Reward and recognition go hand-in -hand, yet are two different components. Recognition is often viewed as the cause, and reward as the effect. Employee reward and employee recognition both have important roles to play in engaging and motivating staff so it’s no surprise that many HR professionals have taken to discussing ‘reward and recognition programmes’ as a single concept (ourselves included). In fact, they are different things. As well known author Michael Rose pointed out at Xexec’s own breakfast discussion on this very topic “reward is essentially pay; recognition is a gift”. So what does that mean in practice? And does the distinction matter?
Reward and recognition is the activity employers engage in to acknowledge exceptional performance and encourage specific values or behaviours within their organisation. By formalising this activity into reward and recognition programmes, employers can make it easier for HR teams, managers and colleagues to recognise the work of their colleagues, fostering better engagement and implementing positive change in the process.
Recognition is the identification of something as having been previously seen, heard or known.
There is a plethora of meanings which one can attach to the concept of recognition, often based on experience, understanding and an innate state of being. Recognition is one of the fundamental human qualities which we all need to thrive, both personally and professionally. According to the Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, “recognition can help form, or even determine, our sense of who we are and the value accorded to us as individuals. Evidently the various ways we are recognised (and recognise others) play an important role in shaping our quality of life.” So too, in the workplace.
Employee recognition is the activity organisations engage in to acknowledge exceptional performance and encourage specific values or behaviours. The workspace is a melting pot of cultures, values, demographics and deep-rooted influences. Recognising your employees and larger teams is one valuable technique in ensuring employee coherence, engagement and spirit. When one employee feels acknowledged, recognised and rewarded accordingly, the positive ripple effects of this action has the domino effect. However, the flip side is true too, if employees are disgruntled, disengaged and feel invisible, the waves of this negative influence can knock the corporate culture and productivity levels.
So, what does employee recognition really mean?
First and foremost, being recognised is the effect of being visible to your employer. If a specific task is met ahead of a big deadline, an exceptional job has taken place or even a token to thank a team, and action to acknowledge this has taken, then recognition is present. Far too often, employees feel overworked and underpaid as well as are switched on 24/7 in the digital age we find ourselves in. When living in the fast lane, with a foot flat on the accelerator, it’s possible to forget to stop and acknowledge the long hours, hard work and dedication of one’s teams. So, recognition = visibility.
2. Aligned values
When an employee acts in a certain manner, or performs in line with the organisation’s corporate values, then the corporate values are instilled deeply within and there’s a congruence between employer / employee. When purpose and values are translated into behaviour, then the employee has internalised what the company stands for, and the employer needs to recognise and acknowledge the partnership. Value-based recognition means that when someone displays behaviours in line with the values of the business, they are then recognised.
When one feels recognised, they feel valued. It shows that time has been taken to truly stop and admire a person or an action. A survey from the American Psychological Association found that feeling valued at work was linked to better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation. This sense of value can often lighten what feels like a heavy load, or can inspire employees to keep thriving and innovating. It's often the push forward which acts as a propeller, moving employees from A-Z, not just A-B.
The concept of reward has evolved and continues to evolve. Previously, an employee reward was synonymous with pay, however now it incorporates much more than solely salary, or extra cash. Today employee reward can incorporate everything from salary and bonus to a huge range of benefits including everything from employee discount schemes and concierge services to pension schemes, private healthcare and company cars.
Not only does the concept of employee reward cover financial elements, companies are now including many non-financial rewards to show their recognition, such as flexible working hours, online learning opportunities or fun days out of the office. These non-financial rewards often can be more meaningful and beneficial than financial rewards, as they offer a lot more flexibility and encourage a work-life balance. Financial rewards can be swallowed up by taxes at month end, so a focus on a holistic reward package is key when creating an employee reward and recognition strategy and programme.
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