Skip to main content

The Power of Authentic Recognition

By August 11, 2019August 13th, 2019Culture
Authentic Recognition Is Powerful

Effective recognition has five key aspects: specificity, timeliness, rewards, inclusivity, and also, authenticity – without which, I believe, the first four are rendered useless.

Recognition has long been seen as an essential practice to motivate, engage and retain employees.

In a 2015 study commissioned by global employee recognition and engagement group, O.C. Tanner, 37% of employees said that recognition was the ‘most important thing their manager or company does (or could do) that would cause them to produce great work’.

Recognition’s role in building and reinforcing organizational culture is also widely acknowledged. But for recognition to be truly effective, five key aspects must be in practice.

Let’s look at these dimensions in more detail:

Five aspects of effective recognition

1. Be specific

As human beings, we are keen observers of one another’s behaviour. Psychologists believe that this is an evolutionary construct. We’re wired to watch one another. It’s a kind of navigational skill to help us operate within the social world – making friends, finding love, and avoiding enemies.

This talent for paying attention to others is really useful when it comes to workplace recognition, yet it is a talent we rarely use to full effect. Because, let’s face it, work keeps us busy. So, we fall back on recognition that is fast, automatic and easy to deliver. How many times have you seen, heard or read recognition statements like, ‘Awesome job!’ or ‘You’re a star!’. Too many times to count, I imagine.

And that’s the problem. Falling back on clichés diffuses recognition’s power. It makes it dull; meaningless, even.

Specific recognition, on the other hand, is arresting and engaging. To the receiver, it demonstrates that their contribution is unique, and deeply appreciated.

In the public space, specific recognition helps employees to make the link between people’s actions and/or behaviours, and the organization’s goals and objectives.

And sure, it takes longer to craft a message of recognition that is specific. But the effect is profound.

2. Be swift

It’s common sense to follow up with recognition as soon as possible after the action or behaviour that deserves it has taken place. The longer the lapse between the action and the recognition event, the weaker the impact. Wait too long and the recognition can seem like an after-thought.

Rapid recognition is made possible with the right technology. bountiXP is a SaaS-based platform that brings the many aspects of employee recognition and engagement together into a single, powerful employee experience.

And that’s what you want: a quick, go-to for users to upload their messages of thanks, praise, appreciation and support for one another.

Before long, recognition is seen to flow up, down and across the organization.

3. We all love rewards

Linking recognition to rewards amplifies its effect – no surprises there, we all love receiving gifts.

When you add rewards to a recognition program, the feel-good factor increases exponentially.

Today, there is a range of rewards to offer employees – branded products and gifts, gift cards, virtual cards, digital vouchers and travel. Giving employees the freedom to choose the rewards they want is a sure way to surprise and delight them. It also gives recognition a powerful boost.

Rewards don’t always have to cost a lot either. Time, for example, is a reward that, if used creatively, can take different forms: time off work, for example, or time to conduct self-learning. What about one-on-one time with a manager or team leader, or time given for an extra-long lunch break among friends at work? There’s also time to be given for charitable, volunteer work. No matter what form it takes, people value time as a reward.

4. Everyone’s invited

Positive feedback from leadership and management will always play a primary role in effective recognition. But peer-based recognition is a potent driver of engagement too.

What you gather through peer-based recognition is a detailed, granular narrative of gratitude.

If we go back to the point about people’s innate ability to pay attention, and to observe the actions and behaviours of others, what you gather through peer-based recognition is a detailed, granular narrative of gratitude. The actions being recognised may be small, but they are seldom trivial. And when pieced together they tell the story of a company of people pulling together around shared values and common purpose.

5. Genuine recognition

When people feel valued at work, they give more of their time, talents and energy. It shows in the work they produce, and in the relationships they foster with coworkers, customers and suppliers.

But for a person to feel genuinely valued requires that their contribution be seen as singular and unique – that what they bring to the organization, no one else can.

To make a person feel this valued and validated demands authenticity. And it’s precisely at this point where language can either fail or fortify recognition. As readers; indeed, as human beings, we have an innate radar for sincerity.

When we receive words of recognition that have been crafted with care and deliberation, they resonate deep within us.

So, take care with recognition. And take the time to see, really see the person you are recognizing. Because authentic recognition can be transcendent.

Felicity Hinton

Felicity Hinton

Felicity Hinton is the founder and chief strategist at Humanist, a culture-change agency that helps transform people for business success. Previously, she worked in human performance solution design, and advertising. She is a certified change manager (UCT), has a Bachelor’s degree in English (Wits), and has won several awards for her business writing, including a Silver Quill.

innovative culture change for the new world of work
Featured Resource

Free Guide: Get the Culture Change Advantage

Realise the benefits of effective culture change in six, simple steps.


Receive our latest news and insights

Leave a Reply