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Create an Employee Recognition Culture Within Your Company

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employee recognition program

The Great Resignation of 2021 and the shift toward digital-first workplaces have made employee recognition more crucial. Human resource management in small and large businesses prioritizes modern employee recognition programs for talent acquisition, retainment, and showing employees they are valued.

Your top talent is your elite employees or workforce, and they need to share common values with your business.

How can you create a company culture that not only values employees but demonstrates that value to your employees in a modern way?

In this article, we’ll look at some modern employee recognition programs and how rewards and recognition have changed in the twenty-first century.

Why Is Recognition Important?

The first step in creating a culture of recognition is understanding why recognition is essential. In today’s competitive job market, talent talks. So you need to understand what makes your employees tick to retain and attract the top talent.

Recognition Drives Great Work

People who feel seen at work are more likely to do good work. According to a study by O.C. Tanner, recognition is the biggest driver of great work. Almost 40% of employees said personal recognition would drive them to perform better, compared with just 4% who said the promotion would do the same.

The study also showed that people who feel recognized are more likely to think that promotions are fair, are more likely to go above and beyond what is asked of them, and are more likely to believe that their company embraces innovative thinking.

Recognition Builds Culture

Company culture can feel like an elusive thing to build and maintain. Many businesses struggle to understand what makes a company a great place to work. Perks like unlimited time off, foosball in the breakroom, on-site yoga, and free coffee are great, but they do not build a strong company culture.

Rather, modern employee recognition programs build a strong culture. Employees who feel recognized consistently report that they “enjoy hanging” with the people at their company, that they “feel lucky” to work there, and that they love the “uplifting environment.”

Conversely, employees who report not feeling recognized use phrases like “rampant favoritism,” “unfair treatment,” and “manipulative work environment” to describe the culture at their companies.

How to Build a Culture of Recognition

Modern practices dictate that employee rewards and recognition must change to keep up with the times.

For example, it’s no longer sufficient to simply give someone a gift card to Chili’s at the end of the quarter (although that’s usually appreciated too!) The good news is that it’s easy to incorporate modern recognition practices into your workplace.



A significant component of what builds a culture of recognition is to encourage peer-to-peer recognition as well as top-down recognition. Encourage employees to call each other out by allotting formal time for it or recognizing it when it happens organically.

Model peer-to-peer recognition at the top. Demonstrate the behavior you’d like to see by calling out your colleagues visibly and frequently. Additionally, encourage your colleagues to call out their reports and peers.


The most important thing to remember when it comes to recognition is that it must be timely, specific, and relevant. A pat on the back means nothing unless the person understands what they are being recognized for.

If you can, recognize employee contributions in real-time. During a meeting, shout out when someone contributes something of value.

If time is short, keep track of what your employees are working on and what they are doing well. Jot down a quick note when you notice someone being proactive. Try to find time later that day or that week to let them know that you appreciated it.


Practice is always more effective when you approach it with incremental regularity. It is better to do five minutes of yoga every morning than two hours once every two weeks. Brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day is more effective than spending twenty-four hours doing it once a month.

The same is true for fostering a culture of recognition. Small but consistent moments are better than big, flashy displays once a quarter. Try scheduling regular opportunities for recognition into your everyday routines.

For example, implement a “Friday Shout-Outs” section into your daily standup so employees can call out small things they appreciated that week.

Human Resources Management

Your human resource management team will be integral to ensuring employees are happy and valued and that they are getting what they need from your business, including:

  • Hybrid work options
  • Mental healthcare
  • Work-life balance
  • Diversity, equality, and inclusion

Flexibility on work hours and location of work is a prerequisite to securing your elite employees. Remote working for some of the week is the new normal.

Plus, your staff needs your commitment to DEI. Initiatives including employee resource groups, sharing employee stories, employee training, and a code of conduct are proof of your business’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion.


Fostering a culture of employee recognition doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task. As with anything, starting small is key. Build from a place of genuine compassion, and take incremental steps to codify natural moments into something larger.

Utilize your peers and reports—they likely have great ideas about how to go about building culture. Nothing says “I see you” better than soliciting an idea from someone and then implementing that idea (with due credit given, of course.)