Why The Frequency of Different Types of Recognition Really Matters

Understanding the frequency with which different types of recognition typically occur will help guide your usage of recognition programs and planning to make other forms of recognition happen. These are the elements that you must teach others, too. Then they will use your recognition programs wisely and practice recognition giving more often. 

This is important to remember because each person at work has different expectations of how often they think other people should recognize them. So, there is also a frequency preference to contend with for every employee.

Let me give you an example from a healthcare organization that I surveyed to look at the frequency of recognition and how their employees felt about it.

Frequency Occurrence of Recognition

Keep in mind that how often employees receive recognition can be just as important as how and who gives the recognition. Using an online and paper-based survey, I asked the employees how often they received recognition or praise from their immediate supervisor or manager for the work they do.

Here’s the question that was asked, “I receive recognition or praise from my immediate supervisor/manager for the work I do at least:”. Note that the survey statement ended with “at least” and then I gave them time frames to choose from. They comprised daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, and not at all. 

The Gallup Q12 engagement survey question on recognition asks, “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing a good job.” According to Gallup research in one large health care organization, a difference in 10 percentage points on this recognition statement represented an average difference of 11 percent on patient’s evaluations of their experience.

At the healthcare institution I surveyed, only 11% of employees stated they received recognition on a weekly basis, with one-third recognized within a month. However, there was nearly another one-third employees who said they were not recognized at all.

Do you see why the frequency of recognition giving matters to employees?

Typical Recognition Program Frequency

As a typical recognition industry guideline, Everyday Recognition occurs on a daily or weekly basis and likely affects between 80% to 100% of employees. Everyday Recognition includes recognition expressions one-on-one, given in person, or through technology, to recognize positive behaviors and contributions made. 

Moving up the recognition pyramid, you have Informal Recognition that happens on a monthly or quarterly basis and probably impacts 30% to 50% of employees. This tends to be team or department originated recognition and rewards for achieving positive performance goals, pre-determined goals, and celebrating life events with others.

Finally, at the apex of the pyramid, you have Formal Recognition that occurs annually and affects only 1% to 10% of employees. These are the nominated awards of excellence or the best-of-the-best performance awards. It also includes the service or career milestone awards.

Frequency Preference of Recognition

Naturally, the preference for how frequently people want to be recognized will always vary by individual.

But I can give you a snapshot view of looking at this same healthcare organization in aggregate. 

The frequency preference question I asked staff to respond to was, “I feel my immediate supervisor/manager recognizes me:” and then we gave various frequency levels. These consisted of not frequently enough; almost frequently enough; about the right amount; a little too frequently; and much too frequently.

This is how the healthcare workers at this organization responded:

  • Not frequently enough = 39%
  • Almost frequently enough = 15%
  • About the right amount = 43%
  • A little too frequently = 2%
  • Much too frequently = 1%

Over 50% of employees at this organization reported they did not receive recognition frequently enough. This indicates a strong need to increase the frequency of recognition to employees as an important aim to rectify this situation. 

Education and training is likely needed to teach leaders and employees how to give meaningful and effective recognition and provide tutorials on how to use your recognition programs. Understanding the frequency preference of employees also allows managers to gauge how well they are doing at giving the right amount of recognition.


How frequently you and I recognize employees is rarely discussed. Understanding the typical frequency of usage of different online recognition programs also helps you to evaluate how well you are doing.

1. Periodically use pulse check surveys to assess the level of frequency that we recognize employees and the frequency level they prefer.

2. Recommend that all leaders and managers set personal goals for what they plan to do to recognize staff more frequently on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.

3. Invite employees and leaders to become more observant of the positive actions that people do at work and to thank them and recognize their contributions every time they notice something. 

Recognition Reflection: Do you measure how often employees recognize one another, as well as finding out employees’ individual frequency preference?

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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