Recognition at Work: Small Steps, Big Impacts

July 25, 2023

We recently read Gallup’s reporting about the value of formal recognition programs and a culture of recognition for US employers. Their findings are interesting – and could offer an opportunity for employers to make relatively simple changes that move the needle for workers experiencing burnout and disengagement.  

Key Findings in Gallup’s 2022 Wellbeing Report 

  • The US has significant opportunities to improve its strategic recognition programs in the workplace.  
  • High-quality recognition in the workplace is strongly associated with lower rates of burnout, with US employees reporting being 73% less likely to feel burned out always or very often when they receive the right recognition at work.  
  • Recognition can lead to increased feelings of social connection for employees.  

How US Employers Can Foster the Right Recognition 

Gallup’s reporting clarifies that recognition must be given equitably for workers and employers to see the associated benefits. And workplace recognition that is not given equitably is linked to higher rates of burnout.  

Giving the ‘Right’ Recognition 

Recognition that is ‘strategic’ (and effective) meets five criteria:  

  • Fulfills employee expectations; 
  • Is authentic;  
  • Personalized;  
  • Equitably distributed; and  
  • Embedded in an organization’s culture. 

Employers should prioritize recognition efforts that address all five of these pillars, if possible.  

Gallup’s reporting suggests that employers consider the following measures to foster the right recognition:  

  • Encourage your entire team to give and receive thanks and recognition freely.  
  • Introduce accountabilities for managers and leaders requiring them to provide regular recognition.  
  • Prioritize creating opportunities for authentic recognition over more formal and rigid programs or quotas. 
  •  Ensure you recognize the right team members for their contributions. Inequitable recognition that overlooks or ignores the contributions of team members leads to increased burnout.  

Practical Steps to Create a Culture of Recognition 

Some quick practical steps you can take to achieve this include:  

You Should Share (Authentic) Recognition Publicly 

Some easy ways to implement this are:  

  • Set aside five minutes at the beginning of recurring team meetings to give kudos to employees.  
  • Regularly share updates about life events or personal achievements of your team (with their permission).  
  • Create a gratitude channel on Teams/Slack and encourage your team to post there.  

Encourage Your Leaders To Lead By Example 

As with any cultural shift, a top-down approach is essential. Your leaders and managers should be informed about the importance of recognition and the benefits of increasing the right types of recognition. From there, they should receive reminders about your company’s approach to recognition and tips to improve recognition practices.  


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