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The Caroo

Employee Recognition Guide

We've created this mega guide to help show you the importance of acknowledging and appreciating an employee's contributions, achievements, and positive behavior in the workplace.

Check it out

What is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is one of the most powerful tools for retaining top talent and creating a positive, high-performing work environment. It’s not just about giving out participation trophies. Here, we’ll explore what employee recognition is and how you can optimize it to create a culture of recognition that fosters engagement, loyalty, and success.

The many forms of recognition. There are more than you think.

When most people think of employee recognition, they think of formal vs. informal, but it’s really not that simple. Employee recognition comes in many forms, and managers should access all of them to create the right recognition for the individual and occasion.

The key is unlocking which of these are most valuable to a specific individual and acting on it when the time arises. Caroo’s free preference tracking feature or even a simple Typeform Survey or Google Sheet can help you keep track of what each employee finds the most meaningful.

Achievement vs. Relationship Orientation. Uncover the right thing to say.

Behavioral science studies show that people typically fall into two camps on what drives and motivates them – achievement versus relationship. Sometimes the association can be very strong one way or the other and some employees are more flexible and can adapt to both.

  • Verbal or written appreciation

  • Pay and benefits

  • Gifts and physical rewards

  • Coaching and development

  • Spending time or checking in

  • Helping employees succeed

  • Showing trust and autonomy

  • Promotions 

  • Growth/stretch opportunities

  • Charitable contributions

The key is unlocking which of these are most valuable to a specific individual and acting on it when the time arises. Caroo’s free preference tracking feature or even a simple Typeform Survey or Google Sheet can help you keep track of what each employee finds the most meaningful. Ultimately, creating some type of employee recognition preferences questionnaire can help managers learn valuable insights about recognizing individual employees.

Achievement vs. Relationship Orientation. Uncover the right thing to say.

Behavioral science studies show that people typically fall into two camps on what drives and motivates them – achievement versus relationship. Sometimes the association can be very strong one way or the other and some employees are more flexible and can adapt to both.

Let’s take a look at an example through these two lenses of a Product Manager who launched an important customer software feature.

An achievement-oriented Product Manager is motivated by their measurable contributions. Talking about metrics like user adoption, time to market or customer satisfaction ratings are what this person will most value being recognized for.

A relationship-driven Product Manager on the other hand is more motivated hearing about how their overall character and relationship-building skills added value to the successful feature launch. They would get more value being recognized for how they brought a diverse group of stakeholders together to achieve a challenging and complex feature launch for the customer.

A good way to tell the difference between the two types is to pay attention to what people naturally recognize others for when they are giving recognition. It’s common for people to project their own type, but if that seems complicated, Caroo’s free recognition personality assessment is an easy way for your employees to uncover and share which motivation type they have.

The setting matters. And mistakes here can be costly.

The important thing to remember here is that people have different levels of comfort with different settings for recognition. This is especially true when it comes to giving public vs. private praise to an employee. If you call someone out in a large group who isn’t comfortable with that kind of recognition, you run the risk of missing the mark or at worst making them feel uncomfortable to the point where they would have preferred not to have the recognition at all. It’s crucially important that you know which employees fall into this category of discomfort so you can act accordingly and share with others in the organization too.

Additionally, there are some other settings that might be more comfortable than others. For example a small group setting vs. a large company all hands meeting vs an external shout-out on LinkedIn. Again, it’s a matter of understanding each employee and making the effort to be as tailored as possible.

Identifying the appropriate setting for your recognition strategy can help you avoid making common mistakes in employee recognition and better connect to your team on a human level.

Employee Recognition

The often overlooked factor. Who is the recognition coming from?

Recognition also takes on a different meaning for people depending on who is giving it. There is a time and a place for almost all of the different options here…from Executives to a Manager to individual peers…even customers and board members can be valuable sources of recognition for an employee.

For example, recognizing an employee’s first day is expected from a manager, but imagine how much more special it would be to get a handwritten card from an executive or a group eCard from your team welcoming you on your first day?

Or how about if you closed a big enterprise sale and the CEO sent you a bottle of wine from your personal wishlist?

When everyone contributes to the culture of recognition people are naturally more inclined to feel a sense of belonging and connection to the organization and be happier and more productive as a result.

In conclusion, understanding an individual’s unique preferences is crucial in creating a culture of recognition that fosters engagement, loyalty, and ultimately, success. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for employee recognition. By taking the time to know your employees, what drives them, what they value, and how they prefer to be recognized, you can optimize employee recognition to achieve your organization’s goals.

And this level of individual understanding and customization doesn’t have to be difficult or wildly expensive. Caroo is here to help.

Why is Employee Recognition Important?

