Each and every individual at your organization has the power to influence recognition. But those that lead teams — your managers — arguably wield the greatest influence. I’ve spent years training teams of all sizes, from all industries on how to incorporate employee recognition best practices into their day-to-day, and I really believe in the results that manager-led recognition can create. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

As a leader in your organization, it’s your role (and our job!) to help train managers and others in your business to use recognition strategically for the biggest impact on your business.

Here are five ways you can help get managers on board:

1. Recognize frequently and consistently

shutterstock_237596836 (1)Instead of waiting for monthly or annual awards (that often only recognize 5% of your organization anyway), provide ways to both privately and publicly recognize the daily achievements of individuals within your team.

Whether it’s an eCard that you send whenever someone demonstrates a value, a practice of sharing recognitions at the start of regular meetings, or it’s a seasonal award that’s available for certain times in the year – remind your managers that feedback and recognition are things that people need regularly. It's something they need to build into how they operate and communicate with their team.

Download our eBook to discover how to make recognition at work more meaningful  with a defined strategy »

2. Gather ideas from managers

If you’re still struggling to get managers participating in your employee recognition program, then reach out and find out what it is that they find challenging.

One of our clients, Lime Energy, did this for its manager awards. These awards allow managers to shine a spotlight on a specific person (or team) who has truly exceeded the expectation of their role and had a significant impact on the company and those around them. 

Managers are able to send two different kinds of awards to employees:

  • Going Above and Beyond: Delivering an exceptional experience to customers or colleagues.
  • Delivering a Wow! Moment: Performing in a way that had significant impact on the customer or the business.

It’s key for managers at Lime Energy to have input on recognition. The awards empower managers to get involved and send recognition in a way that’s meaningful to them, because how managers recognize employees differs from person to person.


Managers have the power to send these awards out when someone has truly gone above and beyond to help make the organization more successful as a whole. What’s more, these awards help employees stay connected to various projects and teammates through on-the-go strategic moments of recognition, available on any device, at any time.


Read more about Lime Energy's success story »

3. Ask employees how they prefer to be recognized and share with managers

While most employees appreciate their contribution being acknowledged in front of a broader audience, not everyone wants their name up in lights. Some people may find being put in the spotlight at a team or company meeting embarrassing, so that type of public recognition can be distracting or at worst, a demotivator at work.

So what’s a manager to do? Work with what your team needs, of course.

Understand that someone might prefer a private email or note of acknowledgement while their colleague wants to have their name mentioned during a team meeting. The best way to know what will be the most motivating for your team is to simply ask them, and to spend time getting to know the methods of feedback that are most effective for them. 

Learn more about our reward and recognition solutions »

4. Give managers the tools they need

While continuous peer-to-peer recognition is important for creating a great culture from the ground up, never underestimate the value of recognition that comes from the person you report to. Giving managers the ability to give specific eCards or awards at their discretion gives them a powerful tool in their management arsenal, and helps them and employees more easily distinguish between good and great work.

One of our clients, Digestive Health Associates of Texas (DHAT), used to rely heavily on service awards – particularly yearly luncheons to celebrate tenure – and quarterly awards. But the organization quickly realized participation with the quarterly awards in particular was low and the organization needed to update its recognition offering in order to celebrate great work all year long.


Manager-led recognition was a key piece of the puzzle in order to improve morale and create a culture of appreciation across the organization. DHAT implemented manager-led recognition and reward

tools, including eCards based on their core values such as "Deliver an exceptional patient experience" that live on a social recognition wall. 

What’s more, this wall increases visibility and boosts connections among employees, as well as helps the organization make recognition more public. Now managers feel like they have the tools they need to show appreciation for top performers at the organization.

Read more about DHAT's success story »

5. Remind managers that variety works best

As we’ve seen with the manager/employee gap research, many managers think they’re recognizing employees regularly but employees don’t agree. If employees keep hearing the same message sent in the same way, they may stop listening.

There’s no cookie-cutter approach, so the recognition or reward that works for one employee isn’t necessarily going to work for another.

Provide your managers with ideas of low-cost ways they can recognize or reward their employees that are outside the box – sometimes being asked to be involved in a project that will help them develop skills they’ve expressed interest in, or giving them a day off after working long hours to get a project over the line are going to be more effective options than waiting months to nominate them for an annual award.

While there’s no magic wand, these tips can help make recognition front-of-mind for managers who aren’t used to recognizing their people. If you have more tips, I’d love to hear from you!

Alexandra Powell

Alexandra Powell, Director of Client Cultural Insights, not only knows American Sign Language, but uses it to secretly communicate with her husband and kids at parties. Alex is a highly experienced employee engagement consultant, trainer and speaker. For over 20 years she has helped HR and business leaders implement strategies that drive true culture change.

Director of Client Cultural Insights

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