The Importance of Employee Recognition: 5 Tips for Success

By Jasmine Long
April 12, 2024
5 min read

The Power of Saying Thank You

When employees feel appreciated and valued, they’re more engaged and motivated. Yet, organizations often overlook this in their busy schedules. Simple acts of recognition, like praise or a thank you, can make a significant difference. Regular appreciation, from all levels of the organization, has shown to result in increased employee engagement and reduced turnover. Senior leaders, HR, managers, and internal communicators all have a role in fostering recognition. From targeted initiatives to everyday kudos, employee recognition is a cost-effective strategy with significant benefits. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when building out or revamping a successful employee recognition program. Remember, saying thank you goes a long way.

What is Employee Recognition

Employee recognition can be defined as all the different ways that an organization shows its appreciation to its employees, making them feel valued and recognized for their contributions. Recognition can be very formal and reflected in pay and promotions. However, it can also be very informal, where a manager simply says thank you to their team in a weekly huddle. Often times it’s somewhere in between, where internal promotions are commonplace but everyday kudos are also emphasized and encouraged. Typically, recognition falls into one of three categories:

  • Formal HR Processes and Learning
  • Recognition Campaigns, Awards, and Events
  • Internal Communications and Informal Recognition

Benefits of Employee Recognition: A Look at the Numbers

Employee recognition strengthens organizational culture, enhances engagement, and boosts talent retention. Let’s take a look at the measurable impact great employee recognition can have on an organization.

Employee Engagement

According to research from Gallup and Workhuman, employee recognition plays a positive part in building organizational culture. Out of employees who strongly agree that recognition is part of their organizational culture, 70% then feel strongly connected to that culture.

Talent Retention

Recognition also helps companies keep their best people. According to research from HR thought leader Josh Bersin, the top fifth of companies with a “recognition-rich culture” have 31% lower voluntary employee turnover rates.

Employee Advocacy

Employee recognition can also help drive employee advocacy, a specific term used when employees voluntarily share or repost positive stories from their workplace or employer. You most likely have seen these posts on your LinkedIn feed. Often with a feel-good element attached, they show the world how an employer or brand positively supports their team.

According to Glassdoor, the employee’s voice is regarded as 3x more reliable a source for what it’s like to work for an organization compared to a CEO’s. Employee advocacy is an integral part of staying competitive when looking for top talent. It’s an organic way to show potential hires how great it is to work at your organization but can only happen if your team feels authentically supported.

Productivity and Performance

When it comes to going the extra mile, you’re probably more inclined to do more when you know it’s going to be recognized, right? Well, research from Great Place To Work suggests that fostering a culture of employee recognition can amplify employees’ “discretionary effort” by 2.2 times, encouraging them to surpass expectations. Even a basic “thank you” from management can increase the likelihood of an individual putting in additional effort at work by 69%. That’s why we like to say here at IC, never underestimate the power of a simple thank you.

5 Tips for Success

1. Devise a Strategy and Plan

Driving employee recognition throughout an organization can involve multiple stakeholders and many different tactics introduced over time. Devising a strategy and plan ensures everyone is on the same page and approaches are consistent, comprehensive, and coordinated. Even if you’re just introducing content and features on your intranet, a strategy and plan will help.

2. Ensure Recognition is Authentic

Recognition has to be authentic. Research from Gallup and Workhuman has shown that the more employees feel recognition is authentic, the more powerful it is. If praise or a thank you appears to be a token, doesn’t ring true, or feels insincere, it can backfire. This is why ensuring that leaders and managers give recognition using their own natural voice and not “forcing” it is really important. They also need to be consistent. Employees will sense when a message is heartfelt and will appreciate it even more.

3. Get Your Leaders to Set an Example

A culture of employee recognition starts at the top. When leaders set an example by regularly praising staff, it encourages others to follow, including managers who might then give praise to their team members. When a leader demonstrates that they take employee recognition seriously, it gives everyone else “permission to play” to recognize others.

4. Measure Your Success

Measurement helps maintain focus and momentum and allows you to track success. However, measuring recognition is not always straightforward. There’s not a single number that encapsulates it. However, it is reflected in employee engagement statistics, specific questions in employee surveys (for example, how many people agree with statements such as “I feel recognized for my work by my manager”), the number of attendees at related events, and adoption of recognition schemes. Consider a range of numbers so you can really see if you are moving the dial on recognition.

5. Be There for the Long Haul

Supporting employee recognition by taking a more intentional and strategic approach can have a quite quick impact. However, embedding recognition so it is part of your organizational DNA will take longer. Don’t always expect overnight success – be there for the long haul and keep on going.


The impact of expressing gratitude and recognition, even through simple acts like saying “thank you,” is profound in the workplace. It fosters engagement, reduces turnover, and boosts productivity. Organizations must ensure recognition is authentic, led by leaders, and measured for effectiveness. Cultivating a culture of appreciation takes time, but its long-term benefits are invaluable.

Want to know more about employee recognition? Join our FREE webinar on employee recognition with thought leader and founder of Happier at Work, Aoife O’Brien here.

By Jasmine Long

Jasmine is passionate about harnessing the power of digital marketing to drive social impact. She previously was the Communications Assistant at Jumpstart Refugee Talent, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating employment opportunities for refugees in Canada. She is currently the Marketing Coordinator for Intranet Connections!