It’s The Everyday Recognition That’s A Problem

It’s time to let you in on a secret I have known for over twenty years.

When I started my business doing consulting and training around recognition practices and programs, I thought I would find all the organizations that had no recognition going on and save the world. It was a poor marketing strategy and no one from those organizations ever hired me. 

The interesting thing was it was always organizations that were doing recognition that hired me.  

It was always the same trigger that brought me in. Organizational leaders would call up whenever their employee engagement surveys came back and showed low scores for the statements or questions related to employee recognition. 

What was the disconnect? Why was it that their employee scores on the recognition questions were so low? 

Patterns of Organizational Recognition 

I saw a pattern emerge from seeing so many of these surveys from these organizations. After visiting hundreds of organizations and viewing their employee engagement surveys, I learned something that consistently repeated itself. 

I would ask questions about their recognition programs. I asked how well managers acknowledged and recognized their staff—the recognition practices. And then I came back to the survey results. 

You are all aware there are three levels of recognition that occur in organizations, formal, informal, and everyday recognition.

Formal recognition is at the peak of the pyramid and comprises the best-of-the best awards that are where people earn an award based on their stellar performance, or through a nomination process with adjudication of the nominations by judges. Either way, these are the stars of the organizations. Formal recognition is organization-wide and typically celebrated with an extravagant award ceremony. 

The only problem with formal awards is that they typically happen just once a year and impact between 1 and 10 percent of the employees, and most often closer to 1 percent.  

Below the formal recognition comes the informal recognition level that are more departmental or team-based kind of recognition. Informal recognition usually acknowledges accomplishment of performance goals, project completion, and more personal life events that are socially celebrated. Many organizations include small rewards and incentives to accompany their informal recognition. 

Approximately 30 to 50 percent of employees receive informal recognition, and the frequency is monthly or quarterly. 

Everyday recognition at the base of the recognition pyramid. This consists of the pat on the back, personal expressions of recognition, digital and written thanks, and is mostly intangible. You expect this recognition to happen on a daily or weekly basis, and it can affect 80 to 100 percent of your employees. 

Identifying the Recognition Problem 

Time and time again, I found that whenever recognition questions were below a 65 percent threshold, I could tell clients they were likely not having very good everyday recognition happening. The leaders repeatedly acknowledged this as a problem each time this engagement survey situation occurred.  

So that’s the secret.

If your recognition questions on your employee engagement survey, end up with scores at 65 percent or under, then your problem is everyday recognition. You should focus on everyday recognition first.

Recognition related employee engagement questions might look something like: 

  • “I feel valued and appreciated for the contributions I make on the job.”
  • “The recognition my manager gives me impacts how I feel about staying at XYZ organization.”
  • “My manager recognizes me in the way I want to be recognized.”
  • “How frequently does your manager or immediate supervisor recognize your contributions?” 

Employees have the chance to select their responses from different Likert scale responses aligned with each question. 

The responses tell more than answering the questions. They can guide where you must plan to improve recognition.

Answers to these kinds of questions give a powerful indicator of employee feelings about being recognized or not. When employees give a perception level of 65 percent or lower, you can almost guarantee that everyday recognition is where you need to focus. 

Recognition Reflection: Do you dig deep enough into your engagement survey results to understand employee recognition practices and programs?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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