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How To Empower Employees To Share Peer Recognition

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

24 Sept 2023

At some level, every one of us needs to receive recognition. When we believe we’re appreciated, it does wonders for our self-esteem, sense of purpose, and overall happiness. 

The benefits of recognition for employees and companies are many. A lot has been written about those benefits, and rightly so. What is often overlooked, though, is how organizations go about creating a culture of peer recognition. 

Recognition is a key driver of employee engagement, but it must come from a meaningful place. If you can embed a recognition framework that is authentic, measured, and fair, employees are far more likely to engage with it. 

Shaping a culture of peer recognition

If you’re simply ‘doing’ recognition on a sporadic basis, it can feel like an afterthought for your employees. Recognition should galvanize people around collective goals, and never leave them feeling isolated or out of favor. 

When you embed thoughtful systems and processes of recognition that are rooted in organizational culture and values, you create a lived experience for employees. And if they have input into what the desirable outcomes and behaviors are, employees are more comfortable sharing those achievements.

A connected workplace 

When employees are appreciated for their individual contributions, they feel a stronger sense of connection to their job, their teams, and the organization. 

For it to truly work, however, recognition must include everyone and allow them all to participate. Top-down, hierarchical efforts can seem unbalanced and even make people feel left out. Peer recognition, on the other hand, occurs among employees and allows them to speak openly and authentically in a psychologically safe environment.  

Amplifying someone’s achievements with internal communications and social media posts is clearly a wonderful thing. But if it’s not reinforced by a culture of peer recognition, it won’t feel as genuine. 

Social recognition, as it’s otherwise known, relies on communal forums where employees can actively participate. These forums increase the sense that achievement is shared, that recognition is achievable, and helps keep company-wide conversations transparent. 

Social recognition is no longer a nice-to-have, but an essential tool. The big challenge for business leaders is that their organizations can lack the know-how to create a meaningful system of recognition. 

Make it detailed, personal, and meaningful

Employees are more likely to share recognition if it’s meaningful and sincere. Instead of compelling someone to do something, employee recognition is about expressing genuine gratitude. For a recognition program to work, it really should be authentic. 

Recognition should be: 

  • Detailed and tied to specific achievements
  • Timely, given soon after the achievement
  • Aligned with company values and culture
  • Shared company-wide for maximum effect 
  • Frequent and inclusive of smaller wins 

When done right, recognition programs make individuals feel valued while also achieving collecting buy-in. When they are easy to engage with, transparent, and have accessible and relevant goals, it’s easier to build trust and motivate employees to keep achieving. 

To do that, recognition has to feel spontaneous and personal. Generic, predictable strategies can do more harm than good. A 2023 survey by Great Places to Work of 700,000 respondents found that a genuine ‘thank you’ from senior management can ignite a 69% increase in employees’ extra effort. 

It also found that more personal recognition would encourage 37% of respondents to produce better work. 

Allow room for personal preferences by asking how employees prefer to be recognized. Some might favor elaborate, public gestures, while others take comfort from less formal, more personal praise. 

Does your program allow peer recognition? 

Your employees should feel empowered to recognize each other spontaneously, at any time, wherever they work. Having the freedom to give kudos to coworkers on their own terms makes a recognition program far more accessible.  

Yes, they still need praise from managers and senior leaders, but peer-to-peer recognition has just as much impact. People who work together can be more in tune with each other’s morale than senior leaders are. It’s the sense that recognition is a result of everyday desirable behaviors, rather than officially sanctioned targets, that inspires people. 

Other peer recognition benefits include:

  • Greater connection and a stronger sense of belonging
  • Recognition of unique attributes and skills
  • Emphasis on diversity and inclusion
  • More authentic, real-time recognition 

Recognition, in whatever form it takes, should also be part of the performance conversation. For it to count, to truly matter to employees, your culture must consistently recognize its importance. 

You’ll know if it’s working by having one-to-one conversations and asking employees to complete surveys. After all, you can’t stop improving something that is so vital to employee satisfaction. 

Build a cohesive community 

The strength of your recognition efforts will be judged by how well they motivate people. When these efforts connect with employees on a personal level and tap into what they’re passionate about, they will mean more. This, in turn, motivates them to perceive recognition as sincere, and share it. 

No matter where they work, recognition brings people together. In remote and hybrid settings, it’s a powerful tool to foster a sense of belonging, connection, and safety. Using the right channels, messaging, and newsfeed helps to build a dynamic, cohesive employee experience.  

From personal milestones to one-off achievements, from exemplary actions to positive role models; get recognition right, and not only will your people thank you for it, they will actively take part in it.

If you want to learn what Workvivo can do for your employee recognition program, book your demo today!