How to Create a Culture of Employee Appreciation & Recognition
It pays to be good at employee appreciation and recognition – especially in tech where software developers rarely stay in a seat for more than two years.
Employers and hiring managers who get it right see the return ten-fold. Recognition-rich cultures enjoy higher employee motivation, stronger morale, increased productivity and even reduced turnover.
Need more proof? A study by CareerBuilder found that 50% of employees would stay if they felt more significantly recognized. Another study reveals that 40% of employees who “do not feel meaningfully recognized will not go above their formal responsibilities to get the job done.”
Investing in or stepping up your recognition and appreciation efforts sounds like a no-brainer, right? So where should you get started?
Terry Dear, VP of Software Engineering at Stretto reminds us“employee appreciation is not conveyed once a year but is consistent management behavior. Good leaders encourage employees’ career growth by regularly offering professional development insights and personal recognition.”
Keeping that in mind, we enlisted the help of past Timmy Award Finalists – experts in this area – to share their best advice. Here are their words of wisdom:
1. Recognize “good work” through internal awards and shout-outs.
Find a way to put appreciation front and center. Altaeros People Operations Manager, Brittany Coblenz recommends making it easy for employees to recognize one another for the whole company to see and engage with in real time.
“For years at Altaeros we had an “Awesome Award” that was given to an employee monthly...However, our team was accomplishing so much so quickly that we realized one recognition once a month was not enough. So, we switched our recognition system to “Awesome Alerts.” Now, employees recognize each other instantaneously and publicly via our #AwesomeAlert slack channel, and everyone...is celebrated at the end of the month.”
Similarly, Vincit has monthly "U DID GUD" recognitions, which team members nominate and vote for via slack, and are hung monthly on an office wall for all to see.
STRATIS, on the other hand, puts together a weekly STRATIS Almanac...The Almanac is a place for anyone at the company to shout out or thank a colleague for something they did that week or to recognize milestones for individuals or teams. Each week, the Almanac is saved in a public folder and then revisited at the end of the year as a way to tell the story of how we've all progressed over the year.
2. Invest in employees’ professional growth experiences.
Whether you provide monetary reimbursement for continuing education, conferences and classes, or you're lenient with time off so developers can attend events, show appreciation by rewarding professional growth and improvement.
Lacey Plache, VP of Data at PatientPop tells her team “to spend 10 percent of their time learning new things. It may be a part of their project or search methodology. One of my Analysts didn’t know Python so now he’s learning Python.”
Lacey also recommends hosting team workshops. “For example, one of my Data Scientists was building a Flask app and led a workshop to teach the team.”
It can be as simple as making it easy for your employees to be subject matter experts and stay up to date on technology trends. At Motion Recruitment, we put out a mini resource list, like the one below, to provide contractors employed with our clients a way to further their tech industry knowledge and continue to grow their career.
- 2020 Tech Trends to Watch
- 9 Must-Listen Tech Podcasts
- Upskilling Your Tech Career in 2020
- Free Tech in Motion Events
- The Unicorn Project: A Novel About Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data
3. Focus on personal, “in the moment" feedback and appreciation.
To make the biggest impact, recognition efforts should be real-time and personalized to the employee’s individual needs, says Shawn Doyle, Software Engineer & Culture Manager at Stratis IoT.
Focus on providing “in the moment feedback that recognizes growth. An observation like 'I see you putting a lot of effort into improving in this area, and I think it's paying off' can have a lasting positive impact for that employee.”
IBM Diversity & Inclusion Partner Warda Afzal agrees, “Personally, my favourite way to recognize a colleague and express my gratitude is to take a few minutes in a meeting to simply say, 'thank you'. Sometimes, the simplest forms of recognition have the greatest impact!”
For Terry Dear, it’s all about consistency. “Saying these types of motivational phrases is like flossing, it should occur every day. Demonstrating ongoing appreciation is key to not only motivating employees, but also to building strong team relationships.”
4. Cultivate an environment of diversity & inclusion.
Meaningful recognition is about appreciating people for who they are and what they bring to the table. The key is learning to understand all the different attributes that shape your staffs’ experiences – their backgrounds, personal qualities, talents, and abilities – then taking the time to appreciate those things.
When done right, recognition helps your employees feel appreciated, understood, and motivated to work towards a shared purpose.
“No matter the approach, the goal of all these habits is to make everyone feel that they are a part of a supportive environment where individuals with diverse backgrounds and personalities can grow and thrive,” says Shawn Doyle of Stratis IoT.
5. Prioritize your tech workplace & culture initiatives.
“In order for an employee to actually feel appreciated and flourish we must create a workplace environment conducive to their success,” remarks Stacey Yudin, NEP.
Stacey also preaches the importance of rewarding employees collectively as a team in addition to their individual efforts & contributions. Team rewards often include:
- Team Building Events
- Catered Lunches or Barbeques
- “Fun Friday” events (“Turn off your phones and laptops. We’re bowling this afternoon.”)
- Swag (Everybody loves a team T-Shirt!)
- Consistent Equipment and Ergonomic Upgrades
“Other habits are more public and orchestrated,” says Shawn Doyle, such as Stratis IoT’s All Hands meeting where they gather every Friday afternoon to reflect on the week. “For those in the company who have an easy way of demonstrating their impact, All Hands provides a stage to do so. Numbers are shared, deals are announced, teams show off new product features to the company as a whole and when a successful release happens, cowbells are rung.”
Remember: meaningful appreciation, transparency & inclusion are key for creating a culture of recognition.
Your culture is one of your most powerful assets. Appreciation at its core will foster a happy, engaged and productive workforce that feels empowered to reach for ambitious goals. Stacey Yudin summarizes this best:
“...a company is a machine. It must appreciate the people that allow it to survive and thrive. And as that machine, where there is neglect you can expect breakdown. Frequent checkups and routine maintenance just make common sense to keep all parts running smoothly. However, people aren’t parts and not as easily replaced when they suffer. Employee appreciation is the “ounce of prevention” needed to ensure success for both the company and each employee.”
Does your company create a culture of appreciation? If not, check out our job board below for opportunities with companies that employ leaders like the Timmy Award Finalists to build great workplaces for tech professionals.