Bruce Fox Blog

The Definitive Guide: Employee Recognition and Why it's a Big Deal

Posted by Arianna Thayer on Jun 22, 2017 1:40:00 PM

Read Time: 10 Minutes

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Like Me, You Might Be Wondering...

I occasionally find myself confused, overwhelmed, and paralyzed by the bombardment of information circulating the internet about employee recognition. Make the mistake of Googling it, and you'll quickly start getting targeted ads about everything from ideas for pens to improve employee engagement to company sponsored trips. So it led me to wonder... how is anyone supposed to know where to start?

Need some help? Download our Employee Recognition Toolbox (below) for ideas & tools to get you started!

Employee Recognition Toolbox

Before working for Bruce Fox, I worked in an assortment of industries ranging from ghost tours to health care. While the subject had come up a time or two in my social psychology classes, "employee recognition" was not a program any of my employers participated in, nor was it something I was familiar with.

So when I got here at Bruce Fox, I asked myself, "what's the big deal?"

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What Even Is It?

Employee recognition, as I'll refer to it here, goes by a myriad of names, but its goal is always the same: increase employee satisfaction (aka "engagement") by bringing awareness of the "good stuff" an employee, or group of employees, has done. It can be as simple as a gift card, or as personal as a custom award with their nickname and accomplishment engraved on it. 

There's participation in every industry: from recognizing a top salesman at an insurance company to the cleanest kitchen at a fast food chain to a perfect attendance award at... pretty much any company ever. 

Because the recognition industry touches so many businesses and lives, it's applicable on many levels and for so many purposes. However, with an endless list of suppliers of such products, each with a different idea of what's important, it's easy to get overwhelmed with choices.

Which may make you call into question, "why even do it?"

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Why Is It Important?

Engaged employees are happy employees.

Employee happiness and satisfaction is closely tied to employee engagement, which is discerned by the degree of commitment an individual feels towards their organization, the level of passion or satisfaction they have for their jobs, and the amount of discretionary effort they exhibit in their subsequent work.  They're more likely to be happily employed, remain at the company, and encourage other top talent to join them.

Higher workplace engagement leads to 37% lower absenteeism, 41% fewer safety incidents, and 41% fewer quality defects.


Like clients, it's easier and significantly less expensive to retain a good employee than it is to find a new one. However, many companies are dropping the ball when it comes to keeping their employees happy. While employee recognition programs are not the only way to keep morale and motivation up, there are a lot of significant benefits that go along with having one. 

 Employee recognition plans are an easy, cyclical way of showing employees you appreciate and recognize good work. And employees like that. They're more likely to be engaged at work if they know they will be recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty.

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How Do I Do it?

If you like the idea of an employee recognition program, but don't know what to do next, that's cool. You're not alone. The way you implement a recognition program vastly depends on your budget, scope, and organizational participation of the program. However, one thing should stay true: 

Your recognition program should boldly demonstrate the values your company wishes to embody and should be personalized to the individual receiving it.

So what are your company's core values? Is one of them innovation? Then perhaps giving an employee a company branded swag bag for coming up with a new process isn't the right tone. But here's where it's important to really get to know your employees and recognize they're individuals with varying interests. For instance, depending on the personality of a top salesperson you might decide between sending them on a relaxing camping trip out of the city or recognizing them with a custom award at the annual meeting.

Ready to start your own recognition program? Download our toolbox  to help get you started:

(Click here!)

Relying on recognition experts with a wealth of experience in crafting programs like this can take the load off. They can help you avoid mistakes you might not have ever thought of by asking qualifying questions to determine what's best for your unique needs. For instance, you have to even consider the environment a custom award will be occupying. Is it a trendy open office space with few walls? A custom award expert would likely steer you away from a wall plaque because you won't be able to find a space to hang it on.

So now that you have a general idea of what it is, why it's important, and how involved a practice it is, how about some actionable steps you can use to start planning one? 


The Keys To Delivering Recognition Right

Perhaps the most important aspect in employee recognition (after actually doing it) is doing it right. For instance, not all employees are motivated the same way. Some are motivated intrinsically while others are motivated extrinsically. There's also the growth versus fixed mindset of employees, which determines how you praise them. But without going into too much detail on that here, here are some actionable ways to do it right.

Give 'em What They Want

What I discovered recently after reading, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up" is I have a lot of crap sitting around my house. After a more careful evaluation, I discovered much of that junk was stuff I didn't even actually want... or like. More to the point, it was stuff that had been given to me by someone that I cared about, and out of guilt or misguided respect, I politely kept it. Indefinitely.

How many of us do this?

But think of it from the other side: do you want to be that person burdening your superstar employee with junk they have to guiltily find a place for in their home or office space?

