5 Ways to Acknowledge Employees

Wanting to be recognized is a basic human need.  As such, to acknowledge and recognize are key human drivers of employee performance and engagement.

As a leadership and wellness coach, I have had the privilege of working with many individuals and organizations.  I’ve noticed a common coaching topic that emerges in my conversations with clients – either directly or indirectly – is the role of employee appreciation and recognition.  Appreciation is the bedrock to all respectful and successful relationships.[/pullquote] Most people, in my experience, feel these factors are lacking in their workplace.

I have never heard a client say, “I am too appreciated at work and I am thinking of quitting because of it.”  On the other hand, I have had clients report feeling deeply frustrated and incredibly stressed as a result of not feeling appreciated or recognized at work.  Sometimes, so much so, that they are thinking of quitting their job. In some cases, they have already resigned and have hired me as their coach to figure out what is next in their career!

In fact, multiple studies show that almost 80% of employees who quit their jobs do so because of lack of appreciation.  Contrarily, workplaces where employees are recognized for their contributions rank high for “customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and retention.”  (Source:  A 10 year study by The Jackson Organization that included 200,000 interviews with managers and employees worldwide).

Have you ever left a job due to lack of appreciation, recognition, or acknowledgement?  Or have you ever left a love relationship due to lack of appreciation?  Whether in work or love it’s all the same, it’s all about our relationships. Appreciation is the bedrock to all respectful and successful relationships.

Gostick and Elton(2007) found that; “Organizations that fail to effectively recognize their employees are losing the very workers they wish they could keep.”

Here are 5 ways to acknowledge employees:

  • Offer consistent praise and recognition

This is proven to lower turnover rates. Look for frequent opportunities to recognize the specific efforts, contributions, and work of your employees.  Say “thank you.”  Acknowledge their good work verbally, send a note, offer public recognition, and find ways to be creative with how you offer praise and recognition on an ongoing basis.

  • Provide incentives for a job well done

Employees hunger for praise and incentives more than money. Incentives can come in many ways, such as learning opportunities, project rewards, prizes, bonuses, extra perks, etc.  Keep in mind that recognition is the motivator, not the specific reward or incentive itself.  All incentives should be offered in a fair way.

  • Find ways to ensure the work being done is enjoyable

Meaningful work can be its own form of reward. Some managers do not necessarily see the importance of recognizing employees who are simply doing their job. However, that is exactly what employees should be recognized for!  No task or job is too mundane to acknowledge. It is the not the task you are acknowledging, it is the person who is doing it.  Pride and motivation come from within, yet they are often called forth from our external environments, in this case, the workplace.

  • Find out what matters to your employees

Give employees options to choose the rewards that they prefer. According to Gostick and Elton (2007), “the best reward is always personal, and tailored to employee interests and lifestyle, given by a manager that cares enough to find out what motivates each individual.”

  • Celebrate successes often

Create a workplace culture that celebrates good work, successful projects, the implementation of change, company anniversaries, milestones reached, or any other aspect of the work being done and the people who are doing it. Think of the recent Rio 2016 Olympics, imagine if a sprinter came over the finish line to win gold and no one cheered. Celebration is motivation!

I invite you to create and look for every day opportunities to express both your gratitude and your acknowledgement of your employees.  Keep in mind that gratitude is saying “thank you,” while acknowledgement is more specific. It is letting that person know you see who they are and the unique efforts they are making in the workplace.


“Thank you for your good work on that project.”


“Thank you for the dedication and leadership you showed throughout this project.”

In summary, here are some key things to consider when it comes to the importance of acknowledgement and recognition in the workplace:

  • Being able to recognize, thank, and acknowledge employees for various reasons in a multitude of ways, is a leadership skill.
  • Genuine championing and bringing out the best in others is at the heart of all great leadership.
  • Employee recognition and appreciation are not perks – they are staff retention strategies.
  • A happy employee is a recognized employee. A recognized employee is a retained employee.
  • Acknowledgement is the foundation of employee performance, engagement and morale.
  • “Purpose-based recognition” is a skill required to be the kind of leader people want to do and be their best for.

Thank YOU for all that you to do to make a positive difference within the culture of your unique workplace.  Even taking the time to read a post of this nature, says that you care about being the best leader you can be.

Coaching Challenge:  Acknowledge 5 employees (colleagues), in a meaningful way, by the end of your workday tomorrow. 

For more free resources, visit our resources page.


Lynda Monk

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Learning

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