Keep up with the latest HR resources and opportunities via our newsletter.

Employee Recognition Advice for 2024

As organizations struggle to stay competitive this year, they’ll need to search for new and innovative ways to engage their employees. One of the most effective ways to foster employee engagement is through recognition. Put simply, employee recognition is gratitude to employees that’s conveyed through sincere praise.

People leaders in companies large and small are realizing that employee recognition is not just a powerful tool to inspire employees and attract new talent, but a cultural necessity for healthy, modern organizations.

To stand out from the crowd, successful teams should hone their employee recognition practices. We’ve worked with industry experts to identify key pieces to take your employee recognition to the next level.

Tailor Recognition to Your Team

Asking HR to do more with less is nothing new, but organizations need to ensure the work is properly distributed to get out ahead of the burnout. Swag will not help staff who are burnt out.  Leaders need to understand who their employees are and what will fill their cup today. Leaders must model time away from work and hold staff to not checking in when on PTO. Wendy Dailey, Co-Host at HR Social Hour

Great recognition isn’t a “thank you” in the hallway or $5 Applebee's gift card on a desk.

Instead, think about the kind of recognition that’s been most impactful for you in the past. Usually, that’s thoughtful, clear acknowledgement given in a prompt manner. Often it can be in a public setting in front of peers, though that might also depend on the preference of the recipient.

How can you support your teams during especially trying times?
What does my team need now?

If you’re not sure where to start, ask! Get your team together and explore how they prefer to receive recognition, as well as what’s been challenging for them recently. There are also frameworks like 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace that can help you to figure out how you can best give them what they need.

Pair Recognition with Inclusive Rewards

Too many times those planning reward and recognition programs design programs around things they personally find rewarding rather than understanding what the reward recipients want to receive.  The best way to make an incentives program successful is to find out how the intended recipients like to be rewarded, by whom, how often, and through what channel rather than assuming one size fits all. – Rick Garlick, Chief Research Advisor at the Incentive Research Foundation

Sharing recognition with your team is meaningful. Pairing that recognition with rewards takes it to a new level. When thinking about the benefits of recognition, rewards offer an additional layer of motivation. Employees who regularly receive small rewards along with recognition will stay more engaged than their counterparts.

When thinking about what kind of rewards to offer, give your team choices they’ll actually be interested in (again, ask!), instead of things they won’t use.

Think about traditional employee rewards: watches, engraved plaques, even a trip to a beach resort. Not everyone wants those things. Increasingly, people may either find them outdated or uncomfortable. Instead, they might prefer time off, a donation made to their favorite charity, or a choice of retail gift cards…more than $5, please. Instead of an all-inclusive vacation, they might prefer visiting their family or taking cooking classes with friends.

Recognize Failing and Learning

I never lose. I either win or I learn.  – Nelson Mandela

Psychological safety is being part of a team environment where you’re unafraid of bringing your whole self, where you’re comfortable trying and failing. And here’s the key part when it comes to your team: share those lessons to become better together. One part of creating a safe environment is recognizing these opportunities.

It’s easy to recognize visible big wins for organizations. However, it’s not as easy to recognize the smaller efforts that lead up to those wins, especially when they’re not particularly rosy or exciting.

Did one of your employees try something new based on a solid plan and then share results? Incentivize that innovative spirit! Even better, align it with your company’s values.

Going outside of your comfort zone can be challenging. Great companies realize that it’s important to give their teams the opportunity to take risks and reward the effort. Leaders should model this behavior by highlighting their own failures, sharing their lessons learned, and then giving credit to their team for helping them grow.

Invest in Technology to Make Recognition Easy

Making recognition a habit isn’t always natural for teams. Fortunately, there are technologies that can make recognition easier than ever. Many integrate with chat tools and HRIS systems to automate administration.

When thinking about adopting a new system for recognition, start with getting buy-in from your team. Establish some baseline goals. Then, record your team’s needs and start researching solutions. Once you’ve found a good solution, train your team on it and help them understand how to give effective recognition. And remember to revisit your recognition program regularly, collect feedback, and update when necessary. 

Excel in Employee Recognition this year

Employee recognition is one of the most powerful ways to motivate employees and build a strong, healthy culture. People leaders can level up by exploring new and engaging ways to appreciate their employees, incentivize teams, and reward performance. They’ll need to go beyond saying a quick thanks to making their employees feel more valued, respected, and connected to one another and the organization.

It’s time to show your employees some love! Recognition is one of the best ways to show your appreciation and foster engagement in the workplace. A few kind words of praise can go a long way. Let your team know how much their hard work is appreciated!

Like what you're reading? Keep up with the latest articles and more via our newsletter.

Ben Travis

Ben is the founder of HR Chief. He enjoys working with passionate teams to solve impactful problems with technology.

He has a heart for HR/People Ops teams and uses his experience from the startup, agency, and nonprofit spaces to drive results.