Is your staff recognition working? Almost half of your employees don’t think so! 

by | Sep 11, 2023

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By Joanna Morley, European Finance Director from O.C. Tanner 

Saying “thank you” to your employees in an authentic and personal way is more powerful than you may think. It’s proven to improve engagement, build loyalty, reduce staff turnover and inspire innovation. After all, everyone wants to feel valued and recognised for the efforts they put in and the results they deliver. On the surface, the financial services industry is ahead of other sectors when it comes to appreciating and recognising their people. However, it appears that in many instances, the recognition is only skin deep. So, what’s going wrong? 

Giving recognition is hugely impactful, with O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report finding that 53 per cent of employees would stay at their jobs longer if their employers showed them more appreciation. Companies with recognition integrated into their cultures are also four times’ more likely to have highly engaged employees and are twice as likely to have increased revenue over the past year.  


When looking at recognition within the financial services industry, the figures are encouraging. 81 per cent of financial services employees’ state that their leaders acknowledge the great work they do and 77 per cent say that their organisation consistently rewards high performers. However, when the figures are drilled into further, almost half of employees (45 per cent) admit that the recognition they receive feels like an empty gesture and isn’t meaningful. The same number feel that productivity and bottom lines are more important to their organisation than the people.   

The issue appears to lie with how recognition is being given. In too many instances, recognition is taking place but it’s poorly executed. For instance, giving recognition to teams far more often than individuals isn’t as powerful; giving recognition in passing rather than with intent feels like an afterthought; and making the recognition moment generic rather than personalised loses the meaning. 

For employees to feel valued and appreciated on a regular basis, recognition must become an organisational priority. If it’s not considered important enough by the leaders, little time and effort will be put into getting it right. This means creating a culture of recognition in which giving praise becomes second nature. It also means encouraging everyone to give recognition, including leaders, managers and peers. 


Plus, recognition must be given deliberately rather than a quick “thanks for that!”. This must include putting time aside to praise the employee, giving details as to what they have done that deserves recognition and outlining how they are contributing to the ‘bigger picture’. This makes the appreciation personal and meaningful.  

Praise must also be given regularly and in a timely way – ideally, it should be given daily across the organisation. Leaving praise to the annual review will allow disengagement and resentment to fester.  

 And tailoring the recognition moment according to each individual’s needs will also ensure it’s personalised. If the employee likes a big ‘fanfare’ then giving recognition in front of managers and peers helps to make the moment more special. This show of appreciation also means that co-workers are clear what ‘great work’ looks like and what they, too, need to do to be recognised. Of course, if the employee would be uncomfortable with such a public show, providing appreciation in a quieter, more private way may well be more appropriate.  


 For any recognition programme to have impactful results, it’s key for employees to understand how their behaviour links with the company’s values. This means that every time an employee is appreciated, it needs to be made clear how their behaviour is in line with the organisational values, whether it’s excellent customer service or innovation, for example. This recognition-values link ensures the ‘right’ behaviours’ are praised and are more likely to be repeated again and again.  

 And of course, organisations mustn’t forget to recognise key moments in employees’ lives and careers as well as their everyday efforts and achievements. From work anniversaries through to weddings, celebrating important occasions – ideally using symbolic awards – will heighten engagement and foster closer ties between the employee and the company.  

 It’s therefore crucial to look below the top-level recognition facts and figures at the story below. Is your recognition strategy making employees’ feel valued and giving them a sense of belonging, or are managers simply going through the motions of recognition with little thought and effort? With so much to be gained from an effective recognition programme, perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at how you appreciate your people! 


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