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4 Tips for Creating a Culture of Recognition

In 2021 the Pew Research Center surveyed over 6000 workers and identified low pay, lack of opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected as the top 3 reasons for employee turnover. As a middle manager, you do not have autonomy to address the first two reasons for turnover in the short-term, but you do have the ability to have influence with the third. A desire for respect is a universal human need. Every day employees show up to work and do their jobs and as a leader you play a key role in showing your employees that you appreciate what they do.

Showing employees that you appreciate them is easy to do, but you must be purposeful. It is well documented that individuals are more likely to acquire new behaviors when they establish them as goals. If you want to show your employees you appreciate them, review the four actions below and set a goal for yourself to practice these over the next 21 days.

  1. Write a note to your employee. Most communication is either verbal or digital. It is rare for us to receive or give positive written communication outside of performance review cycles. As a leader your words matter to you employees. By taking the time to write a thank you note to your employees, it shows them that you genuinely appreciate what they are doing. In addition, it gives them something that they can keep as a reminder of the excellent work they have completed. Make sure the note is specific, add the date and your signature. Pro Tip- develop branded thank you notes with your name on it. Just having these at your desk or in your work bag will encourage you to use them.

  2. Praise your employee on social media. LinkedIn and other social media platforms are a great forum to show your employees appreciation. With more workers being remote, shifting to virtual recognition is a great way to provide public praise. By praising your employee in a social media post, you can recognize them in front of their peers, which makes a profound impact especially with extroverts. Pro Tip- connect with your employees and co-workers on social media platforms to maximize the reach of recognition post.

  3. Give them a small token of appreciation. Little things matter especially when they are a surprise. Something as simple as a recognition pin, a gift card for coffee, or a candy bar can go a long way in showing someone that you appreciate what they do. The key here is to give the employee something they will appreciate. Take some time over the next week to poll your team on what types of recognition they feel would be impactful. Pro Tip- if the individual you are showing appreciation to has a family, the gift could be for them. Families of employees make sacrifices to support their career, showing them appreciation goes a long way to make the entire family feel valued and respected.

  4. Surprise thank you call. Making an unexpected call to an employee to thank them for the work they are doing can go a long way to showing appreciation. An unprompted recognition call gives you an opportunity outside of one on ones, and performance reviews to energize an employee and let them know that their work matters. Pro Tip- if you are a manager of managers, ask your direct reports to provide you with the name, phone number, and reason for recognition of their direct reports. Skip level recognition can be impactful because the employee does not interact with you frequently, and likely see you as a powerful and influential person.

Leaders have a direct influence over the culture of their team. By role modeling recognition, you help to develop a culture that shows respect and appreciations. All businesses have limits on employee compensation, and advancement opportunities but there are fewer constraints on the amount of recognition you can give employees. By providing your employees with better and more frequent recognition, you demonstrated that you appreciate and respect the contribution they provide to the organization.


Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with your Path Coaching and Consulting. He specializes in coaching service for managers, executives and small business owner.

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