The Next Big HR Trend? Maybe It Should Be More Employee Recognition

I was in Berlin last week, chairing day one of a HR conference on employee engagement.

The quality of presentations were truly exceptional, with a wide variety of insights as HR peers shared their projects on various engagement fronts.

We heard lots of ambitions, including:

  • Adidas – project to improve engagement scores;
  • BP – embedding a new set of corporate values;
  • Kimberly Clarke – aiming to move further up the Best Places to Work List;
  • Electrolux – becoming a Social Enterprise (online collaboration and all);
  • Best Places To Work Institute themselves on how engagement will just be an “employment norm” by 2020;

The walls we construct in the workplace

What struck me the most, though, was not the ambitions themselves, but some of the “walls” (suitable given we were in Berlin) HR see in the workplace.  And it seems one of the biggest walls of all is managers and the nature of relationship they establish.

Yes, even in 2013, I heard:

  • How do we make managers accept that relationships is a key management task?”
  • How do we ensure they take the time to have more conversations with employees?”

Speaker after speaker spoke about the role employee recognition played in one project or another.  But, here’s my soap box – We’ve done a lot, but we have way more to do!

Why not more employee recognition?

Everyone gets that employees love the positive feedback of recognition; everyone gets that good recognition is a quality conversation. They get, too, that recognition can be telling the corporate strategy in a positive way, that we all need encouragement along the way, and that we need to celebrate the “how” just as much as the “what.”

But where is the mass mobilization of recognition in their organizations? Employee of the month or spot awards to just the 5-10 percent top performers isn’t going to cut it!

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Here’s the statistics (from Mood Tracker Spring 2012): 78 percent of employees would work harder IF they felt their efforts would be recognized. But, only 15 percent got any recognition in the past month. 

Recognition is one of the most powerful tools HR has in its toolkit. Social Recognition – done right  — has the power to make all these ambitions real, and break down the walls, too. Boost engagement, drive social behaviors, embed new values, encourage many quality conversations, reward the “how,” and just generally help employees feel really glad they came to work today!

What are your big ambitions?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


5 Comments on “The Next Big HR Trend? Maybe It Should Be More Employee Recognition

  1. It’s true that recognition is one of the most powerful tools in the HR toolkit, and yet so few people understand how to use it. The basics are simple – reward and celebrate the behaviors that contribute to your vision that you’d like to see more of. There are few things more effective than a thoughtful recognition program to accelerate social change. Furthermore, recognition bestows confidence and empowers emerging leaders, it cultivates social capital, it builds stronger community within your workplace, it engages people in your mission, and it makes people feel good!

    The ability to recognize and appreciate people is a leadership skill. It’s worth exploring how more recognition, or even a simple recognition program to begin with, could really ignite the culture of your organization!

  2. The key to all of this is your words above: managers, relationships, conversations. The problem is that everyone thinks they already know how to “do” these well. Human beings do things well that get Practiced; most workers (regardless of title) don’t practice how to improve relationships or have productive conversations…because they think they already do. [don’t know what they don’t know] And, because to practice means tackling “soft skills” and the messiness of human beings, i.e. the emotions. Even leaders who “talk” the importance of relationships often don’t “walk” that talk and so role models and real learning about how to improve relationships is missing.

    While I don’t mean to be critical of recognition programs or planned approaches, if every manager and every individual relearned and was rewarded for practicing strong relationship skills, the need for recognition would be satisfied daily. Worker engagement through connection with peers and the resulting relationships would tap the motivators that create commitment.

  3. While I was at Adidas, two things we did right was engagement through participation and recognition for innovation. I guess this blend really works in ever-changing corporate world in my perspective.

  4. As long as managers focus on managing, instead of leading, organizations will never Get the employee recognition problem right.

  5. Customize your retention to the employee, forget one size fits all. Actually determine what motivates and what will retain your employee, it’s the least a manager can do.

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