5 ways to recognize employees

June 24, 2022 - 11 min read


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What are impactful ways to recognize your colleagues?

When can you provide recognition?

How do you provide meaningful recognition?

How can you make it easier to share recognition?

One of the main reasons employees leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. In fact, a 2019 Gallup poll reported that 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition over the last year.

Employee recognition isn’t just about implementing employee programs or distributing expensive gifts. It's about bringing out the best in people and improving your company’s bottom line. Increasingly so, employees expect their workplace to deliver a productive, engaging, enjoyable employee experience.

Whether you are an HR leader, manager, or individual looking to celebrate more successes in your workplace, we’ve got you covered.

In this post we will break down:

  • What are impactful ways to recognize others at work?
  • When can you provide recognition?
  • How to provide recognition?


What are impactful ways to recognize your colleagues?

In a recent Gallup workplace survey, employees were asked what types of recognition they found most memorable. The top five methods highlighted, include:

  1. Public recognition or acknowledgment
  2. Private recognition from a boss, peer, or customer
  3. Receiving or obtaining a high level of achievement through evaluations or year-end reviews
  4. Promotion or increase in scope and responsibility
  5. Monetary awards, merit increase, pay increase, trips, etc.

The top two most memorable and impactful forms of employee recognition have very little to do with money, their value comes from the format, quality, and distribution channel.

Public recognition is a great way to celebrate an achievement that has a broader business impact. Not only does it bring the most visibility and extend praise to the individual or team but can also serve as an educational moment to inform others company-wide on the value of the work.

Private recognition can be more detailed and individual-focused, it can speak to their performance or developmental areas. When a manager takes time to regularly demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for an employee's accomplishments it can motivate, engage, and reinforce positive behaviors and outcomes.

Similarly, with the rise of project teams and more collaborative workplaces, it’s also important to create a culture where positive peer feedback is exchanged amongst the people you work most closely with.

If you can, go ahead and add a gift! A high-five or a handwritten thank-you note is great but there will be scenarios where more is appropriate, the launch of a new website, development of a new product/feature, exceeding sales quotas, etc.

Not all companies are created equal think about if and what types of rewards might best suit specific teams and employees. Rewards can come in all shapes and sizes, here are a few ideas:

  • An extra day-off pass to be used to take a longer holiday or to accommodate flexible hours
  • Going out for lunch to celebrate a shared achievement together
  • A voucher to a nice restaurant to share with a loved one
  • A gift card for a massage to ensure they take time for themselves


When can you provide recognition?

It’s important to put equal weight on celebrating wins big and small, in many cases even the biggest projects and accomplishments are filled with smaller victories and moments to be proud of. And, both are equally valuable and impactful to share.

Recognition can be provided after the successful completion of a project, aligned to the meetings and milestones leading up to completion, and can also be focused on the demonstration of soft skills and company values in getting the project done.

Recognition is most effective when provided regularly and shared at the moment. It’s easy to hold off on sharing it for a variety of reasons, you want to take time to craft it properly, you want to wait to share it in person, etc.

Our rule for recognition is that the earlier it’s shared the better, it demonstrates to the individual that you observe and value their work and effort. Even if you need more time to share the feedback in writing or in a more public place, still acknowledge it in real-time, whether it’s a short message shared on Slack or a high-five in the hallway. An official congratulations or a bonus can come later but there is no reason why you should wait to say thanks to an employee for their hard work.

How do you provide meaningful recognition?

Our recommended feedback format for delivering impactful feedback, both positive feedback and constructive feedback, is Context - Observation - Impact - Next (C.O.I.N).


Start by identifying the milestone, behavior, or achievement you want to recognize. Give your colleague a reference point to tie the positive feedback to, like a specific example of when they may have demonstrated the behavior.

For example, let them know you're specifically referring to what happened during the team meeting the day before, rather than commenting on their general interactions with others (even though you may have more than one example).


Describe the details of the behavior, skill, or achievement you want to specifically call out. Beyond just a “good job!” focus on clearly outlining the aspects you found admirable.


Help your colleagues understand why you’re commenting on this behavior by describing its impact on you, a broader team, or even the company. While it’s nice to recognize the individual for a job well done, you want them to know what changed for the better on a broader level.


Now that you’ve got through the difficult part of giving the feedback, don’t forget to offer some suggestions or positive encouragement for what they can do moving forward.

How can you make it easier to share recognition?

Regularly celebrating wins big and small can breathe life into the organization by keeping everyone aligned to the mission and values that contribute to its long-term success.

By creating a culture of recognition you can improve employee morale and ensure that your most valued colleagues are motivated to stay. Consider how BetterUp can help to create a culture of positive feedback and recognition. 

With virtual coaching, you can help foster, nurture, and develop your top talent — and recognize the employees who are doing great work. Recognition goes a long way with relatively little effort. All it takes is an intentional connection

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Published June 24, 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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