The Importance of Recognition in the Workplace

It is easy for us all to fall into work routines: we get into the office or open the computer, start checking off the day's to-do list, plan out the week, and coordinate with co-workers to decide who needs to do what and when. At times when we are caught up in our own bubbles of work, it can be easy to lose sight of the amount of effort and collaboration it takes from all employees to keep a task, project, and team operating smoothly. 

So whether your team is working through a challenging, demanding period of work or enjoying some smooth sailing, taking a moment to press pause on your regularly scheduled program and express recognition for your employees’ hard work can go a long way. 

There are designated times throughout the year that are naturally well-suited to a pat on the back or an expression of gratitude. A work anniversary, the reaching of a milestone, an excellent achievement, birthdays, around the holidays or times of the year that require a heavier workload, and even bad days or learning experiences are all good opportunities to remind employees of how much they are valued and appreciated. There are actually scheduled Employee Appreciation Days too as noted on the chart below:

National Mentoring Month (January 1-31)

International Thank You Day (January 11)

Employee Appreciation Week (February 28 - March 4)

Employee Appreciation Day (March 4)

International Women’s Day (March 8)

HR Professional Appreciation Day (September 26)

National Custodian Day (October 2)

National Customer Service Week (October 3-7)

Bosses Day (October 16)


While these “official” days may not directly correlate to a milestone or special occasion on your team, it's easy enough to add the date into your calendar and celebrate with a small gesture: coffee and breakfast for the team, a gift card to a local restaurant, a card recognizing specific efforts or achievements, a two-minute conversation to say thank you, or even a silly gift that can sit on someone's desk and be a positive reminder that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. 

Monetary gifts such as bonuses and raises are of course valuable and motivating, but more personal gestures throughout the year can create a more intentional feeling of recognition. And by creating a mindset around recognition that is built into the company culture rather than done out of necessity, the shift is more likely to be felt more genuinely across the entire team. 

A study cited in Harvard Business Review found that "40% of employed Americans say they’d put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often."

And the positive implications of recognition in the workplace stretch beyond energy levels (an impact that is mutually advantageous for the employees and employers), and that alone should be a reason to increase recognition. But on top of that, retention rates, general employee satisfaction, and well-being are all ameliorated by increased recognition by employers or higher-ups.

A survey by Authentic Recognition studied how often healthcare employees received recognition and found that:

2% Received Daily recognition

11% Received Weekly recognition

20% Received Quarterly recognition

17% Received Annual recognition

29% Received No recognition of any kind.

The same healthcare employees who were surveyed in the above study were also asked if they are recognized enough by their supervisor or manager, with results as follows:

39% were not recognized frequently enough

15% were almost recognized frequently enough

42% were recognized about the right amount

2% were recognized a little too frequently

1% were recognized much too frequently

These studies, while only informed by a select group of employees in one industry, are insightful when considering the importance of any supervisor, manager, or company leader bolstering their recognition of employees. 

A separate study conducted by Achievers in 2021 found that the second leading reason employees stated that they would stay in their current role was recognition (21% of responses), with the leading reason being work-life balance (23%).

Building recognition into the workplace environment looks different for everyone. Some people may find it easier to mark a day on the calendar that is devoted to gifting, writing cards, or contributing other thoughtful gestures, while others may find a more long-term and holistic approach more suited to their style. 

As long as the efforts are intentional, authentic, and consistent, they will continue to positively impact the employee’s relationship with the company and their place in it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!