Create a Positive Culture by Recognizing and Rewarding Success

In Brief

4-Minute Read

Recognition in the workplace can be easy to overlook as a leader. We may even think it’s optional to celebrate people for doing the job we hired them to do. However, for more than 40 years employees have reported ‘appreciation for work’ as one of the top two factors most important for motivation. Moreover, recognizing employees proves to increase morale, engagement, productivity, sales, profitability and customer service.


  • Recognizing employees not only increases morale, but also increases engagement, productivity, sales and customer service.

  • What gets recognized gets repeated. When an employee hears a coworker receive recognition, it can inspire them to adopt the behavior so they will also be rewarded.

  • Connect employee performance to the organization’s goals and values to give employees a greater sense of pride and ownership in their roles.

Why does recognition matter?

A Globoforce study reports that the more recently someone has been recognized, the more likely they are to be connected to the purpose of their work. Humans are emotional beings that like to hear what they are good at, that they have value and that they make a difference. For these reasons, people want their leaders to recognize a job well done. They also want their leaders to connect their performance to the organization’s goals. These behaviors allow people to develop a deeper sense of purpose for their work. As a result of this connection, employees have greater pride and ownership in their roles. Most importantly, this strong sense of ownership and pride enables people to perform at a higher level and generate a greater impact.

Commit to excellence

Recognition is fuel for high performers and positively reinforces the performance leaders want to see continued. Remember, what gets recognized gets repeated. When an employee hears a coworker receive recognition for a specific action, it may inspire them to adopt the behavior so they will be rewarded too. Ultimately, this encourages the consistency we need to pursue excellence.

To express a commitment to excellence, leaders must approach life with a growth mindset. In other words, prioritize learning and gathering feedback to get better and better. Employees who commit to excellence focus on the most important outcomes and the goals and essential actions to achieve them. Leaders can inspire excellence by recognizing employee’s efforts and providing feedback and options for growth and learning new skills. Organizations will not achieve excellence if people burn out and lose motivation on the journey,

Align recognition to standards and values

Values and standards are guidelines for the way employees behave at work. These guidelines define how each employee works together and gets to where they want to go. To focus on rewarding what is important and what leaders want to see more of, create a recognition system that connects to the values of the organization or the strategic plan. This helps connect behaviors and actions to goals.

The alignment with what matters most to the organization keeps recognition from being random or individualized by leaders. People can best infer what is expected of them when standards are defined, values are aligned to goals and information is communicated clearly. Meanwhile, when leaders see the standards in action, they can recognize individuals for living the organizations values. Consequently, this increases the presence of the right behaviors among employees and motivates people to continue their efforts.

A little recognition goes a long way

If employees don’t feel valued for their work, they’re more likely to become disengaged. People may become unmotivated to put forth their best effort. While it is known that disengaged employees can be costly to organizations and those served, a little recognition can go a long way. Recognizing employees doesn’t have to be costly or formal. People just want to feel appreciated and valued as important members of the team.

Recognize Individuals

  1. Meet individually with team members to recognize performance, provide feedback and give a sincere ‘thank-you.’
  2. Display a recognition board in your department to feature team members and their accomplishments.
  3. Start meetings off with personal or team-related weekly wins and time to recognize a coworker’s job well done.

Recognize Teams

  1. If your team uses metrics, turn it into a game to inspire a little friendly competition. The winners benefit from the reward, and everyone benefits from the fun.
  2. Plan a dinner or event that the team can bring their families to enjoy as well.
  3. Support what they support – volunteer or contribute as a team to a charitable organization.

Recognition can take an employee from empty to engaged. What will you do today to recognize a high-performing team member? What will you do today to recognize a colleague who needs a motivation boost? Reward and recognize success isn’t just the ninth principle of the Nine Principles for Organizational Excellence. It is the glue that holds all the principles together. Never underestimate the impact recognition can make.


To inspire excellence by recognizing employee’s efforts, leaders must:
  • Think differently.
    Reflect on the organization’s goals and values and connect them to employee performance.
  • Plan differently.
    Think of creative ways to recognize employees during team and one-on-one meetings to boost morale and engagement across the team.
  • Act differently.
    Lead by example and live out the organizational values that individuals are being recognized for.

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