Understanding the complexities of worker recognition

Do you make recognition public or do it in private? Do employees want a cash bonus or a promotion? It depends on the employee.

Three-quarters of people are satisfied that someone acknowledges their work—but 36 percent of women would like it better if it were put in writing. (Photo: Shutterstock)

You know recognition is important to keeping your employees motivated and productive, but what is the best way to recognize an employee’s accomplishments? Well, it depends on the employee.

According to a survey from the Deloitte Greenhouse Experience Group, there’s no one-size-fits-all way of acknowledging achievement—or, at least, it shouldn’t be.

How recognition is delivered is important to some people, while the person doing the praising is important to others and the cause of the acknowledgement is essential to others. And while it’s certainly not unwelcome, cash isn’t the necessarily the most valued form of recognition.

Related: Vast majority of employers have employee recognition programs

A new growth opportunity was the favored form of recognition for 47 percent of respondents; monetary rewards in the form of salary increases (23 percent), high-performance ratings (21 percent) and bonuses (10 percent) were also welcome, but to lesser degrees.

How do you know what type of recognition to give? According to Deloitte, you can break down employees into four categories:

(Source: Deloitte)

For Pioneers, recognizing a big win and giving them a new project will put wind in their sails. For Guardians, recognize not just their big wins but ongoing commitment to keeping the ship steering in the right direction. Similar to Pioneers, the best way to recognize a Driver is to give them a new, challenging opportunity while recognizing the value of their expertise. And Integrators enjoy their behind-the-scenes role keeping everything running smoothly–make sure they know it doesn’t go unnoticed.

According to the report, 75 percent of people are satisfied that someone acknowledges their work—but 36 percent of women would like it better if it were put in writing. Only 28 percent of men expressed such a preference.

There are also other differences between men and women on how such praise is received. While only 34 percent of women want to be recognized for success, compared with 46 percent of men, it’s not that they don’t want recognition; they just want it for other things. Knowledge (27 percent), effort (22 percent) and living the organization’s core values (17 percent) are their preferred sources for acknowledgment.

And surprisingly, most people—49 percent—would actually prefer it if word of their achievement is public but shared within a small group, rather than broadcast to the world at large. Thirty-four percent would prefer private recognition, while only 18 percent actually want a big public declaration.

In addition, while 37 percent would like that recognition to come from leadership above a direct supervisor, 32 percent would like it to come from that direct supervisor and 31 percent would prefer it came from their colleagues.

“There is tremendous value in understanding the perspectives of those you work with, and this includes their preferences for how they want to be recognized,” says Suzanne Vickberg, senior manager, applied insights lead, the Deloitte Greenhouse Experience. “This understanding can help create more-successful working relationships, while fostering a workplace that validates its people and their unique contributions.”

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