Employees need both Recognition and Appreciation

Employees need both Recognition and Appreciation
Last Updated: December 29, 2022

“Well done!”-Employees need both Recognition and Appreciation

For leaders who want their teams to thrive and organizations that want to create cultures of engagement, loyalty, and high performance, it is important to understand the importance of employee recognition and appreciation. Every employee dreams of working in an organization that encourages honest conversations, respects employees, and believes in them.


Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.

— Stephen R. Covey

Recognition and Appreciation are usually used interchangeably, when in fact there is a big difference between the two. Recognition is about giving positive feedback based on results or performance. This can be done either in a formal way through an award, a bonus, a promotion, a raise or informally through a verbal thank you or a handwritten note. Both methods can be meaningful if used at the right time and in a genuine manner. Most HR professionals have indicated their company’s recognition practices had a positive effect not only on retention but also on engagement, culture and employee happiness. According to studies conducted in 2016 by the Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce, when recognition programs are linked to organizational values they are more likely to lead to a higher perceived return on investment among employees.



In a further study \"The Effects of Employee Recognition and Appreciation,” conducted by TINYPulse, an employee engagement, and research firm, they found a strong correlation between how valued an employee feels at work and the likelihood that they would reapply to their job (r = 0.56). The firm conducted a study involving 4,500 employees in some 500 organizations.  The main conclusion of their study was retention is tied to recognition - yet a significant majority of employees (79%) \"don't feel strongly valued for the work they put in.\" Furthermore, the study discovered that feeling appreciated improves employee relationships. 70% of employees felt their peers were the most important factor in creating \"an engaging environment.\" \"Employees want to recognize their peers. When someone feels valued, they're more likely to rate their colleague with a higher score.\" The study also confirmed the importance of the manager-employee relationship. Employees want to work for managers who recognize their contributions. \"There’s a relationship between how valued an employee feels and how highly they would rate their direct supervisor (r = 0.35).\"

Recognition has been seen to also boost employee engagement. According to Gallup, recognition not only boosts employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention. Recognition is both a tool for personal reward and an opportunity to reinforce the desired culture of the organisation to other employees. In the Gallup survey, it was also discovered that the most memorable recognition comes from a high-level leader or CEO. Employees are likely to remember personal feedback from the CEO, even a small amount of time a high ranking leader takes to show appreciation can yield a positive impression on an employee.  The best managers foster a recognition-rich environment. Rewarding employees that are not top performers can adversely affect the morale of high achievers, so it is important to have set criteria for awarding employees so as to avoid backlash. Forbes goes on to highlight that it is important that employee recognition is made part of the company culture.

Recognition, however, has been seen to have some limitations. According to an article published in the Robbins (2019), the following are the limitations of recognition, first, it’s performance-based, so it is conditional. Second, it’s based on the past, so it’s about what people have already done. Third, it’s scarce. There is a limited amount of recognition to go around- everyone can’t get a bonus or be mentioned by name in a memo — and it can be stressful when many people are competing for a finite amount of praise. Fourth, it generally has to come from the top. Many organizations have set up programs that allow peers to highlight each other’s efforts, but the major forms of recognition (promotions, raises, and so on) usually are given by senior leaders.

Monetary compensation has often been perceived as a great way of showing recognition for good performance. But according to researchers from the London School of Economics, financial recognition can actually backfire when it comes to motivating employees. An analysis of 51 separate experimental studies of financial incentives in employment relations found overwhelming evidence that these incentives may reduce an employee's natural inclination to complete a task and derive pleasure from doing so. We find that financial incentives may indeed reduce intrinsic motivation and diminish ethical or other reasons for complying with workplace social norms such as fairness. As a consequence, the provision of incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance,' said Dr Bernd Irlenbusch from the London School of Economic's Department of Management.


Apart from showing recognition to your employees, it is also important to show them how much they are appreciated. Appreciation, on the other hand, is about acknowledging a person’s inherent value. The point isn’t their accomplishments. It’s their worth as a colleague and a human being. Recognition is about what people do whilst appreciation is about who they are, whether they succeed or fail. When we show appreciation to our colleagues, customers, managers, and partners, we are more likely to build trust and connection. Showing appreciation for employees is especially important if you are a manager. A little appreciation is all that employees need to push their limits and give their best. According to Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation Survey, 53% of people said feeling more appreciation from their boss would help them stay longer at their company. George Mason University conducted a survey which found that out of the ten things that managers think motivates employees, appreciation comes near the bottom of the list. But it is not the case. The employees said that apart from having the freedom to define their approach, it is the applaud and appreciation that keeps them going.


Robbins (2019) recommends the following simple ways of showing employee appreciation:

  1. Listen- One simple way to show appreciation to your employees is by taking time to listen. Listen to their concerns, value their input, taking concern is possible in their personal issues that could be affecting their work performance just to name a few.
  2. Tell people what you value about them- Doing this proactively — not because someone did something great or because you want something from them — is an incredibly powerful gift. It can positively affect how your colleagues feel about themselves, your relationship with them, and the culture of the team.
  3. Check-in- “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Teddy Roosevelt. Another simple way of showing appreciation of your employees is checking in on them. Take time to find out how they are doing in and out of the work environment in a genuine manner, showing them that you care.


The Boston Consulting Group conducted an online global study of 200,000 employees from 189 countries in 2014, finding that “Globally, the most important single job element for all people is appreciation for their work.” Appreciation was the top factor for happiness on the job, ahead of 25 other factors, and was highlighted in the findings as an indication of “the growing importance of ‘softer’ factors.”

Organizations on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list excel in employee recognition. Managers should foster such a culture in their organisations. Instead of waiting for the 1st of May (Workers’ Day) to appreciate and recognise employees, recognition and appreciation should be in embedded in the everyday culture of the organisation and made an ongoing practice. Acknowledging and thanking workers can help HR address many issues and can help in retaining your top talent. How can you expect employees to stay at your organization if they're not getting the appreciation they deserve?\"


Tatenda Sayenda-Havire is a consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone +263 4 481946-48/481950 or email: tatenda@ipcconsultants.com or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com 

Tatenda Sayenda

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