Employee Experience

How to get employee recognition right for both remote and hybrid teams

Employee recognition drives engagement and helps foster a sense of belonging at work – even when your team is remote. Here’s how to get it right.

A quick keyword search reveals lots of conventional employee recognition ideas – happy hours, food trucks, employee of the month awards, and the like – but are they what employees really want from their leaders?

While these types of recognition are sometimes appreciated by employees, they more often miss the mark. Employees want to be recognized in ways that are as unique as they are – and getting recognition right in a new normal means taking a tailored and specific approach.

Here’s how to recognize your employees in ways that resonate and amplify their good work.

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition acknowledges the hard work and accomplishments of the individuals and teams within your organization. Recognition programs enable leaders to recognize members of their team, peers to recognize one another, as well as cross-team recognition.

What’s the value of employee recognition?

When recognition efforts are thoughtful and genuine, they strengthen the relationship between employees and your organization. They also help reinforce behaviors that align with your company’s values, mission, vision, and strategy.

Recognition adds value to your organization in a variety of ways, including:

  • Driving employee engagement. Employees who are highly satisfied with the amount of recognition they receive from their managers tend to stay at consistently high levels of engagement over time.
  • Helping retain top talent. Employees who feel their work is recognized are less likely to transfer out of their team or leave your organization. Conversely, if people feel they’re not valued, they won’t be motivated to perform – and they’re more likely to leave.
  • Supporting a culture of inclusion by making employees feel seen and fostering a sense of belonging – another top driver of engagement.
  • Encouraging high performance. Recognizing employees for good work can help keep high performers motivated, engaged in the company vision, and wanting to stay and contribute. This is crucial because not only is top talent hard to come by, it’s also expensive to recruit and hire.
  • Making for happier employees. People want to feel like they’re contributing to their organization and team goals. So when managers and leaders take the time to demonstrate how much of a measurable impact someone is having on the business, it makes people feel good about what they do.

Read more: Your ultimate guide to employee appreciation and recognition

What types of employee recognition make the most impact?

The most impactful types of employee recognition aren’t necessarily those that are the most creative or fun, it’s the ones that are consistent, highly visible, and specific to the employee (and action) being recognized.

Let’s unpack that.

Recognition is most impactful to employees when it’s done consistently. Showing your appreciation is not a one-and-done type of activity. For it to make an impact, recognition should occur with appropriate consistency – not over-done as to lose its efficacy or sincerity – and as close to the event being recognized as possible.

In addition, the recognition must be visible to be effective. This doesn’t necessarily mean publicly visible, some employees won’t respond to being the center of attention in a public forum, but visible to the individual receiving the recognition. For example, simply saying thank you in person or sending kudos in an email will achieve the desired effect for some. For those employees who appreciate public recognition, sharing the kudos in a public Slack channel or on a team call are also great options.

As referenced above, recognition needs to be specific to your employees’ preferences as to how he, she, or they like to be recognized. In other words, match recognition to each individual’s preferred style. Not sure what your employees’ preferences are? Simply ask. Whether it’s during one-on-one conversations or via a team survey, get to know your people and what motivates them; this is a critical component to developing the manager-employee relationship and cultivating trust.

Recognition should also be specific to the action you’re praising. Tell employees what you appreciate about their contribution to the company. Be as specific as possible and explain why their work stands out and/or highlight the value of the impact they have brought to the business.

What are some virtual employee recognition ideas?

We know leaders play a critical role in the employee experience – whether it’s well-being, belonging, or resilience – and especially so during the pandemic. In fact, managers influence almost every key driver of employee engagement – and recognition plays a key role in supporting said engagement.

Read more: 9 ways to be a more effective manager

So, how can leaders continue to recognize their employees in times of change, such as when working remotely or on hybrid teams? Here’s what we’ve seen work:

  • Communicate often. Similar to how you would recognize employees in-person, communicate about recognition with intention and regular frequency in a virtual environment, as well. Doing so reinforces the connection your employees feel to your team and your organization.
  • Establish the channels for recognition. Leverage the tools you already use to communicate, such as email, Slack, and team video calls, to recognize employees in a virtual or hybrid environment.
  • Empower employees to recognize each other. Employees that are most satisfied with their organization’s recognition programs are those that are not only aware of how to recognize people, but also who can do the recognizing. Your people might not know they can recognize their peers for their good work. Encourage them to recognize their peers via the same channels leaders do.
  • Encourage visibility. For example, send an email kudos and CC the person’s manager to increase the visibility of the recognition. The same goes for tagging employees (and their managers) in a Slack channel.
  • Celebrate key moments in the employee journey. Send gifts on employees’ work anniversaries and birthdays; have treats delivered via a meal delivery service.
  • Host virtual gatherings, such as a “team lunch” where everyone gathers via video call and expenses the cost of their lunch.
  • Reward employees with paid time off. Whether it’s a mental health/recharge day or just a surprise day off, PTO is a sure way to make employees feel appreciated.

Keep in mind that non-monetary recognition can have the same effects on engagement and satisfaction as monetary awards. The key to making an impact when you’re recognizing employees is to do so in a way that’s specific, relevant, and timely. Indeed, these are goals you should aim for with all feedback – and definitely with recognition.


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Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics is the technology platform that organizations use to collect, manage, and act on experience data, also called X-data™. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action, used by teams, departments, and entire organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee, and brand—on one platform.

Over 12,000 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics to consistently build products that people love, create more loyal customers, develop a phenomenal employee culture, and build iconic brands.

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