9 Ways to Express Employee Recognition
To uncover the art of employee recognition, we’ve gathered nine insightful strategies from top professionals, including HR Managers and CEOs. From providing timely and genuine praise to being specific in employee acknowledgment, discover how to effectively convey appreciation and boost morale in your workplace.
- Provide Timely and Genuine Praise
- Follow the SBI Model and Avoid Stereotypes
- Celebrate Wins Publicly to Inspire
- Highlight Details to Deepen Appreciation
- Mentor Through Targeted Praise
- Reserve Praise for Exceeding Expectations
- Publicize Personalized Employee Achievements
- Show Appreciation for Employee Effort
- Be Specific in Employee Acknowledgment
Provide Timely and Genuine Praise
Don’t wait to give praise when you feel it’s best for you as a leader, or when it “looks best” for the company or business.
Focus on providing praise when it’s immediately required for your employee or team, and do so truly legitimately.
Follow the SBI Model and Avoid Stereotypes
I believe it’s important to be as concrete as possible about praise, just as you would be, ideally, with criticism. I like to follow the SBI model (Situation, Behavior, Impact), telling an employee what they did well and what impact it had on our company or client.
That way, they know what to do more of in the future. Vague praise is far less helpful. I try to avoid praising people based on personality traits or stereotypes, like praising women for being “nice” or telling a person of color that they are “articulate.” It can appear offensive.
Celebrate Wins Publicly to Inspire
I make it a priority to recognize strong performance and celebrate wins with my team. When an employee excels at a task or closes a complex placement, I first acknowledge their efforts directly with specific, positive feedback.
Once they’ve received personal recognition, I’ll often highlight their accomplishments in our weekly all-hands video conferences as an example to others—whether it’s landing a coveted Python engineer or efficiently filling multiple software development roles.
I make sure accomplishments are visible, so employees feel motivated to excel. I want their excellent work to inspire excellence across the whole company.
Highlight Details to Deepen Appreciation
These days, “great job” doesn’t seem to hit the mark for employees to feel valued and that their contributions are seen, appreciated, and aligned with team/organizational strategies. In an outcome-driven world, it is ever more essential to highlight the people, the processes, and the superb work that leads to that outcome.
To provide authentic and meaningful praise that leaves the employee feeling seen, appreciated, and aligned, it is important to provide positive feedback at the right time and highlight something specific about their work that elevates it from baseline to extraordinary.
Honor the minute decisions and details in their work. This approach can invite further conversation where they share more details about their process, challenges, and how they overcame them. It provides opportunities for reflection by the employee and continued acknowledgment, appreciation, and praise from a manager that hits more deeply.
Mentor Through Targeted Praise
I try to turn praise into an opportunity for mentoring. I’ll recognize an employee’s achievement and pair it with a conversation about their career goals. For instance, I might say, “Your innovative approach to this project stood out. That good work aligns well with your goal of managing people in the future. Let’s explore how we can further develop these skills.”
This approach does more than acknowledge their current success; it shows that I see their effort toward their goals and am invested in their future. It’s a twofold win: I celebrate them and also nurture their potential, making the praise both meaningful and forward-looking. This method transforms momentary, feel-good recognition into momentum for professional growth.
Reserve Praise for Exceeding Expectations
I’ve been in many varied roles, from working at a call center to managing a team of people. In those roles, I’ve learned that it’s important to praise employees for doing their job well. It can mean the difference between someone staying at your company for years or leaving to work elsewhere.
You mustn’t just give out praise randomly or make it seem like it’s an expected part of the job. Instead, praise should be given when an employee does something that goes above and beyond what was expected of them. This could include coming up with a new way to do something or making sure they do what they said they would do by a certain time.
You also need to make sure that the praise comes from the right person—if it’s not someone who will have any influence over whether the employee gets promoted, then it won’t matter much.
Publicize Personalized Employee Achievements
Praising employees is an art we take seriously. Instead of a generic “good job,” we highlight exactly what they did well. For instance, “Your innovative approach in the XYZ project significantly enhanced our client engagement—impressive work!” Being accurate and personalized like this acknowledges their effort and shows we’re paying attention.
We also make it public when we can, like in team meetings, to amplify its impact. It’s a morale booster and sets a standard expectation for the positive atmosphere that results from outstanding work.
Recognition is a powerful motivator—it validates their hard work and fosters a culture of appreciation and high performance.
Show Appreciation for Employee Effort
One of the best ways to praise an employee for a job well done is to let them know you see the effort they are putting in. It’s important to acknowledge the time and effort that people put into their work and show them you appreciate it.
Working with new hires, I like to take time out of my day to talk with them about how they feel about their job. In these conversations, I try to get an understanding of what motivates them in their work and what they would like out of their career.
If someone is doing a great job, I try to let them know how much it means to me and how happy it makes me. As a manager, one of my responsibilities is making sure that my employees are happy at work so that they can be productive and do their best work possible!
Be Specific in Employee Acknowledgment
When praising an employee for a job well done, be specific about what they did right. Acknowledge their contributions, highlight the positive impact on the team or project, and express gratitude.
Use clear language and mention specific achievements to make your praise meaningful. This helps the employee understand exactly what they did well and reinforces positive behavior.
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