Why Random Acts of Kindness Don’t Work for Work: How To Give Effective Employee Recognition

16 Feb 2022

When was the last time you received a sweet note or gift from a loved one? Maybe it came at an unexpected time or when you were going through a rough patch. Words-especially genuine appreciation-have the power to grow relationships and get us through difficult times. What if you could encapsulate that feeling every day at work?

It’s no secret that the Great Resignation and burnout is upon us, but we believe this is an opportunity for people leaders and companies alike to engage their employees more frequently and cultivate a culture of recognition. Though genuine recognition has been proven to increase morale, productivity, and loyalty, not all recognition programs are created the same. In fact:

More than 80% of companies invest in formal recognition programs.
But 85% of employees are not engaged at work.

So why is there such a growing disconnect between employers and employees? More importantly, how do you ensure your employee engagement programs are effective?

In honour of Random Kindness Day, we decided to talk about the not-at-all-random and more-effective-than-kind genuine, purposeful, everyday recognition. This isn’t to say we don’t believe in kindness. But recognition is about being intentional and thoughtful. Check out these recognition best practices you can start implementing today.

1. Be consistent

For recognition to be effective, it’s important to give it frequently and consistently. Giving rewards for an annual performance review or service anniversary can be fun, but focusing solely on one-time events means employees may feel disconnected throughout the year. Giving recognition frequently builds trust and confidence in leadership, and ensures employees remember you value their contributions.

Be consistent

2. Tell a story

Humans are hardwired to remember and gravitate towards stories, and recognitions are no different. Sharing the specific reasons as to why your employee was excellent is much more compelling than “great job!” Here’s an example:

Thanks so much for going out of your way to help this customer. When they were upset you listened and validated their concerns. It’s employees like you that help move our business forward!

Not only are specific recognitions more memorable, but they also help to reinforce positive behaviours. Remember to strike a balance between recognizing an employee’s output and who they are as a person. In the example above, the manager emphasizes the employee’s empathy. You can also recognize people for their work ethic, attitude, creativity, or unique skills or abilities.

Tell a story

3. Be timely

Recognition that arrives months after the fact isn’t as meaningful as that which arrives right after a positive action or achievement. Timely recognition ensures employees are clear as to why they’re being recognized and builds trust between them and their managers.

4. Be values-based

When done right, recognitions are more than just feel-good compliments. They can also reinforce business goals and help create positive feelings towards your brand or company. In fact, values-based recognition, or tying recognitions to your company’s core values, are more highly adopted (70%) than recognition programs not tied to values (30%). This is because employees are more likely to understand how their achievements fit into the greater organizational strategy.

At Blackhawk Network, our CEO personally welcomes new hires to our #oneglobalteam. Of course, you modify based on your company’s values. To streamline this process and ensure your company values are at the heart of your recognition program, consider investing in an employee recognition platform.

Be values-based

5. Speak their love (recognition) language

Just as there’s a myriad of communication styles, the way people wish to give and receive recognition can also vary greatly. For example, a more introverted employee may prefer to be recognized one-on-one while another person may not mind receiving recognition in a team meeting. Encourage managers to ask their employees about their recognition preferences to ensure alignment with their teams.

6. Incorporate rewards with sincere appreciation

Saying “thank you” is always appreciated but, sometimes, you want to express your gratitude in a more unique way. Try incorporating rewards that are meaningful to your employees. You may think that employees want branded merchandise, for example, but you really don’t know until you ask. Consider sending out a companywide survey, or asking questions in your next team meeting, to find out what kinds of rewards your employees prefer.

Be values-based

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