5 Keys to Meaningful Employee Recognition

Kathy Archer
4 min readFeb 24, 2023

Staff recognition and appreciation are important. How important?

Well, let’s say essential.

When staff recognition hits the mark (according to Gallup), employees are 73% less likely to “always” or “very often” feel burned out.

  • Given burnout is an issue in the nonprofit sector, this is something to consider.

When staff recognition hits the mark (again, according to Gallup), employees are 56% less likely to be looking or watching for job opportunities.

  • Again, given we struggle to keep good staff, it is probably a good idea to do what we can to keep them around.

For employee recognition to be effective, it has to land. In the stats above, Gallup said: When it hits the mark…
Sometimes, what we think of as good recognition, isn’t landing in the way we intend it to.

Let me ask you…

  • Have you ever felt that someone else got the recognition that you deserved and your contribution was overlooked?
  • Have you ever perceived that what you received as recognition did not match the achievement? (either over or under)
  • Have you ever had to wait so long for recognition that your reaction was more about “finally” rather than feeling recognized?
  • Have you ever been recognized with something that didn’t have meaning for you or seemed to be something that indicated the person really didn’t know you?

I’m guessing you said yes to at least one of those, so you know what it feels like when recognition doesn’t land. It doesn’t feel so great.

So, how do you make your employee recognition stick? Let’s look at 5 considerations that will help!

5 things that can make employee recognition land and feel good to the employee:

Timeliness: Recognize the employee after their achievement or contribution as soon as possible so they feel their efforts are valued and appreciated.

Hey Sarah, thanks for staying late and helping clean up. It’s been a long day for all of us, and I appreciate the extra help!

Specificity: Be clear about the specific behaviour, action, or contribution you recognize the employee for, so they understand what they did well and can continue to do so in the future.

The way you handled that guardian was impressive, Lindsey. They were argumentative, and I noticed you kept your body posture open. You remained curious and asked lots of questions when it would have been easy to get defensive. As a result, I watched the situation settle down. It was impressive to see you apply the skills you learned in your conflict resolution course.

Sincerity: Be genuine in your recognition and communicate your appreciation in a way that feels authentic and heartfelt.

There is no example here, but genuineness isn’t what you say. It’s how you say it. It’s a feeling, and you have to feel it before they will feel it!

Personalization: Tailor the recognition of the individual’s preferences and needs to feel personalized and relevant to them.

I so appreciate everyone’s contribution to the move of offices. It was a lot of work. So I wanted to give everyone a small token of thanks!
Sasha — Get yourself your favourite drink at Starbucks (gift certificate)
Beca — I know you are looking for the right thing to put on your office wall. I hope this will help you find that (Gift certificate to Homesense)
Ben — I know you used a lot of sticky notes labelling stuff getting moved. Make sure to head to Staples to grab some of your favourite coloured ones.

Follow-up: Follow up with the employee to reinforce the behaviour or contribution that was recognized and encourage continued success. You won’t know if it landed if you don’t ask.

Hey Saba, you put extra effort into that preparing for the review. I know I acknowledged that at the staff meeting. I’m curious, though, what’s your preferred way to be recognized? Do you like it in public, or would you rather I mention it privately?

When staff recognition lands, it sticks. That stickiness makes it linger, feel good and keeps people engaged, around and more vibrant. I want to make sure you learn how to do that! So this month, I’ll release a new course in The Training Library called Staff Recognition That Sticks.

In Staff Recognition That Sticks, I’ll walk you through the employee recognition and engagement connection. It’s essential to understand how vital frequent and genuine recognition impacts your employees’ engagement.

You will also learn how to give timely, specific, sincere, personalized, effective, and sticky recognition and achievement. Finally, you’ll discover how to create a culture of recognition where it becomes second nature for everyone to acknowledge and recognize each other.

Originally published at https://www.kathyarcher.com.



Kathy Archer

Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Dog Mom to Max