Importance of Employee Recognition During Tough Times

195 countries, an estimated 4,416 cities, and worldwide population of almost eight billion people, we are collectively closing in on 12 months (and counting) of unprecedented times and uncertainty. Corporations have demonstrated they are not immune to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the effects stretching across different industries, providing challenges for employees and stakeholders across all levels.

The American Psychological Association estimates three in four Americans view the pandemic as a significant source of stress. As the global crisis persists, problems continue to mount – with another one in three Americans reporting in November 2020 that their level of stress increased within the last month. Between juggling the demands of working from home, caring for children or other loved ones, and in some cases social isolation, everyone’s stress comes from different directions, and it can put a strain on workplace relations.

During these challenging times, employee recognition is probably more appreciated and more necessary than ever before. Whether you are an employee, manager, or a business owner or key stakeholder, recognition is a win/win for everyone. The Harvard Business Review estimates employee happiness raises productivity by 31%. Despite the importance, industry leaders estimate that even pre-pandemic recognition was lacking, with 54% of the workforce in the UK, US, and Australia reporting their boss could do more to recognize their hard work.

Here are some favorite ways to promote a sense of recognition and respect in the workplace, whether in-person or virtual.

Instant Recognition
This one is simple, but if you are a manager and you spot an employee doing something above the call of duty and worthy of recognition, reward them instantly with verbal appreciation. This can be done through chat systems, an email, a conference call, a video call, or a traditional call. For an extra personable approach,  you could also send a handwritten note of appreciation to the employee’s address.

Encourage Peer-to-Peer Recognition
Promoting recognition among teammates in an organization can reap benefits ranging from increased morale, increased engagement, and up to 35.7 percent increase on financial results.  There are several fun and easy ways to promote peer recognition in a virtual format. The program doesn’t need to be complex. In some cases, simply setting up a Google form where employees are encouraged to write recognition for teammates who helped them out throughout the week is engaging and effective. Then, at the end of the work week, you can post a re-cap document with all the pieces of praise. Another option is to try a more streamlined system, like a virtual bulletin board.

Recognition on Social Media Platforms
Your organization could set up a marketing plan or guidelines to recognize employees on social media platforms, including LinkedIn or Instagram pages designed for “life at” a company. One company that does a great job with this is Visa and its @LifeatVisa Instagram page.  Achievements worthy of social media praise include milestones or a job well-done. For example, all employees who reach a five-year anniversary will receive a personal mention of appreciation on the company’s page. (This can be done in one large group mention across several graphics at larger companies.) This will help increase online visibility of your organization as employees may “like” or “share” the content with others.

Rewards Programs
Setting up a program where your team can earn points to trade-in at the end of the year for a prize is a unique and engaging way for remote engagement. Software companies like Point Recognition offer a platform where employees can earn points for different behaviors. The points can be redeemed for Amazon gift cards or other fun items. To promote your culture even further, the platform will allow you to add company swag items, for example a logo’d YETI cup.

Sending Treats on Significant Days
If it falls within your company’s budget, a way to recognize all employees and promote recognition is to send a small treat, like perhaps a box of cookies, on the employees’ anniversary or birthday. This can help take the place of traditional in-person monthly birthday gatherings. If you really want to up your game, you could also mail quarterly cocktail kits for a virtual happy hour with different engaging activities such as a virtual game. A large part of employee recognition is related to employee engagement. For extra inspiration, check out these five games to play during your next corporate happy hour.

Investing in Employee Development
Another way to show appreciation and recognition for hard work is to invest back into your employees’ professional development. This is especially great for morale and company loyalty, while also promoting a sense of stability for employees who may be concerned about job security, especially during pandemic times. In a virtual world, the cost of additional outside training is often smaller, as transportation costs, lodging, and meals are currently not a factor. This investment and act of acknowledgement also builds upon your bottom line, as you are increasing the skills of your workforce.

Overall, regardless of how you decide to recognize your employees, a simple ‘thank you’ or another small effort to show appreciation goes a long way. Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to stay with their current companies, and with increased retention, comes increased profits and employees who show increased productivity by growing their knowledge and expertise through years of experience and dedication within an organization.

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