I know you never meant to do this. It wasn't your intention at all. And it's okay! It's not too late- but now's the time to make some changes.

If you're going to take the time, energy, and money to recognize them, you should make sure those efforts aren't in vain. After all, if done improperly, your employees with nerves of steel (unlike mine) will literally throw it away.

Be Personal

Perhaps one of the best (and worst) examples of this was when a friend of mine (Andrew) got a personal video from the CEO of his company, thanking him for his outstanding efforts in the last quarter. The video starts, "Hi Andrew!" and all is good until the last few seconds... "so once again, I just wanted to say thanks again, Nick." ...cringe. 

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Ignoring the absolutely awkward execution of it, this is a great example of how you can be personal when recognizing your employees. But being personal goes way beyond simply getting their name right.  

Employees who believe their managers can name their strengths are 71% more likely to feel engaged and energized.

-The VIA Institute on Character

For recognition to "count", it has to feel like it's genuine. So taking the time to ensure the recipient's name is spelled correctly or their nickname is included is a given. A custom award goes the extra mile in showing them the time and energy you've put into showing them that their time and energy was worth something to you.

So, for it to truly be personalized, it should demonstrate the company's personality too. 

Be Original

For an award to be truly personal, it should be custom-made to fit both the personalities of the recipient and the company. Creating a custom award that aesthetically shows your brand is another way of showing your employees you took the time to personalize their award and didn't just buy it off a conveyor belt in China.

Recognition should reflect company values, tone, personality, and branding as well as the struggle undergone to accomplish the task. Awards and recognition should serve as a form of social proof for both the recipient and the rest of the office for what the company deems valuable and what other employees should aspire to accomplish.

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Custom awards are a good way of doing this. It allows you to build an award around your company's values and branding, boosting company identity and morale by saying, "Hey, we really took time and effort to give you this really cool award you truly can't get anywhere else".

I think this award we made for Oracle is a perfect example. It exhibits Oracle's branding and personality by using their mascot and showing prestige with the gold medal hanging around its neck. A lot of work went into fabricating this little guy, and it shows it in ways a simple plaque just couldn't. Plus, who wouldn't  want one of these buddies on their shelf? 

Be Timely

Ask any psychologist or dog trainer and they'll tell you praise should always be swift. People, like dogs, have a short attention span and if you fail to recognize them when it really counts... it becomes irrelevant. You should catch good behavior in the act and recognize it as soon as possible so that the behavior can be more effectively reinforced.

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If you wait too long to recognize someone for an accomplishment, they may already be on to their next challenge. You'll find this in particular with millennials, who apparently require the swiftest recognition of any workforce.

Be Reflective

If you're considering a recognition program, it's probably because you have some pretty cool employees that, well... deserve to be recognized for being awesome. So, if they're deserving of recognition, you should match with equal effort on your part. 

Sometimes giving your employees simple recognition for outstanding work is sufficient. I've heard of successful programs where companies have colorful cards with one of their core values on it, which they give to individuals who illustrate said value. For instance, if they've exhibited your core value of "delivering results", by discovering problems in an algorithm, it might be sufficient to award them with something like a core value card they can tape to on their monitor or cubicle wall. 

However, if an employee has exhibited outstanding performance in one way or another, you should obviously recognize them accordingly. If you're not sure where to start, you should look at what your company measures. Therein lies your answer. May it be individual sales, cleanliness of your restaurants, days without incident, you're measuring something. If that something took a great deal of effort, energy, time, and impact on your business it should be recognized with an equal representation of recognition. You might want to consider downloading the Employee Recognition Toolbox below, which helps to answer some of these questions to determine what kind of program is right for you.

And That's Pretty Much It

That should be all you really need to know to start a custom recognition plan! But you don't have to stop there! Consider snagging our Employee Recognition Toolbox (here) or reading more of our blogs. For more information about who we are, please consider reading on.

Click to read more about recognition best practices in our article (here)!


Who do We  Think we are?

 Bruce Fox is the recognition expert. It's literally what we do.

We've been "a thing" since 1938 and we're sticking around for the long haul. Check it out: 


We've created custom awards to suit the individual needs of over 1,500 organizations, but that's not what we're really here to talk about today. If that kind of thing is your jam, great! You should check out our blog [here] to learn more about the promotional products industry, or take a look at our portfolio [here]. Or, you can always give us a call or shoot us an email to say hi or get into some specifics of how we can help you.



Or, if all you really want is some more info on employee recognition (since that's why you're here) you should download our Employee Recognition Toolbox, which includes all kinds of data, tools, and other cool stuff you can use to brainstorm recognition programs or talk to your colleagues about starting one. 


Ready to start your own recognition program? Download our toolbox below to help get you started:

  Employee Recognition Toolbox


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Tags: Benefits for the end clients