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How to Give Employees Praise and Recognition

February 28, 2021
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Employee recognition might not seem like a top priority compared to other aspects of the employee experience, such as compensation or performance reviews. But the truth is that showing appreciation for your employees and colleagues is one of the best ways to improve retention, engage your workforce, and ultimately save money.

But don’t just take our word for it – there’s plenty of data to back up the value of employee recognition programs. 

As David Novak, former CEO and Chairman of Yum! Brands, points out in his article on improving morale, “Recognition isn’t just about implementing employee programs to check them off a list; it’s about bringing out the best in people and improving your company’s bottom line.”

Given the impact recognition programs have on employee motivation and loyalty, it’s clear that giving praise is something that should be embedded into every organization’s HR strategy.

What Praise Looks Like

Recognizing employees means acknowledging and appreciating their efforts in the workplace, both professionally and personally. Part of this process is understanding how individuals prefer to receive praise from their managers and peers.

The Harvard Business Review article, “Praise Someone the Way They Want to be Praised,” asserts that while some employees enjoy public recognition for good work, others are more appreciative of knowing that a customer provided positive feedback, and others still are more satisfied by a technical or professional award. Simply asking employees how they like to be recognized is a great way to make your formal recognition procedures feel more meaningful and personalized.


Praise is most impactful when it’s shown through action. If an employee does well on a project, go beyond giving them a company-wide shoutout. Consider assigning them as lead on their next project, or even having them train or mentor a new employee.

Recognition doesn’t have to be complicated. It should be simple: show appreciation for excellent work, and be genuine.

Who can give praise?

Praise shouldn’t flow only from manager to employee. Peer-to-peer praise is also imperative to building a company culture of recognition. In fact, a recent study shows that peer-to-peer recognition is 36% more likely to yield financial employee recognition benefits than manager-only recognition. Feedback from peers can also feel more organic than praise delivered through a performance review with your manager, and reviews that incorporate peer feedback are twice as likely to be perceived as accurate.

The positive statistics around peer feedback show that employee recognition is not a function that should be relegated solely to HR leaders or managers. Organizations need to go beyond the top-down approach to recognition and empower employees to show appreciation directly to their colleagues

How to Give Praise

Companies that invest in a culture of recognition want to show that they value a positive work environment and the employee satisfaction that comes with it. Fostering this environment means ensuring that praise is shared thoughtfully and appropriately. Here are some good examples of how (and why) to show employee appreciation:

1. Recognize excellence. 

When a great employee does an exceptional job and the company benefits overall, recognition brings attention to the work that person has done to help achieve company goals. In turn, this further incentivizes both seasoned and new employees to invest in the company’s success.

Sample script: “Your presentation at the staff meeting really opened my eyes to how your team’s project ties into the company goals at large. I found it both informative and motivating — great work!”

2. Acknowledge under-the-radar efforts.

Everyone does work that may go unnoticed despite benefitting the entire team or organization. Whether it’s an assistant’s prowess in last-minute rescheduling or an IT manager’s expertise in automating processes, recognizing small contributions helps shine a light on the “invisible” work that makes everyone’s lives just a little bit easier.

Sample Script: “Your dedication to making our user authentication procedures more efficient has had a huge positive impact on our work environment, and I just want you to know that I appreciate your hard work and proactiveness.”

3. Strengthen team bonds

When a coworker is recognized for going the extra mile to help out a colleague, it builds a company culture in which collaboration is appreciated and encouraged as a core value.

Sample script: “Thank you for going the extra mile by acting as a sounding board for me while I prepared my client proposal! It really made a difference in the end product. I’m happy we're coworkers!”

Giving Public Praise

You might be wondering about the “when” and “where” of giving feedback. Public recognition during a company meeting might not be the right approach for every employee, and private recognition might not always feel adequate enough for major accomplishments.

One way to discreetly show employee appreciation is by utilizing communication technology – such as email or an internal messaging service like Slack – as a tool for sharing praise. Other more public methods of recognition could be featuring an employee on your social media or highlighting them on your company website. If you’re really invested in prioritizing employee recognition, you could use a performance management system like Lattice that has a built-in Praise feature available to all levels of employees.



A rich recognition culture can be a powerful asset for companies looking to engage and grow with their employees. When expressing gratitude is part of an organization’s core values, the impact on employee morale, loyalty, and passion is tangible. Show your employees that you appreciate and care about them, and they’ll feel empowered to strive for success.