Have you ever felt undervalued at work? Maybe you’ve poured your heart and soul into a project only to receive little acknowledgement. If so, you’re not alone. In fact, a lack of recognition is one of the top reasons why employees become dissatisfied with their jobs and leave their employers.

As a leader, it’s important to understand the impact that recognition and appreciation can have on your employees. By acknowledging their hard work and contributions, you can boost morale, improve retention rates, increase productivity, and create a positive company culture. In this blog post, we’ll explore why employee recognition is so important and how you can implement a recognition program in your workplace.

Recognition is a form of feedback that reinforces positive behavior and encourages employees to continue performing well. It can come in many forms, such as verbal praise, written commendation, or even a small gift or bonus. The important thing is that it speaks personally to the impact the employee has on the organization and its mission and people.

Here are some reasons why employee recognition is important for your business:

Boosts morale and motivation
When employees feel appreciated and valued, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated to do their best work. Recognition reinforces positive behavior and lets employees know that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. This can boost morale and create a positive work environment, which can lead to increased productivity and higher job satisfaction.

Improves retention rates
Employees who feel recognized and appreciated are more likely to stay with their current employer. High turnover rates can be costly and disruptive to a business, so it’s important to keep employees happy and engaged. By recognizing employees for their hard work and contributions, you can improve retention rates and save your company time and money in the long run.

Increases productivity and quality of work
When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to go above and beyond in their work. They may take on additional responsibilities, work longer hours, or put more effort into their tasks. This can lead to increased productivity and higher-quality work, which can benefit the company as a whole.

Creates a positive company culture
Recognition and appreciation can help create a positive company culture where employees feel supported and valued. This can lead to increased collaboration and teamwork, as well as a more enjoyable work environment. A positive company culture can also help attract and retain top talent, which can give your company a competitive advantage.

In conclusion, employee recognition is an essential part of creating a happy and productive workforce. By acknowledging your employees’ hard work and contributions in ways that matter to them, you can boost morale, improve retention rates, increase productivity and quality of work, and create a positive company culture. So, don’t underestimate the power of recognition – it can make a significant difference in your company’s success.

If you’re looking to improve employee recognition in your workplace, consider implementing a recognition program or regularly acknowledging employees for their contributions in meetings or emails. By making recognition a part of your company culture, you can reap the benefits of a happy and engaged workforce.

What is Employee Recognition Intelligence?

Are you looking for ways to improve employee engagement and boost morale in your organization? Employee recognition is one of the most effective ways to do so. But, it’s not enough to just give a pat on the back every now and then. To truly make an impact, you need to have what’s called “employee recognition intelligence”.

So, what exactly is employee recognition intelligence? It’s the collective knowledge that an organization has on how to recognize its people. It’s the understanding of what motivates and inspires your employees and the ability to consistently deliver meaningful recognition that aligns with those motivations.

Unfortunately, many organizations rely solely on managers and peers to know how to recognize people and do it regularly, resulting in little to no consistency. This is like asking each of your managers to set a time-off policy with no cohesion for the entire group – it simply doesn’t work.

To have effective employee recognition intelligence, there are three critical areas that you need to focus on: recognition personality or identity, recognition preferences, and personal information.

Recognition personality: the 5-min assessment that will change the way you manage people

Someone’s recognition identity or personality should uncover a few critical questions such as what kind of recognition is most meaningful to them and what motivates them personally. Having this basic information makes it easy to adjust to what an employee is looking for without any guessing.

Is it rewards and gifts they really value? Or time together? Even autonomy and space can be an important reward for some individuals. Is the person motivating by achieving big goals or being commended for their ability to connect with people (or a combination of both). 

This information together can be used to choose rewards that matter and ensure that the words you are using to describe the impact the employee had are most meaningful.

Recognition preferences and personal information unlock next-level understanding

Recognition preferences like public vs private recognition, the best setting, and who the person most values recognition from are also important factors that can be layered onto their personality. In some cases, these are the most important things to get right.

And personal information like someone’s kids’ names, dietary restrictions, or their favorite coffee shop can go a long way in helping them feel known and valued, especially when tied to a recognition moment. Imagine getting a $30 gift card for a food delivery service on your daughter’s birthday so you can take her out to lunch on the company. It’s those small things that often add up to more loyalty than more costly gestures.

The benefit of having employee recognition intelligence is that you are setting a standard and a culture around the way you understand your employees. This will net you the biggest benefits and bang for your buck as it relates to an employee recognition program.

While there are tools like Caroo that can help you build a culture of recognition by uncovering, organizing, and sharing all these things and more for free, there are also easy steps you can take as a manager and organization to start building into Employee Recognition Intelligence. Simply starting to track personal notes on people around the things they like and past recognitions that seemed to be meaningful for them is a good start.

