How Effective are Employee Recognition Programs at Improving Morale?

By Ismail Khalid

When you are running your own business, there are a number of different things you need to worry about, some more important than others. But ultimately, the most important thing you need to do is ensure that you have a stable crew of employees whom you can trust to do the job well. Unfortunately, sometimes that is easier said than done, especially if your employees do not feel appreciated in their role at your company. There have been many different ways to try to address this, one of which being employee recognition programs. But what are they, and how do they work?

Determining how effective any one tool is at improving the morale of your employees is not necessarily an easy, simple, or even a linear process. Thus, it is important that you look into each tool you intend to use, and figure out how you intend to use it. When it comes to employee recognition programs, there is a lot that can be done here to make your employees feel truly recognized for what they put into your business.

How do you show employees that they are recognized?

One of the ways a lot of businesses are trying to better recognize their employees is gamification. Gamification is the phenomenon of attempting to make otherwise laborious tasks feel more like a video game, as it were. Essentially, your goal, if you go this route, is to create employee recognition programs that your employees should want to participate in. You should not use this to punish workers who do not manage to achieve high results, but instead use it to reward those who do.

Of course, employee recognition programs are only one part of the solution for low morale, and cannot be relied upon exclusively. There also needs to be a more human element behind that recognition, where you and others in management make it clear to their workers just how important their labor is to the company, as well as how much appreciation they have for what they’ve done. This can be done as a message for the whole team, but it is far more effective if you offer personalized and individualized feedback (both positive and negative) for employees.

Overall though, one of the best ways you can succeed at improving morale and recognition of employees is to give them better benefits (and not just as a reward). Better pay, better advancement, healthcare, vacation/sick leave, etc., all these do a great job of making employees happy and increasing productivity.

Can employee recognition be done wrong?

It may seem somewhat strange, but there is actually something to be said about the idea of doing employee recognition properly. For as good as it may be to give that recognition, you have to make sure that you do it the right way. For example, all too often, workplaces attempt to improve employee morale through highly banal things, such as a pizza party or what not. If employees do not have high morale while working for you, the idea of coming in on their off time to eat pizza with people they don’t enjoy being around is not going to be what solves your employee morale problem.

It can’t hurt to offer free food, but if that’s all you have to keep your employees happy, don’t expect to get great results. On social media, it’s even become a source of mockery; namely, that companies, instead of offering tangible benefits for their labor, such as pay raises or better working conditions, they simply provide some pizza.

Further, it is all too easy for attempts to show recognition of your employees’ accomplishments to fall flat. Not just in terms of how you show the appreciation, either. In this case, it would be an issue of providing outsized appreciation, or deeming certain tasks to not be worthy of appreciation. Employee appreciation cannot just be reserved for the biggest and most important people working for your company, as in the long run, these are not the people who are trying to find their way out of your company.

Employee recognition is an important thing for every employee, at every level of your business. No matter if they are the CEO of the company, or the janitorial staff. Every member provides an important role, and no one should be looked down on for that. Janitors who keep your business clean? Recognize them. Maintenance workers who keep your offices from falling apart? Recognize them. So-called “cogs in the machine” show that they are more than just making things run on time? Recognize them.

Even if people are not particularly standing out from the pack, it is important to encourage them, so that they can actually find it in them to exceed the expectations laid out for them. If employees do not think that you have their back, then they may simply not have the drive to go further than they already are, or worse, simply quit.