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8 min read

According to a 2018 study, feeling undervalued or unrecognised are two of the top reasons why your employees feel unmotivated at work. The employees who responded admit this has a ripple effect on emotional, mental and even physical wellbeing, which ultimately impacts performance. On the other hand, being recognised by our leaders and peers – having our colleagues see, acknowledge and value our input – delivers employees exactly what they crave to be motivated at work, boosting both their wellbeing and productivity.

Effective employee recognition isn’t just a matter of saying 'hello' or even 'thank you' – effective recognition is strategic. It shows employees appreciation for a success that helped improve the employee or customer experience that can be tied to your company’s values, purpose or objectives.

Done well, strategic employee recognition lets the individuals in our organisation know that they bring something valid and unique to our business, and drive behaviours that enable success and encourage collaboration as our organisations grow and change. It can also help create an inclusive, encouraging culture which can strengthen your employer brand, and improve both retention and recruitment.

Strategic recognition is so powerful that in Josh Bersin’s latest report, he states companies that excel at employee recognition are 12 times more likely to generate strong business results than their peers.

Get the latest access to the Josh Bersin report on strategic recognition »

Read on to discover eight ways you can tap into the power of strategic recognition to drive business growth:

1. Prioritise and deliver your strategic objectives

If your company has set its strategic goals, one way to ensure your people are on the right track to achieving them is to recognise and reward the steps they take to get there.

Instead of giving people that insight once a year or once a quarter, why not give them that opportunity every day? It might sound really straight forward, but this approach achieves two things:

  • It helps you build a purpose-driven company by putting your strategic objectives front and centre and linking an individual’s efforts to meaningful work.
  • And, it makes your strategy visible and accessible, and provides a clear litmus test about what projects to prioritise.

By encouraging peer-to-peer – not just manager-led – recognition, you’re making reaching your strategic objectives everybody’s responsibility.

Designing eCards or creating company awards that are linked to your strategic objectives that can be given by anyone at any time means your people are recognised and rewarded each time they make progress.


Bersin states in his report:

Employees who feel appreciated are more aligned with business goals and more likely to take actions and produce innovations that lead to profits.

This helps us understand why peer-to-peer recognition is 35.7% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results rather than manager-only recognition.

2. Promote and reinforce culture transformation

Recent research from Gartner concluded that organisations that simplify decision-making by codifying their company values improve performance during times of organisational transformation. How?

Strategic recognition provides employees feedback about what good looks like, what matters, and this helps reinforce desired behaviours.

Values are what your employees will instinctively use to guide their decision-making and behaviour, especially during times of stress or complex organisational change.

Organisations that create a recognition framework based on company values are also able to see which values being lived and recognised in specific teams, or which values may not be resonating in different areas across the business.


If your organisation is going through culture change, a strategic employee recognition programme can allow you to report, in real-time the progress you're making through your transformational journey, enabling you adapt people strategy or your communication programme to help improve the understanding of different values as your business continues its journey.

3. Strengthen customer service

Frequently recognising employees for how they handle customer relationships encourages good service, and this practice has led to an increase in customer service ratings and NPS for a number of the organisations we partner with.

Watford Community Housing Trust is a housing association which owns and manages nearly 5,000 homes in the South East. They were established in 2007 and have 170 employees working with the vision to provide 'Better homes, friendlier communities ...together.'

To drive employee engagement, the Trust worked with Reward Gateway to put in place an all-in-one employee engagement platform delivering discounts, benefits, recognition and all important company information that employees could easily access. 

The hub was used to create a new centralised location for employees to recognise each other for a quarterly staff award, and vote for an overall annual winner to boost motivation and morale.

Because of these initiatives alongside special L&D opportunities, the Trust saw increased customer satisfaction, with incoming call waiting times dropping from 15 minutes to just 14 seconds, and overall customer satisfaction increasing from 65% to 93%!

This continues to motivate teams and direct their energy and focus to creating a positive experience for the customers in their care.

Read the full Cover-More story to learn how to drive a positive customer  experience with an exceptional employee experience»

As companies continue to recognise moments when their people handle customer queries and strengthen client relationships, they increase engagement and improve customer service.

