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5 real-time recognition tactics that drive engagement and retention

November 15, 2022 - 10 min read
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    There’s no denying it: real-time recognition just feels good.

    The congratulatory Slack in the team channel. A virtual high-five in a presentation. Positive feedback after turning in a complicated project and deliverable.

    But beyond feeling good, it has a business impact, too. When employees aren’t consistently recognized for their contributions, it can leave them feeling underappreciated. In fact, according to one study, 36% of employees say lack of recognition is the top reason they're considering switching jobs.

    By contrast, a company culture based on positive feedback can boost employee retention and satisfaction. One of the best ways to build that kind of culture is through real-time recognition.

    Let’s take a look at what real-time recognition is, why it’s so important for teams, and 5 tips for implementing this type of feedback at work. 

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    What is real-time recognition?

    Real-time recognition is a method for providing instant feedback and appreciation. This recognition system improves the relationship between managers and employees by creating more direct, effective, and immediate communication

    Real-time recognition can be used as a tactic for performance management. When an employee is doing a great job, it allows you to reinforce positive behaviors at the moment, versus days or weeks later. It allows for deep learning and growth, especially in positive ways. Ultimately, the goal of real-time recognition is to empower and encourage employees. 

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    Why is real-time recognition valuable for teams? 

    Real-time recognition can boost morale by helping employees focus on what’s working. As a manager, it’s also a great way to coach your team so that they can reach their full potential. Here are 5 more reasons why real-time recognition is so valuable for teams.  

    1. Highlights poor performance before it escalates 

    If an employee isn’t performing at their usual level, it might be easy to miss. However, if you make real-time recognition a habit, you’ll notice problems before they start to affect your team goals. From there, you can address poor performance and create a plan to get your employee back on track. 

    2. Enhances productivity 

    By nature, real-time recognition is specific, individualized, and straightforward. Because you’re giving feedback at the moment, the recipient can see exactly what they need to stop — or keep — doing. As a result, they can make the right adjustments and become more productive. 

    For example, say you notice that a team member submitted a project early. Recognizing an employee’s success immediately will likely lead them to replicate their efforts. This is much more effective than waiting until the end of the month, only to give vague recognition like “Great job!” 

    3. Improves team communication

    When it comes to team collaboration, communication is crucial. Navigating different personality types and working styles, on top of the pressure of achieving your goals, can be a challenge. Real-time recognition creates a culture of immediate feedback, open communication, and celebration. As a result, it reduces workplace conflict and develops a much stronger team

    4. Creates a better, more inclusive employee experience  

    When you practice real-time recognition, you can create deeper connections with your coworkers and remind employees that they’re not just another “cog in the machine.”

    According to BetterUp Labs research on the employee experience, that’s important: workers report wanting to feel valued and cared for by their employers. They also want to feel a deep sense of belonging, connection, and purpose. 

    Beyond that, when leaders are inclusive, teams thrive. In fact, we’ve found that employees are 50% more productive, 90% more innovative, and 150% more engaged. Inclusive leadership also results in 54% lower employee turnover.

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    5. Boosts employee retention and engagement 

    Studies show that employees, especially millennials and Generation Z, are more likely to be engaged at work if they’re recognized often. When your team is more engaged (and feels valued) they’ll have fewer reasons to look for a new job. As a result, real-time recognition can vastly improve employee retention. 

    5 tips for giving employees real-time feedback 

    Now that you understand the benefits of employee recognition, how can you implement it? The process of giving feedback can seem complicated. However, with a few simple tips, you can start making your team feel valued for all the great work they do. 

    Here are 5 tips for giving employees real-time feedback.

    1. Set expectations 

    Your team might be confused if you start sharing recognition without explaining why — especially if your company doesn’t have a great feedback culture. As you begin utilizing real-time recognition, it’s a good idea to set some expectations. Think about the questions below, and then clearly share your goals with your employees: 

    • Why are you starting this practice? 

    • How can employees get involved? 

    • What outcome are you hoping to achieve? 

    • How should employees respond when you give them feedback? 

    2. Be direct 

    If you need to give your employees constructive feedback, try to spend less time giving a feedback sandwich. Otherwise, don’t pillow or cushion criticism with positivity in order to soften the blow. Similarly, if you’re recognizing an employee for something positive, don’t waste their time. Be specific and to the point so that they understand exactly what they’re doing right and can continue doing it. 

    3. Celebrate small wins 

    Real-time recognition is all about immediate feedback. That means it’s not just the big projects and massive accomplishments that should be recognized — it’s also the day-to-day wins. Here are a few ways to do this: 

    • Use a Slack channel, email thread, or another platform to praise employee accomplishments as they happen

    • Start meetings by asking if anyone has a “shout out” — this will allow team members to regularly recognize each other for going the extra mile 

    • Take real-time recognition offline by inviting a coworker to lunch or giving them a high-five after a great meeting 

    4. Focus on empowerment 

    Remember: at the end of the day, real-time recognition is about empowerment. Focus on how what you say can help employees improve. When your team receives positive feedback, it reminds them that they’re on the right track and makes them feel more confident in their abilities. As a result, they’ll contribute more. 

    5. Use employee recognition software 

    Real-time recognition is a habit that’s built over time. However, employee recognition software can support your efforts with reminders, notifications, and automation. Just remember to give employees a tutorial on the platform in order to maximize engagement. 

    Here are a few tools to consider: 

    • Kudos: This platform allows employees to post peer-to-peer recognition, plus comment and like those posts — similar to a social media newsfeed. 

    • TinyPulse: This tool focuses on the “power of appreciation” with peer recognition features and powerful analytics. 

    • Reward Gateway: This solution helps employees recognize each others’ efforts with personalized, branded e-cards, and automation tools. 

    Moving forward

    Real-time recognition is an effective, simple way to improve the employee experience and boost retention rates. As you provide immediate feedback about things that are going well, you’ll help your team become more engaged, confident, and productive. 

    Remember that the goal is to empower your employees, and you’ll be off to a great start.

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    Published November 15, 2022

    Madeline Miles

    Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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