I know this won’t come as earth shattering news, but employee recognition is a critical component to a successful working environment.  Recognition can take many forms in the workplace from formal awards and bonuses to more personal methods like group praise or handwritten thank you notes. 

            This 2014 Boston Consulting Group study of more than 200,000 employees worldwide found that “Globally, the most important single job element for all people is appreciation for their work.”  Salary was ranked 8th.  Data has shown that when it comes to improving performance, nothing has a greater impact than genuine recognition and appreciation.  One such study found 83% of employees said recognition was more fulfilling than any reward or gift.  88% of employees said praise from managers was extremely motivating, and 76% said peer recognition was extremely motivating

            It seems like a no brainer that we should tell people they are doing a good job, their hard work and sacrifices are valued, and we should thank them frequently.  But we are notoriously bad at doing so effectively.  There can be many reasons for this, but researchers have deemed “Illusion of Transparency” as the likely cause.  This is where managers overestimate their displays or recognition and displays and assume that employees knew how management felt about their work.  One study found that 82% of managers prioritized recognition but 54% of employees said those same bosses could do more to recognize employees. Furthering this gap is a fear manager expressed that regular recognition would lose value or become “routinized.” 

Data shows employees do not feel this way, with the majority asking for simple things, like kind words, more frequent feedback, or options for flexibility.  A 2020 article from the Harvard Business Review advised managers to “Make it a Habit.” Appreciation is free and not time consuming, so a great recommendation is to spend the first 15 minutes of your week working on employee recognition.  Thank you cards, group shout-outs, a quick chat, sometimes even a forwarded email is enough to boost an employees morale significantly.
Making it habitual also makes it contagious.  Recognition does not just need to go from manager to employee.  It can go peer to peer and even upward to leaders, especially in trying and stressful times.  During the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis, I saw one Connecticut institution create a digital “Kudos Board” where they scanned and posted all of the positive letters, drawings, and notes they had received from the community. 

From a labor union perspective, I think recognition is important to consider.  Not only how we can better recognize the efforts of our members, but also how we can help their employers understand the value and necessity of genuine recognition. I also think how we can work collaboratively with our locals to improve recognition for their efforts in managing the many day to day challenges. If the evidence of the positive effects of recognition are so clear, why is it so rare that employers and employees collaborate on recognition programs?

If you have thoughts or ideas on how to improve recognition in the workplace, Nutmeg wants to hear from you and be your partner in improving the lives of all workers.