Drive employee recognition with these cost-effective best practices

Nick de Souza | Jul 11, 2019 Nick de Souza 07/11/19

With the national unemployment rate down, the job market has become competitive in a different way. It’s now corporations that are vying for quality employees and having to work harder to draw in and retain talented associates. With employees in the driver’s seat, the employee experience (EX) is now more important than ever, and it’s crucial for companies to provide an attractive option in order to compete.

It’s easy to think the best way to improve EX is through a bigger paycheck. But while it’s important to offer a competitive salary, you don’t necessarily have to be offering the highest. In fact, one of the most effective ways to drive employee engagement is free. Don’t believe us? Let’s look at some numbers.

Our research shows that when asked what their organization can do to improve the employee experience, 14% of associates mention pay. Those employees are also scoring overall engagement 7 ppts lower than those who didn’t mention pay.

Yet when employees strongly agree they are receiving recognition for their work, they mention pay 6 ppts less than those who feel they are not being recognized. And even better: there’s a 61-ppt difference in overall engagement when employees strongly agree they receive recognition for their work.

This means if your employees feel they are being recognized and valued for the work they are doing, they are more engaged and less likely to be dissatisfied with their pay. It’s also important to keep in mind that an increase in pay isn’t likely to drive overall engagement, at least not for the long haul. A pay bump is merely a Band-Aid—if your employees feel undervalued, they need more than a little extra cash.

The good news is there are numerous ways to increase employee recognition, and many of them take very little financial investment. Here are a few:

Celebrate great service

When one of your associates demonstrates exceptional customer service, it should be celebrated. Whether that’s by posting a shout-out on your corporate social media or intranet site, mentioning the employee at a company meeting, or providing the employee with a little gift, it’s important to recognize (and reward) exemplary behavior.

SMG clients are able to use celebration alerts, receiving notifications when a customer is highly satisfied and an employee is recognized by the customer. These alerts, including the customer’s comment, are emailed to managers in real time so they can immediately recognize the superior service and reinforce loyalty-building behaviors.

Encourage peer-to-peer recognition

While it should be the manager’s responsibility to implement consistent recognition practices, it shouldn’t be solely up to them. Encourage your employees to celebrate each other, too. It can be very meaningful to an associate to receive recognition from their peers.

It’s important to create a culture of recognition, where everyone from the leadership team to location associates are acknowledging a job well done. Recognizing when an employee hits an important milestone or goes above and beyond to help out a customer or coworker has a huge impact on engagement and job satisfaction.   

Listen to feedback + act on it

Recognition isn’t just about celebration. It’s also about recognizing areas of opportunity. Measuring employee engagement is vital so you can hear directly from your employees. This will help you identify the aspects of your environment that promote or detract from employee engagement and provide insights and tools for improvement.

Employees want to be heard. If it feels like their concerns aren’t being considered, they’ll be updating their resume in no time. Provide them with a communication platform that gives them a voice. And, just as importantly, implement action that inspires and helps employees reach their full potential.

Get more EX insights to drive meaningful change  

Engaged employees are a critical component of delivering the kind of exceptional customer experiences that drive your bottom line. But do you know what goes into creating engaged employees? What makes your employees stay? What makes them leave? We've done the research and have the answers. Download Five things we learned from talking to 1 million employees.


Nick de Souza | Employee Experience Practice Manager

Tara Augustin, M.S. | Employee Experience Practice Manager
Customer Experience Update