It’s no secret that a multitude of benefits come from building and maintaining a recognition-rich culture. There are several programs and methodologies, all with the promise of increasing engagement and retention by recognizing and showing appreciation for all the great contributions your team is making.
Although there are many strategies for building a culture of recognition and appreciation, supporting peer recognition comes with some unique benefits.
Managerial feedback is a vital element of the greater recognition ecosystem, but it’s important not to let it overshadow other feedback channels. For many employees, the feedback they receive from peers is even more meaningful than the feedback they receive from their boss, and peer relationships (not money) drive them to excel and go the extra mile in their work.
Praise and recognition received directly from close colleagues provides insight into the positive impact a person’s work makes on the people around them. This added perspective helps illuminate the purpose behind even the small tasks they’re performing every day and solidifies the bond of camaraderie built through achieving goals as a team.
That trifecta of purposeful work, camaraderie, and joint accomplishment promotes a steady boost of intrinsic motivation that is difficult to trigger otherwise.
Peers have unique insight into their teammates’ accomplishments and know which small victories led to the big ones. They have a more intimate knowledge of the initiatives their colleagues are working on, the impact they’re making, and the inherent difficulties of the challenges they’re overcoming.
In some recognition schemes, employee contributions are recognized and rewarded in a global format, based on overall company performance. Under that paradigm, a person who barely skates by is rewarded similarly to a person who is moving themselves, their peer group, and the organization forward daily.
That pertinence to the goals and values of the organization and the recipient contributes meaningfully to the overall impact of peer recognition.
Most leaders would love to give personal, timely recognition for every valuable contribution a member of their team makes. Unfortunately, it’s not often feasible. In many cases, it’s simply too large a task for someone to be expected to witness, recognize, and reward all the great work that happens around them, even if they’d like to.
Too much great work is kind of a nice problem to have though, right?
All this great work can be recognized — it just requires a different solution. Instead of approaching recognition with a top-down mentality where managers and team leads shoulder most or all of the burden, cultivate a work environment where peers are encouraged to give recognition to one another on a daily basis.
As the team grows, the number of people giving recognition increases directly alongside the number of valuable contributions being made.
Peers don’t recognize accomplishments because it’s their job to recognize them. They recognize accomplishments because they truly value them. That authenticity is more important than you might think.
Many recognition programs are more focused on arbitrary milestones than they are on authentically rewarding great work. Bersin and Associates recently published research that found that 87% of recognition programs focus on tenure. That’s recognition for just sticking around and holding down a chair.
When a coworker sings their peer’s praises, it’s because they’ve done something that made a genuine impact. That kind of authentic appreciation is a great motivator, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to manufacture any other way.
Peer recognition is naturally inclusive. Anyone can give it, and anyone can receive it. Contrast this with programs like Employee of the Month, which only recognize one employee as "the best."
Here are some salient questions you need to ask yourself if you’re taking this approach:
Focusing recognition solely on one employee’s successes can actually de-motivate others, by implying that the contributions they’ve made are in some way less valuable. It also robs employees of an opportunity to show how much they appreciate their colleagues’ contributions.
A team can’t be employee of the month, and singling out one member for a prize (especially if that prize is valuable) will provide a narrow motivational effect at best, and at worst, might backfire and pit otherwise collaborative teammates against one another.
Working within an organizational culture that promotes frequent recognition provides priceless experience in giving and receiving feedback. It also encourages employees to take an active role in understanding the requirements for moving the organization forward, and determining how they can reliably produce results that do the same. Finally, it promotes a better understanding of the unique value each of their colleagues’ contributions brings to the table, and how all these contributions fit together.
All of these skills represent crucial steps in an employee’s professional development. Nurturing that development benefits both the employee and the organization while improving retention.
Whether you’ve already implemented a recognition program in your organization, or you’re determining how to go about it, make sure your program isn’t missing out on the unique benefits of peer recognition.