With remote and hybrid work environments becoming the new norm, businesses may be feeling the struggle to keep employees connected and motivated with traditional approaches to employee recognition.

Factor in the changing demographics of the workforce as more Millennials and Gen Z make up a greater proportion of today’s employees, and it becomes clear that companies will need to get creative when it comes to creating employee recognition strategies that work.

More than ever, work/life balance, company culture and corporate purpose are driving motivation, engagement, and job satisfaction. Yes, pay still matters, but money alone can’t buy happiness at work.

Ultimately, if our goal is to incentivize employees to achieve excellence, recognition by itself will have little power if it isn’t accompanied by a deeper, intrinsic motivation.

Let’s take a look at some opportunities for businesses to shape employee recognition strategies in a new way:

1.     Reward Employees for Living Company Values

A good workplace depends on a solid company culture guided by fundamental values. If you’re doing it right, everyone on your team will know exactly what those values are because they are part of every interaction and decision your business makes.

Rather than focusing on traditional measurements of success alone, why not regularly recognize employees who have lived your core company values, especially when it meant making difficult decisions.

2.     Let Them Tell You What Matters

Just as every employee is unique, an employee recognition strategy shouldn’t be ‘one-size-fits-all’. Let employees tell you what matters to them by providing opportunities to participate in the design of your recognition and reward strategies.

Emphasizing flexibility and personal agency means you won’t waste your time giving out rewards your employees don’t truly value.

3.     Invest in Their Career

Opportunities for professional development, career growth and personal exploration are often far more powerful than praise or financial incentives.

Build deeper and more authentic recognition strategies by working with your employees to identify their personal and professional goals and then offer support to help them get there.

4.     Make Rewards a Team Effort

The tricky thing about recognition is that it may have the unintended consequence of undermining teamwork. For every person who ‘wins’ a reward, someone else may have a feeling of having ‘lost’.

Focus on recognition strategies that reward teams or encourage peer-to-peer recognition. Ensure your recognition strategies are rooted in the fundamentals of teamwork and collaboration rather than individual competition.

5.     Recognize Success and Failure

Yes, this sounds counter-intuitive, but why not recognize employees pursuing innovation or new ways of tackling complex issues, even if the effort wasn’t a success?

Recognizing both success and failure can help create a culture of innovation, accountability, and transparency – and that’s good for everyone.

Just as the nature of work is constantly changing, employee recognition strategies must also evolve to meet the changing needs and priorities of today’s workforce.

If companies can think outside the box, creative employee recognition strategies will continue to be an essential component of creating great workplaces.

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