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Blog, Reward & Recognition

How a pat on the back can reinforce workplace culture and drive motivation

22-05-2023
Employees have clear ideas about what they want and expect from employers when it comes to recognition. Recent Benefex research reveals that 89% of employees believe it’s important for employers to encourage recognition at work and 88% say that it’s important for them to be able to recognise colleagues for their efforts and successes. It’s a sentiment felt particularly strongly among workers under the age of 40.

Linking recognition to values

Importantly, employees believe that recognition should not just be focused on achievement, but also on the overall behaviours and attitudes displayed. As many as 89% of employees believe people should be recognised for embodying company values.

This need for recognition to reinforce company values is heightened in a remote or hybrid working environment, where many of the other vehicles for demonstrating and celebrating values are no longer feasible.

The psychology of employee recognition

The success of employee recognition lies in the development of positive organisational behaviour. The theory is relatively simple: build qualities or traits that promote growth mindsets, and you’ll stimulate a culture of appreciation among your people, company-wide. With this in place, you’re more likely to succeed, together.

The growth mindset

There are many different ways we can praise – each with their own impact on performance and motivation. Of course, any kind of praise is better than none at all, but the type we want to draw attention to is the ‘effort-based’ growth mindset. Think: “You worked really hard on that.” “Great job today, team!”

As a technique that leads people to push themselves and be more optimistic about their capabilities, it provides proactive encouragement to empower individuals to be at their best. Why? Because it helps them see that it is their own efforts that achieve their goals – which is something that they alone have control over. 

Essentially, recognition of effort is much more effective in us humans than recognition of ability. Focus on ability, and the attention is fixed on something finite and it can demotivate us when we’re challenged. But focus on effort, and you’ll inspire employees to keep working hard, stay motivated and adapt quickly to change in order to keep striving for success.

The power of emotional impact

They say you can’t put a price on happiness – but given that a recognition programme underpins the daily function of your business, you at least want to be able to measure it. 

Recognition needs to resonate with its recipient to satisfy their drives, needs and specific rewards mechanisms in their brain. It needs to feel authentic – so should be instant, personal and enjoyable to receive. By putting a metric on emotional resonance, you can start to gauge the value of the ‘feel-good factor’ in your organisation.

Another study looked into the effects on the brain of being thanked in social situations. Results showed that simply seeing someone else being thanked has a positive effect on all who witness it – meaning that helping colleagues to thank each other could not only double the chance of them helping each other, but everyone gets to feel good about it too. Deliver recognition instantly and consistently and you’ll benefit from positive behaviours aligned to your organisational goals.

“Expressing gratitude and receiving thanks are consistently associated with greater subjective wellbeing – or ‘happiness’,” says Gethin Nadin, psychologist and Chief Innovation Officer at Benefex. “By exposing employees regularly to recognition and gratitude, we can strengthen the neural pathways that help them to create a permanent state of positivity within themselves. The evidence tells us that the long-lasting impact of this on your employees is fewer psychological conditions like stress, anxiety and depression.”

Establishing a digital platform for recognition

Our research emphasises the need for businesses to have a platform in place to encourage and simplify recognition. According to 86% of employees, it’s important to work for a company that has tools and technologies in place to allow recognition to be shared and communicated as part of an integrated employee experience within a single technology platform.

However, the current situation is that most employers are still managing fragmented and disconnected systems. If your recognition scheme is going to genuinely reinforce your workplace culture and drive motivation, it’s time to look not just at the psychological building blocks that sit within it, but the wider employee experience that it sits within.

Originally posted on REBA

22-05-2023
Picture of Clare Dolan

Clare Dolan

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