Co-Worker Recognition Programs Yield Employers Great Returns

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Recognizing employees boosts their morale and productivity, but giving workers the chance to encourage each other can pack an even more powerful punch, consultants say.

“Employee recognition is important to the bottom line because it has an impact on employee effort and alignment, which in turn impacts profit,” Michael Lee Stallard, president and co-founder of E Pluribus Partners, a Greenwich, Conn.-based executive coaching firm, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Jan. 4.

“Include questions on recognition in your employee engagement survey to hold supervisors accountable,” Stallard said. If the survey finds some employees who don’t feel recognized, “match them with a peer mentor who is strong at recognition so the mentor can provide accountability and encouragement,” he suggested.

At Indianapolis-based software company Formstack, more than 60 percent of the workforce labors remotely, some in other countries, so employee recognition takes extra effort. It begins with the people the company chooses to hire, CEO Chris Byers told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 5. Many companies with a lot of remote employees “hire people who don’t care about communicating, and are off on their own,” but Formstack “intentionally” hires people who do care about communication, he said.

Formstack employees can award each other recognition points, which can also be given out based on “wins” and project completions. In monthly video meetings, those with the most points—and those who have recognized their peers the most—are rewarded, Byers said. There’s a special focus on recognizing people who put into practice the company’s core values, such as “to get to work on solving problems,” he said. With employees scattered from California to Indiana to Poland, “it’s a great way to keep them aligned, engaged in their work and wanting to do more of that,” he said.

Giving End of Praise Good Place to Be

The peer-to-peer aspect of employee recognition is especially crucial, according to Gary Beckstrand, vice president of Salt Lake City-based O.C. Tanner Institute, the research arm of employee recognition services provider O.C. Tanner. “Merely the act of giving the recognition has all the benefits in terms of employee engagement,” he told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 5, drawing on a survey his company did in October of 3,496 employees in the U.S. and six other countries.

Employees often feel inhibited about recognizing each other’s work, Beckstrand said, but employers should seek to overcome this reluctance. For example, if employees feel they should save their recognition “for only the best work,” he said, “it’s best to address that through the structure” of a recognition program, which should create ways for workers to celebrate their peers.

“Social recognition is the foundation for creating a more human workplace—one which fosters a culture of recognition and appreciation while empowering individuals, strengthening relationships, and providing a clear purpose aligned with achievable goals,” Derek Irvine, vice president of client strategy and consulting at social recognition provider Globoforce, told Bloomberg BNA in a Jan. 4 e-mail. “A human workplace, in turn, allows business leaders to make significant progress on top-of-mind issues like retention, culture, and employee happiness—all while improving the bottom line.” The company is based in Dublin, Ireland, and Southborough, Mass.

Social recognition improves the bottom line, Irvine said, by reinforcing company values and culture; improving talent management and performance data; increasing employee retention; building a strong employer brand; and boosting “employee happiness.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at

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