), it is available to everyone to use, and it doesn’t cost anything.” Fred Luthans and Alexander Stajkovic

While the above statement was made in relation to informal ways of recognising and praising employees (e.g. the simple yet valuable ‘Great job’ email or verbal statement), the first three points can be applied to more formal means of recognition like internal and external awards programmes.

The law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply here – the more you recognise employees for their work and achievements, the better they perform. They are also more likely to want to find ways to recognise each other’s talents and efforts.

There’s also no limit to who should be recognised: everyone from the CEO to the cleaner deserves and needs praise and appreciation.

How to use awards programmes for employee recognition

Awards fall under the ‘formal’ category of recognition. And while you and your managers may be put off by the entry fee and time required to create submissions, the return you receive in terms of performance and morale will far outweigh your initial investment.

Importantly, awards can offer managers and staff a structured opportunity to remove themselves from the daily grind and reflect on achievements and look at the strengths of their team and of individual members.

The question therefore isn’t “Should we enter our staff in awards to recognise their work?”, it’s “How should we use awards to recognise staff to get the most benefit?”

  1. Be clear on why you are doing it. Are you entering your employees, team or organisation into an awards programme for publicity or because you genuinely feel that it is an important way to recognise hard-work and achievement? The positive benefits of recognition through awards will only be felt if there is a genuine intent behind it. This intent needs to be articulated when you communicate to nominees about why you’ve entered them for an award.
  2. Encourage employees to nominate themselves and others. Create a culture of recognition and acknowledgement by regularly updating managers and teams about relevant awards programmes that they might like to enter or nominate others for. Provide employees with the time and support they need to write submissions during business hours.
  3. Choose your awards programme wisely. Ensure that the award you are submitting an entry for has meaning for the potential recipient and relates directly to their work achievements – the more specific the award is, the more it demonstrates how deeply you understand the effort they put in. Externally run awards programmes will have more impact as internal programmes can be the subject of bias.
  4. Don’t use awards in isolation of other recognition activities. Integrate awards into a broader annual programme of employee recognition activities such as internal awards, thanks in internal newsletters or team meetings and thank you letters. This programme should then be viewed as an investment within a broader employee development plan.
  5. Use awards to celebrate large projects. It can often be anti-climatic for a team if they have worked tirelessly on a project only for it to end with no celebration. Nominating themselves or being nominated for an award can help to sustain the momentum and excitement, and a win brings the best type of satisfaction and closure.
  6. Remember the small things. All awards must be supported by genuine, one-to-one conversations where managers express their appreciation and explore what made the outcome such a success.

Please remember that recognition is an ongoing and regular task. Acknowledging employees once may have an initial effect, but unless it is regular and genuine, the impact fades. A study reported in an article by Will Yakowicz in Inc found that 80 percent of employees who were recognized within the past month felt fulfilled. This dropped to only 42 when they hadn’t received recognition in more than two years.

Exhausting as all of this may sound, regular and genuine recognition – including external awards programmes – really does play an important role in motivating employees and is a huge contributor to staff satisfaction.

In the meantime, why not say a heart-felt ‘thank you’ to a team member today? It is as important as any big gesture.


Words by Katrina Strathearn

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