Employee recognition is more than just a “nice to have” in your organization. It’s essential for creating a culture of engagement, motivation, and loyalty. By developing employee recognition intelligence, you can truly make an impact and create a workplace where people feel valued and appreciated.

Do Employee Recognition Programs Work? The Surprising Answer

Employee recognition programs have been debated for years, with some people arguing that they boost morale and productivity while others believe they are nothing more than token gestures. In a SHRM/Globoforce survey, 68 percent of HR professionals agreed that employee recognition has a positive impact on retention and 56 percent said such programs also help with recruitment.

So, do employee recognition programs work? The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. It all depends on how these programs are designed and implemented.

If they focus on the needs of the individual, yes.

When employee recognition programs are tailored to the needs and preferences of each individual employee, they can have a powerful impact on morale and productivity. It means taking the time to understand what motivates each employee and creating a personalized approach for recognition. This may include public recognition, private conversations, handwritten notes, or other forms of appreciation that resonate with the individual employee.

When employees feel recognized and appreciated in this way, it can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Recognition tied to specific goals or achievements can also motivate employees to continue striving for excellence and doing their best work.

The problem is that creating an experience that is individualized can be very challenging at scale. Even if organizations have the best interest of their employees at heart and want to provide a custom experience, the right tools need to be in place to make it easy. Caroo’s Care Preferences and Recognition Personality tools can give any manager or organization the ability to understand employees deeply and ensure they can easily send whatever is most meaningful at the click of a button – whether it’s a handwritten card or a donation to charity in the employees name or a shipped gift.

If they are designed like most current programs, then no.

Unfortunately, many employee recognition programs miss the mark when it comes to individualization. Instead, they rely on a one-size-fits-all approach, where everyone gets the same experience regardless of their preferences or contributions. For example, a gift of red wine and chocolate at the holidays for everyone may disappoint or alienate those who don’t drink red wine or alcohol at all. (An example we hear often at Caroo.)

When recognition programs are designed in this way, they can actually do more harm than good. Employees may feel like their efforts are not being seen or appreciated, which can lead to lower morale and productivity. In some cases, it may even lead to resentment or turnover if employees feel undervalued.

The Surprising Answer

So, do employee recognition programs work? The answer is yes, but only if they are designed with the needs and preferences of individual employees in mind. This may require more effort and resources upfront, but the long-term benefits will be well worth it. By taking the time to understand what motivates each employee and tailoring your approach accordingly, you can create a culture of appreciation that boosts morale, motivation, and productivity.

In conclusion, employee recognition programs can be a powerful tool for organizations, but they must be designed with individualization in mind. Avoid the one-size-fits-all approach and take the time to understand what motivates each employee. By doing so, you’ll create a culture of appreciation that benefits everyone.

How to Recognize Employees without Spending Money

As an employer or manager, recognizing your employees is one of the most important things you can do to boost morale, increase motivation, and create a positive work environment. And the best part? Employee recognition doesn’t have to be expensive!

Think about the best recognition you ever received at work. Was it a big bonus? A fancy trophy? Chances are it was something more personal and heartfelt, like a meaningful note from someone you respected, or a group card from a team you loved working with. These are the things that truly stick with us, and they don’t cost a dime.

At Caroo, we’ve interviewed hundreds of people on the subject of employee recognition, and almost never do we hear people mention something expensive as the most meaningful thing. What we do hear is the importance of a message that is specific, genuine, and tailored to the individual.

One way to do this is through a heartfelt message, either handwritten or digital. Take the time to make it personal and meaningful, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Use Caroo’s Recognition Personality Assessment to uncover the best way to recognize someone.

Another great option is a free eCard, either from yourself or collaboratively as a team. You can also ask others to create a word cloud with characteristics that describe the person being recognized and their impact. These options may seem small, but they can have a big impact.

It’s also important to check-in with your employees personally to see how they’re doing. Offer to take work off their plate so they can focus on things they enjoy doing, or offer your own time as a mentor. These gestures not only recognize their hard work but also show that you care about their well-being.

Another way to reward employees without spending money is to write a LinkedIn post highlighting the person’s accomplishments or character. This can not only recognize their hard work but also help build their personal brand.

And if you do have a few dollars to spare, a gift card for coffee at the employee’s favorite coffee shop can go a long way. This small gesture shows that you’re paying attention to their preferences and that you appreciate their hard work.

In conclusion, recognizing your employees doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s the thought that counts, so take the time to make recognition personal, heartfelt, and specific to the individual. Your employees will appreciate it, and you’ll be fostering a positive work environment that promotes motivation, productivity, and satisfaction.

How to Celebrate Employee Birthdays

Birthdays are a special occasion and a great opportunity to show your employees how much you appreciate them. Celebrating in the right way is a great way to boost morale and create a positive work environment. Here are some ideas on how to celebrate employee birthdays and make them feel special.

