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Is There More to Recognition than Awards, Money and Praise?

Mia Mends

- Global

- Mar 25 2015

Mia Mends

Sodexo CEO of Benefits & Rewards, US

Recognition is a key engagement driver for employees but it can come in many forms including awards, money and praise. The question for companies is which is the most important? Or what combination will influence and motivate peak performance and the behaviors crucial to corporate success?

Consider this, an effective recognition program can consist of praise and awards but no money, but a program solely focused on money with no praise or awards will never be successful. Don’t get me wrong, money is important and a very effective reinforcement, but it represents a short-term solution not a sustainable, long-term behavioral change.

According to the research, some of what drives engagement is generational. Generally speaking, millennials are motivated by career growth opportunities and flexible scheduling. Baby boomers value public recognition, awards and the like. All generations value transparency. While these factors may be important, there’s an underlying element that’s rarely discussed. Traditional forms of recognition, however well-intentioned and sincere, may be insufficient to drive engagement without a crucial component—R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

A meaningful, thoughtful employee recognition program is about valuing employees’ efforts and having respect for who they are and what they do. According to Human Resource Expert Susan Heathfield, if you ask most employees what they would like to see more of at work, you will overwhelmingly hear the word respect. But what is respect, really?

Respect is about much more than proper etiquette, day-to-day courtesy or politeness. It is also an essential element to establishing a strong progressive corporate culture where employees feel valued and appreciated. At the heart of it, recognition is really just another form of respect. Employees who have been recognized for their contributions will strive to meet that expectation again and again. Employees whose contributions are not recognized may feel insignificant or see their work as being trivial. This may ultimately lead to feelings of disrespect, anger or frustration which have the potential to be amplified if the employee is successfully executing despite limited resources, be they technological, systemic or human.

While overcoming obstacles is the expectation in a corporate environment and the mark of an exceptional employee, even the most engaged and self-motivated will lose faith if they feel devalued as individuals or their concerns are ignored or dismissed. Worse yet, if they become actively disengaged they can become a highly negative influence to other employees. Lack of appreciation and recognition for hard work can easily turn into perceptions of disrespect.

Fair-minded employees recognize that not every problem has a simple solution and that there are hard choices to be made, but without feeling a sense of respect for their concerns and a commitment to continuous improvement, higher engagement goals are illusory. For organizations to truly excel, they need high-performing, engaged employees who feel valued and appreciated for their contribution.

The takeaway? Reward employees with respect!

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