Recognition is a crucial part of HR communications strategy

Millennials, whose numbers have surpassed Baby Boomers in the workforce, have been branded as recognition seekers. They want frequent, personalized acknowledgment for specific projects or tasks they’ve done well.

But the truth is Millennials aren’t the only generation looking for recognition. Eighty percent of employees say they are motivated to work harder and stay at their jobs longer when they receive appreciation for their work, according to a Glassdoor survey.

Recognition satisfies two of our basic human needs: to feel safe and have a sense of acceptance among social groups, which include coworkers. What better way to feel like you belong than to have your peers appreciate you?

Recognition is also a good business strategy. When acknowledgement is done right, it:

· Helps retain top talent

· Encourages employee engagement

· Brings your company values to life

· Unifies your culture

· Drives positive business results

The problem is many organizations don’t do recognition well, leaving employees unengaged. In fact, a report from reveals 79 percent of employees feel undervalued, mainly due to a lack of recognition.

So what can you do to ensure your program speaks to all employees? Take these five communication cues from Millennials who not only care about praise, but also understand how it can be effective:

1. Create tweet-like content

In today’s information-overloaded world, employees don’t have time or energy to read 500-word emails or 15-page guides. Short, simple messages are effective because what employees experience outside the workplace is what they expect inside the workplace. So why not make your recognition content as simple as a tweet?

What makes a great tweet?

· Focus on one topic, task or benefit. Instead of jamming all the details of your program into one email, send several short emails that highlight different aspects of your program.

· Write for the audience. If managers and leaders have a different role than employees, you should personalize messages for each type of role as much as possible.

· Keep your message short and simple. You may not be able to make your message shorter than 140 characters, but you can make it scannable by using bullets, bolding and call outs.

If you can develop recognition communication with these tweet-like qualities, you can better engage employees by making your messages easier to digest.

2. Give recognition a clear purpose

Millennials care about money, of course, but they also seek purpose. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves and feel like they are doing meaningful work. According to a National Chamber Foundation research review, 95 percent of workers say they are motivated to put in more effort when they understand the importance of a particular task within the context of the company’s big-picture goals.

So, how do you make recognition meaningful? Help employees understand the connection between acknowledgment and your company values and goals.

When employees are rewarded because they are exemplifying what your company stands for and hopes to achieve, they will feel like they are making an impact.

3. Encourage dialogue

Because of our digital world, employees — especially Millennials — are used to instant responses. So why not promote immediate recognition?

Set up a social platform for a peer-to-peer recognition program so employees can thank colleagues in real time — after a successful meeting, at the completion of an important milestone, or when someone goes above and beyond to help out.

Here’s how it could work: “Darcy stayed late to help out her colleague, Mario, with an important project. She’s an expert in her field and knew she could help Mario finish the task more efficiently.

Mario was so grateful for Darcy’s help, he gave her a shout out on his company’s social platform: “Darcy, thank you so much for staying late to share your expert advice and help me through a difficult programming task. I would have been here all night without you!”

Mario’s post received hundreds of likes, and other employees shared their stories of how helpful Darcy was to them.”

Recognition dialogue like this brings your values to life, unifies your culture and encourages other employees to follow suit.

4. Help managers support your program

Millennials want their managers to be more than just someone they report to. They want a manager who understands their strengths and weaknesses, knows how to mentor them and recognizes their great work.

An Aberdeen Group study found that only 14 percent of organizations provide managers with the necessary tools for rewards and recognition. This means that while employees are looking for recognition, their managers aren’t equipped to provide it. Some managers may find giving praise too time-consuming while others struggle with knowing when and how to show their appreciation.

To ensure employees get the acknowledgement they crave, train managers to understand their roles, what’s expected of them, what tools they have to recognize employees and what resources are available to improve their skills.

5. Involve employees early on

Millennials are outspoken and will tell you exactly what they want out of a recognition program if you just take the time to listen. Start by sending a survey to get a pulse on how your program is doing. Do employees know about your program? Do they understand how it works? Do they use it? These results can help you better understand employee knowledge and preferences.

You can dig deeper on those results by facilitating focus groups. Learn why employees do and don’t participate in recognition, what’s working well and what ideas they have for improvement. You can even have the group brainstorm solutions like how to simplify the process.

The more information you have the better you can build a program employees will enjoy.


Originally posted on

Join our community and access our resources.