team recognition

Team recognition: 10 tips for HR people

When asked what is most important to employees, you may think ‘a high salary’ or ‘good benefits’. However, employee recognition matters greatly in terms of job satisfaction and motivation. In fact, 37 percent of employees say it is the most important factor in their decision to stay with a company.

Team recognition is the practice of acknowledging and appreciating your team as a whole for their work or accomplishments. It is a great way to motivate and encourage your team, and can have a big impact on team morale.

In this article, we will explore 10 tips for HR people on how to effectively recognize teams:

  1. Recognize everyone on the team
  2. Give individual feedback
  3. Celebrate team successes
  4. Acknowledge everyone’s contribution
  5. Make it personal
  6. Use different forms of recognition
  7. Timing is everything
  8. Make it public
  9. Make it frequent
  10. Keep it fresh

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

1. Recognize everyone on the team

It’s easy to agree that team recognition is a positive habit; however, some companies aren’t convinced that it actually makes a worthwhile difference. Why put in the extra effort if your time could be spent on other things?

The answer is, team recognition matters — and the research is there to back this up. In fact, employees who grow accustomed to receiving regular recognition are almost three times more engaged than those who do not.

That’s why it’s so important to recognize everyone on the team, not just the high-performing members. Everyone wants to feel appreciated for their efforts, and including everyone in your recognition efforts will help to build team camaraderie.

two people happily talking to each other

Implementing this tip

As you’ll see in the upcoming tips, there are plenty of different ways to show your team appreciation. But, if you’re just getting started, a good place to start is by simply thanking everyone for their contributions as they arise. Get into the habit of thanking people for little things, like submitting work on time or going above and beyond on a project.

2. Give individual feedback

Only 28 percent of employees receive regular feedback, which is a shame; there’s so much to be gained from effective feedback practices. Feedback is one of the most powerful tools managers have to encourage employees and help them improve their work.

When it comes to team recognition, it’s especially important to give individual feedback as well as group recognition. This helps ensure that everyone on the team feels appreciated and knows what they need to do to improve their work.

Note that the vast majority of employees also prefer to receive feedback in the moment, rather than waiting for an end-of-month or year review. Regularly affirming your team’s good work will help them feel appreciated and motivated to keep up the good work.

Implementing this tip

To give individual feedback, you may find it most effective to speak with or message individuals privately as need arises. For instance, if one of your team members does a particularly good job on a project, take a minute to tell them how much you appreciate their work at the end of the day.

You might also consider having weekly or monthly check-ins with team members to give them feedback on their work. This will help you stay on top of any issues or areas where they could use improvement, too.

3. Celebrate team successes

Celebrations are one of the biggest morale boosters there is. When a team achieves something, it’s only right that they be rewarded and recognized for their efforts. This could be anything from a simple pat on the back to taking the team out for dinner or drinks.

It’s important that these celebrations are meaningful, though. Simply throwing a party because it’s been a while since the last one will not have the desired effect. The team needs to feel that their hard work has been appreciated, and that they are worth the investment.

employees taking a group photo for team recognition

Implementing this tip

Celebrations don’t need to be extravagant — it’s more about the sentiment, after all. But it’s important to make sure that everyone on the team knows about and participates in the celebration. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Send out a team-wide email congratulating them on their success.
  • Have a plaque or trophy made to commemorate the achievement.
  • Throw a party or corporate event, complete with cake and champagne.
  • Take the team out for dinner or drinks.

4. Acknowledge everyone’s contribution

Just as you should provide individual feedback, you should also make individual efforts known to the broader group. Is there someone who took great initiative this week? Was there a collective effort that resulted in a successful outcome? Acknowledge it. This helps everyone feel appreciated and part of the team.

Individuals should be recognized for their accomplishments, big and small. But collaborative team efforts should also be recognized. Credit needs to be given where credit is due, and this goes a long way in building a cohesive team.

Implementing this tip

You don’t need a soap box to stand on to recognize your team members. A simple “thank you” can go a long way. If you want to go the extra mile, consider publicly recognizing team accomplishments in a company-wide email or newsletter.

5. Make it personal

Imagine you receive a birthday card from a friend or family member. You open the card, but rather than seeing a personalized message, the person has simply signed their name above the generic printed message. You would likely feel a bit let down, right?

The same goes for team recognition. Blanket thanks and superficial statements aren’t going to make your team feel appreciated; if anything, they’ll feel like you don’t know them well enough to give specific, individualized feedback.

Instead, take the time to think about exactly what your team has done for the business. What have they contributed? What are their main strengths? What makes them special? Once you have a good understanding of these things, you can personalize your recognition to make sure it hits home.

