Employee Recognition: Why, How & When to Communicate

Caitlin Kirwan

Internal Comms & Engagement Expert

9 Aug 2023

Time and time again, data has shown that effective employee recognition leads to a more engaged and productive workforce. 

The most successful organizations understand that building a culture of recognition is a strategic investment that studies show results in significantly lower employee turnover, increased engagement, and an improved customer experience. And, with employee loyalty at an all-time low as we emerge out of The Great Resignation, recognition is more important than ever.

“Employee recognition refers to all the ways an organization shows its appreciation for employees’ contributions. It can take many forms and may or may not involve monetary compensation.” – Great Place To Work

A culture of recognition exists when employees are recognized for going above and beyond, achieving significant milestones, demonstrating the company’s values, and exhibiting desired behaviors. Organizations with formal recognition programs in place are even shown to be 12x more likely to have strong business outcomes… which definitely justifies the investment!   

So, knowing all of this, what role does internal communication play in building a culture of recognition? 

This blog explores why, how, and when to communicate recognition… sharing helpful insights and tips along the way. Let’s go! 

Why should you communicate employee recognition? 

Recognition needs to be put in the spotlight rather than hidden behind closed doors, as employees who believe they will be recognized are 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged. It should be amplified throughout the organization to inspire employees to emulate the behaviors that are being celebrated.

The bottom line is that effective communications are critical for building a culture of recognition. It’s not enough to just send a firm-wide email to introduce a new recognition-based initiative or program, and it’s definitely not okay to skip aligning branding and messaging with your broader content plan.  

A recognition program is only as good as its internal communications plan.   

And the incentives for effective recognition communications are high… 

???? 81.9% of employees agree that being recognized for their contributions improves their engagement 

???? Employees who feel recognized are 5x as likely to feel connected to their workplace culture

???? 83.6% of employees say recognition affects their motivation to succeed at work

???? High-recognition companies have 31% lower voluntary turnover than those with poor recognition cultures 

???? 77.9% of employees would be more productive if they were recognized more frequently 

???? Feeling recognized makes an employee 2.2x more likely to drive innovation and bring new ideas forward

Integrating recognition into your rolling content plan is the key to amplifying and elevating success. Adopting this approach ensures that moments of celebration aren’t overlooked, and gives every colleague visibility of some of the great work happening across the organization. 

How to communicate employee recognition

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to communicating recognition, but there are a few tried-and-tested steps to set you on the path to impactful and engaging messaging.

Determine goals and objectives 

The first step in any comms planning process, regardless of the topic, is to determine your goals and objectives. 

When it comes to recognition, you need to work closely with your internal stakeholders to agree on what you are aiming to achieve. Understanding what you’re ultimately working towards will inform the strategy and tactics. 

For example, if the aim is to embed shared values across the organization, your communication strategy might focus on spotlighting and celebrating examples of the values being brought to life – particularly the least-understood ones. Or if the aim is to increase the employee engagement score by ensuring everyone feels recognized for their contribution, the strategy might include team leader briefing packs to encourage recognition at all levels.   



The impact of your communications should be measured periodically to review success against the defined objectives. 

If you’re using a recognition platform, it’s also helpful to track data points such as the number of recognitions being submitted, the number of comments and likes, the most frequent program users, and any correlations to wider business metrics. 

Check out our recent blog post exploring four different ways to continually measure your internal communications for more inspiration on what can be measured to track success!  

Select the right channels  

The next step is to identify the best channels and tools for your recognition communications. The approach you take will be shaped by both the objectives and the dynamics of the workforce, which might include both online and offline employees. 

Making use of the right mix of channels will help ensure you reach each different internal audience across the business. 

Some of the best channels for communicating recognition include your intranet, digital signage, newsletters, and internal events such as award ceremonies, roadshows, or Employee Appreciation Day activities. The content communicated should help to celebrate and reinforce your recognition platform by pulling stories through and encouraging engagement.  

Make it social

Recognition communications should focus on two-way content that involves and engages employees, regardless of their level or department. Aside from boosting collaboration and morale, promoting peer-to-peer recognition helps increase team confidence in the capabilities and competence of peers.    

“Public strategic recognition is especially effective in building trust and confidence across the organization because it connects the action being recognized back to the business.” – Reward Gateway 

Our shout-out feature helps promote a culture of peer recognition by enabling team achievements to be recognized and celebrated publicly. Embedding recognition into existing social communication channels in this way is extremely valuable as it makes it part of day-to-day life and encourages two-way engagement.



When to communicate employee recognition

Effective recognition communication is ongoing, and not just reserved for Employee Appreciation Day or after an annual awards ceremony. To truly build a culture of recognition, employee appreciation should be woven into daily messaging and integrated across all channels.  

Recognition communications need to be frequent, genuine, and transparent.  

Introducing new joiners to your culture of recognition is also important, so think about how messaging about the recognition program can be woven into onboarding documents, company handbooks, and policies. 

While you might build a more formalized communication plan for recognition events or annual campaigns, things like leadership shout-outs and values stories should be communicated organically and consistently. 

The rewards for effectively communicating employee recognition are definitely high. Increased engagement and productivity, reduced turnover, better business outcomes … what’s not to love?  

Want to learn more about the wonders Workvivo can do for your employee recognition program (or lack thereof ????)? Book your demo today!