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Gone are the days when “one size fits all” works for employee recognition. Instead, many factors need to be considered when developing effective programs. That’s why countless organizations are seeking strategies to keep employees invested in the company mission while embracing the differences in gender, generations and what makes individuals tick.
The science behind recognition can help your company develop a strategy that works.

1. The Benefits of Recognition

Employers know that training new employees costs time and money. Studies show that companies scoring in the top 20 percent for having a “recognition-rich culture” had 31 percent lower voluntary turnover rates. When your employees feel appreciated, they stay.

2. Improved Employee Engagement

Other studies reveal that the right recognition is correlated to improved employee engagement. Results show that organizations with higher-than-average levels of engagement achieve 50 percent more productivity and customer satisfaction rates as well as 44 percent higher profits. Not only that, but employee engagement increases 20 percent when managers recognize their employees weekly instead of monthly and 35 percent when recognition is daily.

3. Better Performance

Organizations that recognize their employees outperform their competitors. When employees experience daily recognition connected to meaningful rewards, it can boost performance, resulting in improved customer loyalty and satisfaction.

4. Happier Employees

When you show employees the impact they’re having on business and that you see and appreciate their efforts, those employees feel good about what they do.

5. Increased Trust

Simply thanking your employees fosters an atmosphere of trust. An employee’s relationship with his or her supervisor is a top driver of employee engagement, and managers are the frontline of your recognition efforts.

6. More Inclusion

Companies providing recognition must consider the factors of diversity to be successful. Instant, peer-to-peer, social media and public acknowledgement work well with a diverse workforce.

The Psychology of Motivation

Science shows there’s a big difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Tapping into an employee’s intrinsic motivation also yields big results.

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the most valuable psychological needs is to be appreciated. Compensation and benefits support a fundamental (extrinsic) need, but recognition supports our higher-level (intrinsic) needs.

Extrinsic motivation is defined as working for a reward that someone else gives you. If every employee receives the same holiday gift or service award, it does little to boost motivation. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation leads to personal excellence and pride of performance based on an individual’s values.

Here are some examples of recognition that enhance intrinsic motivation:

1. Recognize Specific Behaviors

Reward individuals for delivering that extra something in response to a specific problem.

2. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Employees told researchers at Forbes that they feel much better when they are recognized by their peers because the impact is more personal.

3. Recognize Employees in Front of Others

Meetings and conference calls are a great way to recognize someone on a daily or weekly basis. It makes the employee feel great, and lets leadership promote behaviors that others are intrinsically motivated to do.

4. Tie Recognition to Company Goals

Whatever is important to your company, reward behavior with recognition.

5. Recognize the Role of Oxytocin and Gender

Recognition has a physiological impact on performance. Our bodies create oxytocin when we feel appreciated. Research shows that people working under the influence of oxytocin perform better. When fellow employees acknowledge one another, morale and work quality improve.

Appreciation is received differently according to gender. For the masculine, appreciation is fuel that gives men the energy to continue to invest in producing a result. For the feminine, appreciation gives her the feeling of being valued and safe.

The science of employee recognition is simple: The next time you see someone doing something worthy of notice, say so. Then, say it again in front of peers and management.