Spread the Love: Encourage Peer Recognition in the Workplace


For a company, peer recognition in the workplace can be an effective way to both encourage behaviors that shape culture and to identify people who are higher performers or who have greater influence across the organization. At an individual level, feeling valued or that our contributions matter is a basic, human emotional need and is especially important at work.

Employees who feel valued at the office are more open to collaboration and more likely to stick around and work harder, increasing the productivity of the entire team. Given these benefits, it’s no wonder roughly 80 percent of organizations report having an employee recognition program, but less than half of them have a peer-to-peer recognition component.

In today’s work environment, employees are more likely to work directly with their peers than with managers. So, if a company’s recognition program operates solely from the top down, opportunities to celebrate and recognize the best behaviors could be lost simply because the right person is not in the room.

Positive Peer Pressure

Empowering employees to recognize one another allows for more frequent, informal — and we would argue more valuable — positive feedback. Peer-to-peer recognition strengthens the bonds between individuals and cultivates team relatedness, which are key elements of strong human relationships and an engaged, highly productive workforce.

The most successful recognition programs incorporate the following aspects:

1. They recognize what’s important to both the company and its employees. Giving everyone the ability to give and receive recognition is critical, but it’s often overlooked. These programs should be inclusive and customized to each company so departments, teams, and individuals can create behaviors to champion, as well as their own categories to recognize. Incorporating both company-wide macro-recognition and micro-recognition allows for a more cohesive and effective approach.

2. They are easy to access. Almost half of the U.S. workforce works from home at least part of the time, and many more work in small, remote offices. A digital recognition program that is easily accessible from a mobile device and a website is more inclusive of both the remote and traditional employee.

3. They are simple to use. Recognition programs that are delivered through an experience that is intuitive and easy to use — for both the administrator and the employee — increases the participation and improves the results. Having complex submission or approval processes decreases participation and employee buy-in because they reduce recognition to a nomination. Simplicity of use and a transparent process are key.

4. They incorporate gaming elements but don’t rely on incentives. Recognition initiatives can be gamified to encourage engagement and make it a little more fun. If shaping culture and promoting desired behaviors are the goals, creating leaderboards (virtual or real) or adding a points system can be a great way to keep people engaged on a more frequent basis.

Don’t make it all about prizes and money, though. Too often, recognition is tied into incentive programs that encourage people to participate for a material or financial reward. This can make the program more about going through the motions for personal gain than about the recognition itself.

5. They enable frequent, real-time peer recognition. Recognition that is almost immediately tied to a desired behavior or action will have a greater impact. To be truly effective, recognition must be received early and often — not just during a quarterly or year-end review. When both managers and peers are able to recognize individual efforts in a meaningful, transparent way every day, team members can clearly see what kinds of efforts are being praised. This helps reinforce those behaviors and provides motivation for employees to continue making a positive impact.

The social aspect of real-time, virtual recognition also holds deep appeal for millennials, who already spend a great deal of time on social media platforms and tend to prefer these methods of communication.

The value of peer-to-peer recognition extends well beyond the fun of giving each other high-fives in cyberspace for a job well done. Employees who recognize one another’s accomplishments feel more appreciated, valued, and integral to the team. Consequently, they’ll come to work feeling excited and eager to work together, thus promoting behaviors that shape a culture of collaboration from within.