Creating a Culture of Recognition

Tips for Showing Appreciation In-Person and Remote

Years ago when I first started at a new company, I’ll always remember the first week. It was a whirlwind, as most first weeks are. But I felt like I came in like a rockstar. I met everyone. I got more swag than I knew what to do with. They made me feel like they had an immense hole in their organization and only I could fill it as dozens of people reached out welcoming me, stopping by, congratulating me on my role. It was amazing. I felt more appreciated than most times in my career, and I had just begun.

Contrast with other first days or weeks you may have had. I recall another organization where not only did I not get any swag, but the only company-branded items you could get were from the company store. So you had to buy them yourself or stick around for a long time to get things. The recognition and appreciation within that company were similar: difficult and expensive.


We can all feel underappreciated. It is easy to feel that way at work, where we spend lots of time and energy. It can be equally easy at home, where we also spend lots of time and energy. (So while I’m focusing on work here, don’t forget to appreciate everyone around you).

We recorded a podcast recently about employee recognition: Recognizing Employees and Colleagues. Working remotely has made it harder in many ways to consistently recognize teammates since we’re not bumping into each other. Like most things, it takes a more concerted effort than before. So how do we do it?

Why?

First, recognizing our teammates is critical for our motivation, engagement, and satisfaction.

I once worked with an individual who was incredible. He wasn’t on my team, but it seemed like he was the go-to person for issues. I think everyone felt that way. He knew how to fix things and get things done. He was great. So it shocked me when he told us he was leaving. When we talked, he told me he just didn’t feel like enough people appreciated how much he did, especially leaders and managers.

If we don’t feel appreciated, especially by our managers, we lose our motivation and feel dissatisfied. And we eventually leave.

According to research, 2/3 to 3/4 of employees will leave if they feel unappreciated. Those are huge numbers, but not surprising. If you think about jobs you’ve left, it probably comes down to being undervalued or underappreciated.

When?

So when should you show some appreciation?

Events - First, be sure that you are marking milestones and events. That includes birthdays, work anniversaries, big projects, etc. This is critical as a leader, and I’d consider it table stakes. If you don’t, it is the absence we will notice.

Ad Hoc - Don’t forget to show some appreciation whenever you are able. I used to keep a folder of pleasant things that people sent or said, including emails or other messages. Those can be very meaningful, so don’t forget to say thanks to those you’re working with or call out excellent work.

How?

With all of that, how do we recognize our employees and colleagues? Here are a few key areas to focus on, whether you are a leader, manager or colleague.

Early and Often - Like I mentioned at the beginning, start early making people feel appreciated. When someone comes onboard, make them feel appreciated for choosing your company. And keep that up. Can you give out swag? Can you make swag for your team?

Make it Easy - Years ago it was much more difficult to tell people you appreciated their work. You only had a few options, like writing a note or emailing. Or pick up the phone and talk. You can still do those things (though calling someone seems crazy), but now you can Slack, or easily order something delivered to their door, or use a tool like Motivosity to say thanks and include a small monetary reward. It’s so easy these days. But it should be. If you don’t have these tools available, get them. Make it easy for your team or employees to say thanks to each other.

Set the Tone - Creating a culture is about what we do. That means setting the right tone through our actions and our words. Leaders should recognize and appreciate employees regularly. But even if you’re not a manager or in an official leadership position, you can still lead on this. Help create a culture of appreciation by actively seeking reasons to recognize the good work of those around you.

One great way is to recognize the expertise of those you work with. Are there things that they are great at? Can you learn from them? Can your entire team learn from them? Set up time to do it. They will feel great about being recognized for their expertise, and everyone will get a chance to learn.

Don’t Cheap Out - You should set up appreciation in various forms. Formal recognition like “team member of the month” is great. Employee of the year is great too.

But put your money where your appreciation is. Everyone is working hard, so reward that splendid work. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but gift cards, boxes of cookies, delightful gifts, can go a long way in showing that you appreciate wonderful work.


We all want to be appreciated. Even if it is just so everyone recognizes our expertise or the effort we’ve put in. As leaders, it’s important we recognize that. As colleagues, we can make work suck a little less for each other by acknowledging that we’re all in it together and we’re making meaningful contributions.


Interesting Reads and Listens

OKRs - Secrets to Success (video) - I made a video based on an article I wrote a little while ago discussing OKRs. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Has the Pandemic Transformed the Office Forever (article) - I have a running twitter thread on remote work and the changes we’re experiencing. This is the latest article in that thread. I still don’t believe we’ll return to where we were before, despite what some CEOs hope for, but need to adapt to a new hybrid style of working.

People Use Jargon to Make Up For Low Standing In A Group (article) - Jargon is a signal, but the lower our standing, the more we use it. The more comfortable we are with a subject or with our standing, the less we need the jargon.

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