Giving Recognition: What’s in it for me?


Like many who are involved in the employee engagement industry, I am often suffering from EIO, engagement information overload. It is not unusual for breakfast to be preceded by a quick read of the days catchiest engagement blogs. I am a sucker for a headline like “Millennials want to be trusted more than their parents” better still “How to harness the activist in every employee”. Before you know it I am out on my feet, struck down, enough, enough.

For some, the day’s engagement headlines are optional, for me they are not. My responsibility as Product Director at Workstars, one of the leading global recognition app’s, means I cannot avoid it. Within the stream of information lerk the opportunities to innovate, and it would seem true that today’s employees are looking for progress and change in the workplace.

They are seeking a culture of openness, where employees have a voice, and the great thing is businesses are listening. But frequently the focus is completely on what employers need to do to make this happen. It is very easy for employees to assert their desire for a new type of workplace. Simply complete a survey, or anonymously express feelings or emotions via a daily pulse, and you are done. But do employees realise that as their manager and employers begin to step backwards a little, and provide employees with space and opportunity to mould their own workplace. Employees have a responsibility to step forward and actively participate. That is part of the deal.

There’s nowhere that this is more apparent than in employee recognition. Recognition used to be top down; it was something employees ‘had done’ to them. But it didn’t work. Today’s social and peer to peer approaches are delivering significant benefits, not least in helping businesses adapt their culture to be far more employee focussed. However, to achieve that requires employee participation, the emphasis has changed.

The average social recognition programme achieves 65% high adoption, meaning employees take to it like a duck to water, no training, communication or constant nagging. That makes social recognition, where employees give recognition to each other without manager or company intervention, extremely popular. However, it does leave 35% of employees who sit in the occasional or never camp. That is large part of the population who just don’t get the same kick out of giving recognition, or just do not want to get involved? This group often includes managers, not just employees, and strangely many see recognition as something they still expect to receive. A topic for another day.

There are some compelling reasons for giving recognition, none of which are financial. These benefits have often been understated but are key to employees understanding that they have a responsibility to both influence and improve their workplace, and their own well-being when given the opportunity. If you have employees asking “Giving recognition, what’s in it for me?”, here are some 7 answers you will love.

1. “Giving recognition can help with your own career advancement”

Research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School’s Professor Adam Grant has revealed if you’re known for being supportive of others it can create a path to success for you. You’ll become known as someone who values others. You’ll be regarded as someone who notices and supports other people’s efforts.

An ability to interact with others is regarded as a significant driver of success. If you’re a collaborator it places you in a good position to advance your own career.

Coming across as a supportive individual, a participator and a team player will work to your advantage.”

2. “Giving recognition lets you demonstrate your future management and leadership potential”

Do you see yourself as being a manager, or even a business leader, of the future? Managers have changed. The skills that you need to display include all the ‘softer skills’. So can you demonstrate them? What kind of character traits would others describe you as having?

Professor Grant’s book ‘Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success’ explains if you’re someone who goes to the effort of recognising others you’ve immediate evidence to show that you’re tuned into what others do. Make no mistake; altruism and an ability to give rather than constantly take are major management strengths.”

3. “Giving recognition gives you more say in what’s going on at the company”

“Have you ever wanted more involvement in how the company is run? Have you ever wondered what is the best way to be heard?

As the CIPD report ‘Harnessing the power of employee communicationexplains, employees need opportunities to communicate. Every employee benefits from being heard and being able to have their say. Recognition programmes provide you with a voice – particularly if you’re the one doing the giving. It lets you have ongoing conversations that can be top down, peer to peer and upwards.”

4. “Giving recognition can make your working relationships more rewarding and collaborative”

Deeper and more profound relationships with your colleagues makes your work environment far more rewarding. And one way to develop those relationships is by being giving in general. When we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them.

According to professor of psychology at the University of California Sonja Lyubomirsky and as discussed in her book ‘The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want’,being a giver encourages you to perceive others in a more positive light. It’s a powerful way to increase a sense of collaboration and cooperation and to feel more closely connected to one other.”

5. “Giving recognition increases your levels of happiness”

There have been several major psychological studies, such as this one conducted by Harvard Business School’s Norten at al (2009), and they’ve concluded the same thing; the act of giving is linked to happiness and happiness is linked to the act of giving.

The study discovered that people were happier giving others money than they were spending it on themselves – even when the people in the study didn’t think that wouldn’t be the case. So even if you’re not convinced that giving recognition will make you happier, you could be surprised by how it makes you feel.”

6. “Giving recognition can benefit your health and wellbeing”

Giving can help your health. This article from the University of California highlights research that includes the positive impact of giving to others and the association with stress and mortality.

There’s increasing amounts of evidence that positive social interactions like giving are key to both mental and physical health. Why? Because giving activates regions of your brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. You release endorphins, which creates a sense of pleasure.”

7. “Giving recognition inspires a culture of generosity which you’ll benefit from”

“Research into altruism and reciprocity also conducted at the University of California shows that if you give to others your generosity could well be rewarded down the line. By the person you gave to but also by others because seeing generous behaviour inspires others to do the same.

Appreciating others can make you feel better about yourself, and these positive exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens your ties to others and theirs to you. The human instinct for reciprocity can run very deep.”

Do you have more to add? I would like to hear from anyone who believes, like me, that the act of giving is undervalued in the workplace.


Andrew Greenwood

Andrew Greenwood is the director of sales & service at Workstars. He has worked for over 15 years in the recognition and incentive industry, across multiple UK agencies.