A Key Employee Recognition Idea That Fights Workplace Unhappiness

by Dora Wang on Jun 1, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Optimized-iStock_000040346300_SmallWhat makes employees unhappy at work?

In our Financial Services & Employee Engagement Report, we uncovered the factors feeding into workplace dissatisfaction in this sector. Here are two of the most concerning trends:

  • Only 20% of employees feel strongly valued at work

  • Barely 50% of employees are satisfied with their peers and colleagues

These numbers would be enough to worry about in any industry, but they’re especially concerning in this one. A 2013 Hay Group survey found that 22% of employees in finance plan to change employers in the next two years — a projection almost double those for high-performing companies across other industries. When employees already have one foot out the door, the last thing you want is to give them reasons to be unhappy at work.

These problems may seem overwhelming, but you can tackle them — and the best way to do it is to tackle them both at once.

The Power of Peers

If you want employees to feel valued at work, then you should turn to their coworkers. Peer recognition is an indispensable part of your employee appreciation strategy.

Surprised? Consider what The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and our Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report found:

  • Peers are the number one reason employees go the extra mile at work — not their leaders, and not money

  • Coworker relationships are the number one thing employees miss most about the most recent job they left

  • 49% say positive feedback from coworkers gives them satisfaction, but only 39% say the same about positive feedback from their leadership team/executives

Working together and relying on one another on a daily basis means that coworkers build partnerships where they inspire and support each other. That kind of trust and camaraderie makes colleagues willing to step up to the plate for one another. So getting recognition from their peers is very gratifying for an employee.

What’s more, peers often notice accomplishments that supervisors might miss. It can be terribly discouraging to work hard on something only to have your boss overlook your efforts just because they weren’t around to see it. When employees give each other kudos, they’re much less likely to feel unappreciated.

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Building the Right Team

So how do you create a robust peer recognition system that will help that 80% of employees who don’t feel strongly valued at work?

First, you need to focus on the 50% of employees who aren’t satisfied with their colleagues. In other words, you need to put together a solid team that works well together. This is where hiring for fit comes in.

Finding the right candidate for your team is about more than just looking for a resume that lists the skills and experience from your job description. You also need to look for a person who will fit in with the culture of your organization. This means considering everything from workplace values to collaboration style.

In the ideal situation, you’ll find a candidate who has both the work skills and the cultural fit for your team. But if that doesn’t happen, you’re better off going with the cultural fit. Remember that skills can be taught, but personality can’t.

Consider some of the ways you can screen for fit during your recruiting process:

  • List your cultural values in your job description

  • Address a candidate’s work style in the interview

  • Ask professional references about the candidate’s personality

By making sure your new hires will be compatible with your existing workforce, you’re far more likely to build a mutually supportive team.

Award-Winning Peers

One of the best employee recognition ideas is going public with appreciation and instituting peer-nominated awards. No, this doesn’t mean the old-fashioned “Employee of the Month” awards — make them specific and relevant to the efforts your employees put in.

Here are a few suggestions of the kinds of awards you can give, drawn from our experience here at TINYpulse:

  • Most Valued Player Award: This award celebrates the employee who exemplifies the qualities of a great teammate. Like the MVP of any sports team, this employee is one whose loss would be devastating to the organization. The winner of this award knows that their colleagues truly appreciate them and their efforts.

  • Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Award: The GEM is a person who consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty, both in their own work and in helping others. They put in extra effort to help their teammates, the company, or clients. Giving this award lets employees say thank you to the colleagues who put themselves out there to help others without asking for reciprocation.

  • Rookie of the Year Award: This award recognizes an employee who has recently joined the organization and is on the way to becoming a star performer. Giving an award to an outstanding newcomer is a great way of making sure they feel welcome, plus it encourages those who are on the right track in their development.

By letting your employees nominate their peers for these awards, they get to celebrate the people whose efforts truly help their teammates. This brings the whole team in on recognition, making it all the more meaningful for those who are nominated and win. What’s more, publicizing recognition in this way sends a clear message about what your organization values — so you can inspire other employees to follow suit.

Whatever method you use, peer recognition is a vital and valuable part of employee appreciation. It’s especially useful for the finance industry, whose employees express dissatisfaction with both their colleagues and how valued they feel at work.

But any company in any industry can benefit from peer recognition, because all employees can feel validated by acknowledgement from their teammates. The Kronos study found that positive feedback from colleagues gives 70% of employees a boost to their workplace satisfaction. So giving your employees an outlet to recognize each other is a great way to boost happiness — while also fostering a culture where team members will go the extra mile for one another.



The Effects of Employee Recognition & Appreciation Report by TINYpulse


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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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