Recognising and rewarding your employees

People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.

Dale Carnegie


Rewards and recognition at work come in all shapes and sizes. You can show your appreciation for someone at work in any number of ways; none are right or wrong. But however you go about it, and whether it’s peer-to-peer or leader- or service-driven, recognition is a cultural and well-being necessity.


Rewarding and recognising employees is proven to improve organisational culture, enhance team efforts, increase customer satisfaction and encourage certain behaviours – but it’s often overlooked by managers and leaders.


Due recognition is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need.

Charles Taylor, The Politics of Recognition, 1992


Pay and benefits are important when it comes to attracting, retaining and engaging employees. As for rewarding people and recognising their individual and collective contributions, a range of options is available – each with its own opportunities and risks. The most effective reward packages support the service strategy, employee requirements and the service’s purpose, culture and performance, in a fair and consistent way.


According to recent research from Office Vibe, the most common reason why people leave a job is because they don’t feel appreciated.


Why should you recognise and reward your employees?

The benefits of recognising and rewarding your employees include:

  • Positive impact on employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Engaged and empowered employees
  • Creates a positive, appreciative culture
  • Attracts and retains talent
  • Improves employee retention and loyalty
  • Improves performance and customer/community satisfaction
  • Enhances organisational culture, encouraging desired behaviours
  • Provides a sense of accomplishment
  • Builds stronger teams, enhancing team efforts and employee collaboration
  • Reduces negative such as absenteeism and stress
  • Increases productivity and motivation


Recognition vs reward

Employees need both reward and recognition to feel fully satisfied in their jobs. There are subtle but critical differences between the two, which can be illustrated as follows.


Recognition image Recognition is relational and has an emotional value attached to it Rewards image Rewards are transactional and have some monetary value attached to them



Recognition is… Rewards are…
Intangible (hard to define or measure) – invisible in nature, yet priceless in value Tangible and have a specific value/amount
Relational and has an emotional value attached to it Transactional and can have some monetary value attached to them
Spontaneous and unexpected, and can frequently happen in the moment Tied to goals and accomplishments and are much more fixed and expected
Unconditional and not part of a fixed result Conditional and based on certain terms


While recognition and rewards have clear differences, they don’t need to be considered as separate entities in strategic planning. Instead, reward and recognition strategies should include a good mix of both to appeal to intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.


Intrinsic motivation is about doing something because you find it personally rewarding, whereas extrinsic motivation is when you do something to earn a reward or avoid punishment.


Non-financial rewards

While pay and benefits are important – and getting them wrong can have adverse consequences –research shows that non-financial rewards can be just as significant. Examples could include:


  • Opportunities for personal development
  • Good performance management
  • Opportunities for career development
  • Flexible working
  • Being involved in decision-making
  • Team-based social events and team building


Methods of recognition

You can implement recognition into your service in a number of ways. Below, you’ll find some tried-and-tested methods, along with some proven tips.


Ideas Tips
·         A simple thank you!

·         Peer-to-peer recognition (‘cheers from peers’)

·         A handwritten thank you card

·         Recognition during a team meeting

·         A gift/token for a job well done

·         A surprise day off

·         Employee recognition scheme

·         Social media recognition

·         Individual/team lunch

·         Showcasing success stories

·         A ‘day in the life of’ employee interview

·         Opportunity to work on special projects

·         Mentor nominations


·         When it comes to recognition, timing is absolutely vital.

·         Involve everyone to empower them to acknowledge others’ achievements.

·         The most meaningful recognition comes from those you work closely with.

·         Use communications tools to keep recognition in the spotlight.

·         Ensure the senior team uses reward and recognition strategies and that they refer to it to ensure it stays relevant.

·         Recognition needs to be appropriate to the achievement, so the best performances receive the best types of praise.

·         Remain flexible in your approach to recognition so it always appears genuine.

·         Make sure you are consistent in your approach, so no one feels overlooked


A recent statistic from People Matters shows that 90% of employees say their recognition programme impacts positively on their engagement and motivation levels.

Recognition is not a scarce resource, you can’t use it up or run out of it.

Susan M. Heathfield


Designing a reward and recognition strategy

There are three key phases to developing a reward strategy. While you might not follow each phase in sequence – for example, you may have to act in some areas before you consider and analyse others – these steps can be applied to any situation.


Phase 1: Preparation and planning To work out which direction you want to take your strategy in, you need to know where you are now, so fully understanding your existing situation is very important.


It can be tempting to rush into re-designing new arrangements and making changes, but clarifying your future reward and recognition objectives and success measures is fundamental to effectively delivering any changes.


Before developing your strategy, you should collect and review relevant information and data to ensure you fully understand what your local issues might be. Your findings will provide context and help identify the drivers for and implications of future strategies. You could collect this information in many ways, such as staff surveys, focus groups, management information and people data, and so on.


Successful preparation will include the following:

·         Clarifying your service’s long-, medium- and short-term objectives, ensuring they are underpinned by well-considered and durable guiding principles

·         Gaining an understanding of service and employee needs and drivers, considering individual preferences and differences

·         Reviewing your current reward and recognition offering

·         Reviewing the wider market context (in other words, how competitive is your offering?)

·         Identifying your principles and goals

·         Gaining an understanding of how effective your current reward and recognition offering is

·         Developing your business case


Phase 2: Development and design In phase two, it’s time to develop and design your reward and recognition strategy based on your findings in phase one. You may simply need to improve how your current offerings are managed and communicated, or you might want to develop alternative – or improved – practices to achieve your reward and recognition principles and goals.


You should consider the following key areas:

·         The level of change required

·         What kind of rewards you will offer

·         Pay and performance

·         Flexible benefits

·         Working with a third-party partner

·         Aligning reward elements with your strategy


Review the ‘NHS Reward and recognition, development and design checklist’, accessed through the Talent Management Toolkit, to make sure you have covered the key actions while working through phase two.

Once this stage is complete, you will have agreed a cohesive and robust reward and recognition strategy that will make your policies more effective.

Phase 3: Implementation and communication Through the development and design phase, you will have identified and assessed which elements will best support the delivery of your principles and goals. Phase three is about putting it all into practice.

In phase three, we consider the following key areas:

·         Testing your approach

·         Developing your implementation plan

·         Managing the change

·         Developing a communications strategy

Review the ‘Reward and recognition, implementation and communication checklist’ (from NHS), accessed through the Talent Management Toolkit, to make sure you have covered the key actions while working through phase three.