Group Digital Ecards

A group digital ecard is a great way to celebrate an employee’s birthday. It’s a fun and easy way for everyone to sign and share their well wishes. You can use online tools like Caroo CareCards to create digital cards that everyone can sign and upload photos. This is especially great for remote teams who may not be able to celebrate in person.

Birthday Treats

Who doesn’t love birthday treats? A gift that can be shared with the team or the employee’s family like cupcakes with candles, cookies or sweets is a great way to show your appreciation. If your team is working remotely, you can have treats delivered to their home or offer a gift card to a food delivery site like DoorDash GrubHub or Postmates.

Shout Outs in the Team Slack Channel

A shout out in the team Slack channel is a great way to celebrate an employee’s birthday publicly. It’s an easy and convenient way for everyone to share their well wishes. You can encourage team members to share their favorite memory or reason why they appreciate the employee.

Gift Card for Birthday Lunch or Coffee

A gift card for a birthday lunch or coffee is a great way to treat the employee to a special meal. It’s a simple and thoughtful gesture that shows you care. You can choose a local restaurant or coffee shop that the employee likes, or give them a gift card for a food delivery site if they are working remote.

Handwritten Card

A handwritten card is a simple yet meaningful way to show your appreciation. It’s a personal touch that shows you took the time to write a heartfelt message. You can include a small gift card or a favorite snack to make it extra special.

Remembering Everyone

It’s important to make sure no one gets forgotten, and that you respect their wishes if they are uncomfortable with celebrating their birthday. Make sure you have a way to know if someone doesn’t want to be recognized on their birthday, and adjust accordingly. This can be done through a survey or by asking the employee directly.

Using Tools to Help

As a manager, it can be challenging to remember everything for all your employees. However, if you can find tools like Caroo that can help you automate the process, you can spend more time coming up with a heartfelt message for the person than scheduling and execution. With Caroo, you can automate birthday celebrations, send out personalized gifts and cards, and make sure everyone feels appreciated on their special day.

In conclusion, celebrating employee birthdays is a simple yet powerful way to show your appreciation and boost morale in the workplace. Whether it’s a group digital ecard, birthday treats, shout outs in the team Slack channel, a gift card for lunch or coffee, or a handwritten card, there are many ways to make your employees feel valued and appreciated on their birthday. By using tools like Caroo, you can make the process of celebrating birthdays even easier and more personalized for your team.

Employee Recognition for Years of Service

A work anniversary is a unique opportunity to share gratitude for an employee overall and celebrate the bigger impact they’ve had during their time at the organization. Unlike an individual one-time accomplishment which might be more achievement oriented, this is the time to talk about a person’s character and what you appreciate most which can be very rewarding to hear. Work anniversaries are an important part of any employee milestone program and reflect a notable time in the employees’ tenure at your organization.

Involve the team

A great way to celebrate this occasion is to make it a team effort. Collaborating with coworkers to create group eCards with thoughtful messages or handwritten notes is a great way to make the celebration more meaningful. These keepsakes will be treasured by the employee for years to come.

Consider treating the employee to a meal with their family or teammates. This can be a great opportunity to connect with the person on a more personal level and strengthen the bond between the employee and the organization. Sharing a meal together can be a great way to celebrate the employee’s accomplishments and show them how much they are valued.

Choose a meaningful personal gift or experience

Choosing the perfect gift can be a daunting task, so why not let the employee choose? Instead of guessing what they might like, set a budget and let them decide what would commemorate the experience in the most meaningful way possible. This approach not only shows your appreciation for their work but also demonstrates your commitment to their happiness.

If you have a long-tenured employee, consider an experience that will make a lasting impression. This could be something as simple as a day off to accomplish something on their bucket list or an opportunity to travel. For example, one Caroo employee had always wanted to swim with sharks, and we were able to grant that wish when a big anniversary came up. This experience was something he will never forget and demonstrated our appreciation for his hard work.

Many organizations set different gifting budgets for different anniversary tiers. For example, a five-year anniversary might warrant a different budget than a twenty-year anniversary. This approach allows organizations to recognize employees at different stages in their careers and show their appreciation in a meaningful way.

Automation makes it easy.

Managing a team can be a daunting task as it may be difficult to keep track of important events for each employee. Caroo has tools that can help you automate anniversary experiences, giving you more time to focus on the things that matter, like writing a personal note that will make the employee feel seen.

In conclusion, recognizing employees for their years of service is a great way to show your appreciation for their hard work and dedication. Celebrating their achievements can help foster a positive workplace culture and promote employee engagement. Whether it’s a group eCard, a special meal, or an unforgettable experience, finding ways to recognize your employees’ contributions will ensure your employees continue to feel valued and a sense of belonging.