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3 Types of Employee Recognition (with Very Different Results)

People want to be recognized for their work. It’s fairly obvious that employee recognition can contribute to motivation, productivity, and engagement. But did you know that different forms of employee recognition can lead to very different results?

In this article, we break down employee recognition into 3 basic types, and the different effects each type tends to have.

1. Achievement-based employee recognition

When most people think of employee recognition, this is what they think of.

Employees receive certain rewards if, or when, they achieve certain goals.

Achievement-based incentive programs can be useful, but often don’t produce the intended results.

Why? Two reasons.

  1. Setting goals can have unintended consequences. Goals can steal focus from the bigger picture, encourage risk-taking and unethical behavior, and even undermine motivation and morale.
  2. Incentives tend to make people work harder, but not exactly in the way you might have wanted. Research has shown that incentives increase performance quantity, but not performance quality. More work, but not better work.

2. Care-based employee recognition

Meeting employees’ needs shows that you care.

This can include things like compensation and benefits, offering flexible work, or soliciting feedback in an effort to improve employee engagement.

The possible benefits are difficult to list, and basically include whatever likely outcomes are relevant to the type of support provided.

However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that this type of employee recognition program is only effective if the goals and expected outcomes are properly and persuasively communicated to employees.

Perhaps the most effective method is to build it directly into your overall employer branding strategy. Not only does this help to initially attract employees, but the same ongoing messages can also help to engage and retain employees over time.

3. Respect-based employee recognition

This is by far the most overlooked form of recognition.

It doesn’t require any particular compensation, benefits, or other incentives. It simply requires that employees feel respected.

Research has found 3 things that are very important to have at work:

  1. Effective communication
  2. Predictability
  3. Flexibility

Poor communication, unpredictability, and overly rigid delegation of responsibilities and tasks make people feel disrespected. And worse yet, each of these things leads to employee burnout over time.

When employees feel respected, they also feel a greater sense of control over their lives. And research has shown that this greater sense of control, which begins with feeling respected at work, ultimately boosts employee engagement and work/life satisfaction.

These effects of respect are above and beyond what you might expect to see from other achievement-based and care-based forms of employee recognition.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about respect as an important component of more employee recognition programs. The benefits could be amazing.