Which Is More Important: Macro- or Micro-Recognition Programs?


A lack of appreciation is a big reason why Americans walk away from their jobs.

Researchers at Bersin by Deloitte found that while 75 percent of companies claimed to have recognition programs in place, only 58 percent of employees were aware of them. Companies whose recognition programs effectively boosted engagement with employees saw voluntary turnover rates 31 percent lower than those whose programs were either ineffectual or nonexistent.

Cutting-edge, successful recognition programs are highly effective at improving not only employee engagement, but also performance and retention through a mix of top-down macro-recognition and one-to-one micro-recognition.

As with all things, finding the right approach to a successful recognition program takes time and effort.

Understanding macro- and micro-recognition

Recognition programs in today’s marketplace are often bloated and unwieldy, similar to a large ship — slow to change course and speed. In most incentive systems, infrequent macro-recognition comes from the top down. Such programs are centrally managed and are as much about managing rewards (like earning a blender) as they are about recognizing effort and changing behavior.

Micro-recognition programs, on the other hand, are akin to a fleet of speedboats, quick to shift speed and change direction with little effort. Micro-recognition is as much a peer-to-peer activity as it is top-down, and it can be unique to a project, team, or department, in addition to companywide awards. Because micro-recognition can happen frequently, the impact can be linked more directly to desired behaviors.

Each one of your team members is motivated by different factors and has distinct needs dictating what type of recognition works. When your recognition program allows peer-to-peer praise to be noted publicly with personalized messaging, employees feel more valued.

Why both are integral to communication and culture

Top-down macro-recognition provides important incentives and rewards that build confidence in employees. But it can be made exponentially more powerful when a system that allows for frequent peer-to-peer micro-recognition is integrated into the overall program.

Hard work becomes less about earning more money and more about serving a pure and noble purpose. Moreover, when employees’ efforts are recognized frequently and as close to real time as possible (as with micro-recognition), it more effectively reinforces those behaviors. Best-in-class organizations understand this: The Aberdeen Group found that 60 percent of these organizations believe recognition is a valuable way to drive high performance on an individual level.

How Bonfyre approaches a cohesive macro/micro-recognition strategy

Bonfyre’s recognition tool is mobile-centric and can be customized to support existing initiatives and technology, thus boosting participation and improving the overall impact and ROI of programs. We support macro-recognition through companywide programs like Employee of the Month and integrate those accolades to make them visible to the entire company. By combining this with micro-recognition and giving many people the ability to create awards and recognize behaviors, the app supports a level of flexibility that most employee recognition platforms can’t deliver.

In our own offices, we set up a handful of micro-recognition categories that align with our culture objectives within our Bonfyre community. We chose to set a limit, allowing each employee to award each badge only once a month to make them more special.

Our employees can utilize the awards to acknowledge a peer for certain levels of expertise or accomplishments more frequently. Similar to receiving gold stars in elementary school, these virtual badges can be given to someone for completing training, earning a certificate in a new programming language, or simply doing something thoughtful, like bringing in donuts for the team.

Bonfyre helps us celebrate team-building events, too, like our company chili cook-off. We awarded a badge for the best chili and a badge for the best chili name in our Bonfyre.

As research has shown, interpersonal recognition in the workplace motivates people to perform at higher levels. By creating a positive feedback loop of support and respect through frequent micro-recognition given and received by their peers and managers, employees are more focused and driven to succeed in their roles.