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Types of Recognition in the Workplace

As soon as your startup hires its first employee, you need to start thinking about how you are going to show your appreciation to your workforce.

Often, small businesses and startups attract talent who are internally motivated to perform, but even the most passionate and ambitious workers need their effort and achievements to be recognized by their business leaders.

Unseen and unheard, talent will search elsewhere for jobs where they are more likely to feel valued, leaving your startup without the support it needs to grow.

If you are in the process of determining what kind of recognition your workforce needs, you might consider the following options:

Reasons for Recognition

Recognition should always be relevant to an employee’s effort or achievement. Thus, it is imperative that you understand your reasons for supplying recognition before you determine which type of recognition is best. Some common reasons for recognition in the workplace include:


When an employee consistently reaches or exceeds the goals you set for them, you need to show your appreciation for their commitment to the success of your organization.

Additionally, when employees complete projects while effectively meeting the standards set by you, their project leaders, or your clients, they deserve performance-based recognition.


Every workplace should have a recognition program in place to track employee effort and provide timely rewards. Often, effort-based recognition does not come after the completion of a project but in the middle of one, as workers demonstrate their commitment to reaching established goals.


Employment milestones should always be celebrated. Some examples of milestones to recognize in the workplace include:

  • An employees’ first day
  • An employee’s work anniversary
  • Employee birthdays
  • Employee appreciation days


Every organization has values, whether they are expressly stated or not. Employees who internalize company values and use them to guide the way they behave inside and outside the workplace should be recognized and rewarded for their commitment to the business brand.

Values-based recognition can have a significant impact on workforce morale; one study found that 93 percent of employees found more meaning in their work with a values-based recognition program in place.

With these reasons for recognition in mind, you can start considering the best type of recognition to apply to each employee and team situation.

Structured vs. Unstructured Recognition

The structure (or lack thereof) of a recognition program can give employees and business leaders some assistance in understanding when and to what degree praise should be given. A structured recognition program comes in intervals that team members can rely on, and structured praise tends to be scarce and thus carry significant weight.

An example of structured recognition is an Employee of the Month award or a Years of Service award, both of which should come with some significant gift. In contrast, unstructured recognition is provided much more frequently and with much less formality.

Though unstructured recognition can be inexpensive, it is no less critical to the success of an organization. Still, it is possible to supply too much praise, so you need to be intentional with unstructured recognition.

Verbal vs. Written Appreciation

Verbal, or spoken, recognition is praise that is shared out loud, while written appreciation can come in the form of a card, an email, a social media post, and more.

Verbal appreciation is excellent for quick, unstructured praise, but it is equally important for formal speeches in an employee’s honor. In contrast, written appreciation is ideal for recognition that needs staying power, as a worker can return to read the praise again and again.

Public vs. Private Praise

There are advantages and disadvantages to both public and private praise. For example, private praise is less destructive of intrinsic motivation, and it helps provide comforting recognition to shy and introverted employees.

However, public praise allows the team to understand the expectations of business leaders and celebrate accomplishments as a community. Public praise is most often performed in structured ceremonies, but it is possible to provide unstructured public praise at integral times.

You need to get into the habit of recognizing the work your employees put into your business to ensure mutual success. By understanding the reasons driving recognition and the types of recognition you can offer, you can ensure your workforce feels supported and motivated to do their best.


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