4. Improve employee safety

Bersin’s research found that using strategic recognition for preventive measures has helped reduce injuries or other dangerous incidents.

PYBAR Mining Services, a company with over 800 employees, revived their recognition and reward experience. In addition to celebrating annual service milestones, they introduced peer-to-peer eCards called 'High 5 a Mate.' They can send each other eCards based on their five values – of which Safety is one.


This doesn’t always have to apply to physical safety either – IT teams can recognise members of their development team who improve code to increase security, or ship a feature that keeps user or employee data safe.

5. Increase retention and accelerate hiring

Bersin reports that companies that score in the top 20% for building a 'recognition-rich culture' had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates. He also cites a study that found that fulfilled employees are two times more likely to stay five or more years, and three times more likely to stay 10 or more years.

A strategic recognition programme is continuous, and allows employees to feel valued and connected to a bigger mission throughout their employee lifecycle, not just specific milestones.

It can strengthen your culture and employee experience, and improve your company’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

Peoplecare, a not-for-profit healthcare provider, developed its reward and recognition programme 'VIP' to reinforce the company values, known as 'True Loves,' and to increase awareness of what employees were achieving across the business.

After launching the programme, engagement scores increased, and for two years running, Peoplecare has been on AON’s Best Employer list and has successfully continued to attract talent.

Discover how Peoplecare refreshed their offline programs and improved employee  retention and attraction »

6. Identify and develop leaders

Employees who recognise their peers regularly, and engage with the social recognition newsfeed with comments and likes play an important role in the culture of your organisation. They are likely to be influencers and their input and enthusiasm are valuable assets to your business as it grows.

Employees who provide specific, genuine recognition to their team members demonstrate proactiveness. Managers who recognise employees regularly clearly have an understanding of how to keep their people motivated and connected to the values and mission of your business. You can encourage desirable behaviour by checking your programme leaderboards and shining a spotlight on those culture ambassadors too!

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7. Enhance visibility and communication

With business moving faster than ever, there’s always a risk that leaders will miss something or someone significant. Peer-to-peer recognition improves engagement by increasing the visibility of what your direct reports are being recognised for gives managers and even Executive Team Leaders insight into the specifics – the components of a presentation or report they prepared that you mightn’t have been aware of, or moments when they’ve stepped in and rescued a situation that isn’t part of their normal day job.

I love speaking to leaders who check their social recognition feeds regularly – these are nitty gritty moments of success – managers can feed these back to higher or senior management. Those senior leaders can give these achievements even more visibility in their company-wide communications.

8. Promote and encourage cross-team collaboration

One of the big advantages of having a unified, company-wide recognition programme is that it allows people from different departments to recognise the work of peers they don’t normally sit or collaborate with on a regular basis.

To encourage and improve employee collaboration, you could combine the power of comms with strategic recognition, and amplify the moments when your team members work with others. This gives teams visibility and connect them to the wider business that may be outside their day-to-day work.

employee recognition analytics example
Above is a sample report from a 'test' company that wants to see how recognition is flowing across the business. You can see that sales is sending recognition to lots of teams, but look closely, and you’ll see some risks with People and Finance, who are not receiving or sending recognition to other teams.

This is a data point you can take action on, and bring to managers of those teams. 

Similarly, you can drill down into specific teams to see where recognition is flowing from one specific area of the business. This programme data provides powerful employee engagement analytics and reporting that you can use to plan for future projects or even direct your learning and development opportunities.

Being recognised helps to build stronger team bonds, and when it’s social and driven by your peers and leaders, it amplifies the visibility and impact of an individual’s contribution, and also improves their connections across the business. This is motivating and empowering for your employees!

Rolling out the right reward and recognition programme is key to maximising opportunities to improve motivation, engagement and ultimately performance.

Joy Adan

Joy Adan
Content Journalist

Joy is our book-hoarding, food-loving Content Journalist. She combines her experience in communications and change management with storytelling and digital media to help business and HR leaders connect with their people and strengthen their company culture. When she isn’t writing about business, HR or leadership, she’s writing quotes and song lyrics with a paintbrush or calligraphy pen.

Content Journalist

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