You know recognition is vital for keeping your team engaged and motivated at work - there’s nothing more powerful than a thank you. But many recognition strategies rely on people being physically present in the office: throwing pizza parties, offering a shoutout in the weekly meeting, putting a name up on the wall as employee of the month. And in a world where some, or many, employees are remote, it’s easy to forget about or skip regular recognition.
But you shouldn’t make that common mistake - and here’s why.
Why You Need to Recognize
Recognition can seem like such a small, insignificant part of an employee’s daily life at work. This is the attitude of a whole lot of senior leaders - only 34% of them think that regular recognition would improve morale on their teams. But 70% of employees say otherwise - they say motivation and morale would increase with more recognition.
Recognition is a basic need we all have as humans. Feeling seen and appreciated for our work makes us feel motivated to perform well and engaged in our daily tasks. If we feel overlooked or ignored, the incentive to try our best every day starts to slip away.
Businesses, from big corporations to small start-ups, have come around to see the need for recognition in the last few years (all the research that’s been coming out strongly in favor of doing more has been hard to ignore!). But there’s still a pretty big gap between how much employees would like to be thanked, and how often they’re actually being thanked: 40% still don’t see employee recognition as a priority in their organization.
You really can’t afford to keep ignoring it - turnover is higher among employees who don’t feel recognized. In fact, 66% of employees said they’re likely to leave their jobs if they don’t feel appreciated. That’s a whole bunch of valuable talent walking out the door, not to mention the added costs of recruiting, hiring, and training their replacements.
Adding flexible work options for employees is one way businesses are moving to increase employee satisfaction and engagement. And that’s great! 54% of employees value flexible work options, like working remotely all or part of the time, so highly that they would change jobs if another employer offered them more flexibility.
But going to a more remote-friendly workplace also brings challenges. When employees aren’t all in one place together, day in and day out, it’s tougher to build bonds and have spontaneous moments of peer-to-peer recognition. It also requires more effort for managers and senior leaders to recognize employees in the moment - they can’t just swing by the cubicle and offer a few words of genuine gratitude on their way to a meeting. There’s no picking up donuts in the morning for the whole team to celebrate a recent win.
That means recognition needs to be more intentional - and employees might need you to replace those celebratory donuts with something else (very doable, but a small loss for the donut lovers on the team!).
Why Recognition is Even More Important for Remote Workers
Recognition can be even more important to remote workers than to your regularly in-office employees. Toiling alone at home without the regular visibility of working in the office means it’s easier to feel overlooked by bosses or senior leaders - or even peers. Remote employees may worry their contributions are going unnoticed just because they’re not getting the facetime that workers with more traditional working arrangements take for granted.
The main thing remote workers feel they’re lacking is strong communication - with their colleagues and with management. If your team is structured around more traditional methods of communication - the over-the-cubicle question, the in-person meetings, and the after-work happy hour - remote workers can easily feel left out of the loop.
In times like the current coronavirus pandemic, where most workers are working from home and also subject to plenty of external stress and uncertainty, that lack of communication can feel even more isolating. Communication channels like Slack and Teams can help bridge the gap a bit by making that informal chat easier - now you can share cat memes across the state instead of across the office! - but adoption can lag, or can feel like just another task to take on.
The good news? Communicating more with remote workers makes a big impact. Remote employees are three times more likely to be engaged if they get feedback from their managers at least a few times a month, according to Gallup. This feedback should definitely include recognition, so your direct reports know you see and appreciate the great work they do even when they’re not in the same space as you.
How to Effectively Recognize Remote Workers
Recognizing remote workers is much easier these days than in the past - but it still takes intention and effort. You should develop a plan for incentivizing the three key types of recognition: from leaders, from managers, and from peers (peer-to-peer recognition is under-rated but highly valuable!).
For leaders at the executive level, recognition doesn’t need to be time-consuming or elaborate to be effective. Just taking the time to drop a quick email thanks or send a message in the team Slack channel is very memorable for employees - if you’ve ever had the pleasure of getting that “Great work! Thanks!” email from someone so far up the food chain you didn’t know that they knew you existed, you know you never forget it.
For managers, recognizing direct reports can come in 1:1 meetings and regular feedback conversations, which are even more important with remote employees than in-office ones. But it’s also vital to not overlook more public forms of recognition as well. You can send out an email to the team - or to the whole company - detailing your employee’s recent accomplishments and how they contributed in a big way to the success or culture of the business. Giving small awards, like gift cards, can be an effective way of replacing those team donut celebrations or pizza parties with a similarly thoughtful token of appreciation.
And for the underdog - peer-to-peer recognition - technology is a huge help when it comes to remote workers. More and more recognition platforms are coming online, and getting one that integrates into your existing system, like Teams and Slack, ensure that people can give their peers a proper shout-out when they’ve done well. (That’s exactly what HiThrive does!)
Remote Employee Recognition Ideas
So now you know why you need to recognize your remote employees - but what are a few concrete ways you can make them feel appreciated? We’ve got you covered.
Write a hand-written note.
Yep - sometimes the old-fashioned method is great. Take a few minutes to write out why you’re grateful for the employee’s contributions and the impact it had on the company or team, snap a picture, and send it in an email. And just like that, the good feeling grows!
Have a happy-hour Zoom.
If part of your office culture is going out for a post-work drink to celebrate a promotion or a successful project, don’t just leave the remote employees out. We’re all much more accustomed to virtual happy hours these days, so schedule one for the next event and sip and celebrate together.
Create team recognition time.
Have a weekly meeting where everyone on the team gathers? Dedicate the first, or last, five minutes to a pop-up recognition round where peers and managers can give a shout-out to someone who did a great job that week.
Send the celebration home.
For really big achievements, your remote workers don’t need to go unrewarded. Send a gift basket or nice houseplant, or some other thoughtful and appropriate gift, right to their home to say thanks for accomplishing something huge.
Celebrating Remote Workers
When employees are working remotely, it can start to feel like they’re out of sight and out of mind. When you take into account our natural need to feel like we’re making a real contribution to our team and the business we work for, this can be discouraging and disengaging.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy world of day-to-day work and forget to send over a quick Slack message of thanks when you’re not seeing someone face-to-face every day. But that’s why recognizing and appreciating remote employees is even more important. Take a few purposeful minutes to spread the gratitude, and watch your team’s engagement and satisfaction levels rise!
If you're looking for a remote-friendly and deeply integrated recognition solution that works with the tools your business is already using every day, then check out HiThrive.