Employee Recognition Event

Employee Recognition Best Practice and Examples

Why is it Important to Recognise Employees?

The end of the year can be a hectic time for people in their personal and professional lives.  In many organisations, teams are working to tight deadlines to complete seasonal orders, to close year-end financial accounts and reporting. Despite this frenzy of activity, most organisations have developed traditions around how they mark the end of the year for their various stakeholder groups; nights out, vouchers, hampers, charitable donations, themed lunches, and office Kris Kindles to name a few. These annual routines are part and parcel of the DNA of many organisations and are an important recognition and acknowledgement of the contribution these stakeholders have made to the business throughout the year. 

Another potentially powerful tradition many of us engage in as we approach the end of year is taking the time for personal reflection – an annual stocktake of how we performed in the past year, the achievements we are most proud of and the areas we intend to focus on in the new year.

In this blog post, we intend to use our end of year reflection time on the ways in which strong cultures of recognition and appreciation, underpin the building and sustaining of effective and strong cultures of continuous improvement.

A recent Gallup survey found that Employees are four times more likely to be engaged when they believe they receive the right amount of recognition for the work they do.

A Great Place to Work employee survey included the question:

“What is the most important thing that your manager or company currently does that would cause you to produce great work?”

Respondents answered in their own words, providing a variety of responses, but a clear pattern emerged. 37% of respondents said that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work more often. While autonomy and inspiration were mentioned, the most common theme that emerged was recognition.

Employee Recognition Survey Results


How can Recognition support Sustainability and Success?

At a most basic level, recognising the contributions of every individual is about respecting people.  Respect for people is one of the cornerstones of Lean Management principles. While respect for every individual is a Shingo Principle viewed as a cultural enabler. Recognising the contributions of every individual is one of the facets of this key principle.

We believe that recognition impacts every aspect of an organisations functioning, recruitment and retention, engagement and productivity, trust and loyalty, wellbeing and relationships, all of which contribute to sustaining performance.

Historically, recognition was considered the responsibility of people management teams, and most have designed and implemented formal recognition programmes.  It is widely acknowledged that when these programmes are linked to strategic objectives. People know the impact their work is having on the organisations overall performance and this enhances a sense of ownership and belonging.

We believe that when continuous improvement initiatives are similarly linked to strategic objectives and the outcomes measured accordingly, this serves to build engagement, a sense of pride and personal satisfaction.  

Like every other aspect of people management, we believe that creating a culture of recognition and appreciation is not the exclusive responsibility of the HR team. Everyone has a role to play. Leaders at all levels must be out front and centre in modelling authentic recognition across their teams. This sends a clear message to employees that their efforts are noticed and make a difference.

Why is Employee Recognition that important?

Recognition does not always have to be a monetary gesture. Indeed, Hertzberg’s theory on motivation tells us that hygiene factors like pay and conditions can demotivate, while recognition and personal satisfaction are the actual motivators.

One fond memory of personal recognition, while working in a global service organisation, was receiving a handwritten note from our CEO, on completion of a protracted acquisition, thanking me for my hard work and contribution to getting the deal over the line. Despite considering myself to be ‘self- motivated’- I have to honestly say I do recall feeling a sense of pride and satisfaction that he had taken the time to recognise me in this very personal way.

Whether working remotely or in the office, a simple thank you, a handwritten card, a sit-down or online conversation over a coffee or lunch, to celebrate someone who has gone ‘above and beyond’ are simple, personalised gestures which speak volumes. For the most part these actions are cost efficient in terms of budgetary allocations.  What they do require is a commitment of time from both parties. Most of us are time poor with packed calendars. We encourage people to make time for recognition and guarantee there will be a return on this investment in time saved recruiting, retraining and the benefits of increased engagement and productivity.

Make Recognition part of your Routine

For recognition to have the most impact it should be sincere and specific.  What better way to demonstrate to employees that you see their hard work and recognise their efforts and successes than speaking with them personally in their place of work and calling out the actual improvement and effort they made. As a team leader or line manager this may be easy, as you are likely to be aware of the day-to-day specifics. As a senior manager, to be able to give genuine feedback and affirmation it is important to be informed. It is also worthwhile asking people to show and tell you the improvements they are proud of.   

Employee Recognition Examples

  1. Highlight achievements in communications, newsletters, and Team meetings.
  2. Give people credit for their efforts and achievements, and an opportunity to present their own work.
  3. Standardise recognition in these forums facilitates the building of peer recognition and encourages individuals to share their successes. In time, even the cynics are likely to accept that this is their company culture.

Upon completion of our training and mentoring programmes, participants are asked to capture their continuous improvement project on an A3.  They talk about the steps they undertook, the outcomes, impacts and personal learning. We encourage the companies we partner with to host a recognition event, giving a spotlight and celebrating each participant’s achievement.  

Having a dedicated space to display A3s in either a central or function area is an effective means of recognising effort. Keeping this regularly updated can build the momentum of learning and improvement programmes. In keeping with Lean Principles, it is a simple, visual reminder that supports the embedding of a culture of continuous improvement.


Recognising the efforts and achievements of those we work with is a key component of demonstrating that we value the contributions of team members. Traditional year-end appreciation gestures are necessary and serve to strengthen relationships and build loyalty. 

However, organisations that recognise the contributions of all employees in a timely manner throughout the year, will improve collaboration and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

For recognition to be impactful it does not have to be grand gestures.  In fact, regular, genuine, and personalised affirmations are more motivating and are likely to enhance engagement and loyalty.  

The approach an organisation takes to recognition must be linked to strategic objectives and communicated to all employees. For maximum impact everyone has a role to play in celebrating success, making it visible in a meaningful way and is so doing embedding recognition as a key element of the organisations culture.

For our readers, in keeping with the seasonal spirit of giving and reflecting:

  • We hope your year has been positive and that you have found personal satisfaction in your day-to-day work, making improvements along the way.
  • We encourage you to take some time for rest and relaxation to recharge your batteries and transition into 2023.
  • We urge you to reflect on the ways you promote a culture of recognition. 
  • How do you recognise the individuals in your business and the impact this has on overall sustainability throughout the year?
Martina Murphy Lean Business Consultant

This blog post was written by Martina Murphy, Lean Business Trainer & Mentor.  View her profile and watch a video of Martina here.  For more information about our Lean Training, Mentoring and Recognition Programmes, please contact us.

Empowering People to Think and Work Smarter

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