Implementing this tip

If you currently aren’t familiar enough with your team to personalize recognition, take some time to get to know them better. Have team meetings where you ask people about their work, their goals, and what they’re most proud of. Not only will this help with recognition, but it can also help build team cohesion and communication.

team recognition meeting

6. Use different forms of recognition

Some managers can fall into the trap of using generic recognition methods over and over, like sending the exact same ‘great work’ email at the end of each week. While this may be appreciated, it can get old quickly — and most employees are going to see through it if your feedback never changes.

Try to mix up your recognition methods, using different forms of verbal, written and non-verbal praise. You might hold a group meeting one week, then send a handwritten note the next. Or give someone a high-five in the hallway, and compliment them via email on a job well done.

The more variation you can add, the more interesting and meaningful team recognition will be for your employees. Do what feels natural to you and your team, but always be genuine in your appreciation.

Implementing this tip

If you’re stuck on ideas for different forms of recognition, here are a few ideas:

  • Give employees a shout-out during team meetings
  • Thank them publicly on social media
  • Write handwritten thank-you cards
  • Give them a gift certificate or voucher to use at their favorite store or restaurant
  • Take them out for coffee or lunch as a way of saying thanks
  • Give them a bonus or raise
  • Let them work from home for a day

Whichever methods you choose, make sure they are personalized to the individual or team, and not just a one-size-fits-all approach.

7. Timing is everything

A well-timed moment of team recognition can go a long way. For example, if a team has just completed a particularly difficult project or met an important goal, it might be the perfect time to recognize their hard work. Alternatively, you could celebrate a team’s anniversary or reward them for consistently achieving high levels of performance.

a fist bump

Whatever the occasion, it’s important to make sure that team recognition is timely and relevant. If it’s not, team members may feel like they’re not being appreciated or that their efforts are going unnoticed.

Implementing this tip

Some of the best times to recognize your team are during and after difficult or challenging tasks. Why? Because during a challenge, your team will need and want recognition the most. And after a challenge, they will have accomplished something and will appreciate your recognition even more.

8. Make it public

in the digital age, there are plenty of opportunities to send a private message to an individual or a small group. You can easily create a group chat on Slack or Microsoft Teams, or use a tool like Zoom to video conference with a few people.

But when it comes to team recognition, nothing beats public recognition. By making your recognition public, you celebrate the accomplishment of the entire team. You also show other teams that you’re a high-performing organization that values and rewards its employees.

Implementing this tip

There are plenty of ways to make team recognition public. You can post a congratulatory message on social media, or email the entire company announcing the team’s accomplishment. You can also give a presentation about the team’s success at a company-wide meeting.

9. Make it frequent

You might be thinking — well, this team recognition stuff is easy! I’ll just send out a monthly debrief and be done with it. Not so fast.

Recognition needs to be frequent to be effective. It’s like watering a plant — you can’t do it once and expect it to thrive. Employees need to feel recognized on a regular basis in order to feel appreciated and motivated.

Make sure team recognition is an ongoing part of your culture, and that you are integrating it into your business approach. You should always be looking for ways to recognize your team members’ contributions.

employees working together at a meeting

Implementing this tip

If you struggle to remember to recognize your team members on a regular basis, consider setting up a recurring reminder or notification. There are lots of tools and applications that can help you do this, such as Google Calendar or Outlook.

Or, if you’d prefer to keep it low-tech, try scheduling a regular time each day or week to review your team’s accomplishments and give out recognition. This could be as simple as taking five minutes at the end of every day to write down a few things your team did well, or sending out a quick email once a week highlighting everyone’s successes.

10. Keep it fresh

This is perhaps one of the most important tips to remember — don’t let your recognition stagnate! Keep your team on their toes, and always be looking for new and inventive ways to show your appreciation.

Whether it’s through unique award ceremonies, fun team-building activities, or simply by taking the time to thank them for their hard work, make sure your team knows that you’re always grateful for their efforts.

In doing so, you’ll not only help to keep your team motivated, but you’ll also show them that you genuinely care about their well-being and development.

What if your team is underperforming?

This is a difficult problem, as a challenging or low-performing team can sap morale and productivity in an entire organization. You may not feel at all comfortable recognizing a team that is not meeting expectations, but there are ways to do it effectively.

  • Avoid generalizations or clichés in your recognition. Statements such as “nice job, team” or “good effort, everyone” sound generic and meaningless. If you don’t have anything specific to say about a team’s performance, it might be better not to say anything at all.
  • Focus on the positive. Try to find something good to say about even the most struggling teams. Recognizing individual or collective accomplishments, no matter how small, can help boost morale and encourage further effort.
a team meeting
  • Be specific. When you recognize a team, mention the specific things they did well. This will make the recognition more meaningful and memorable.
  • Avoid assigning blame. If there are problems with a team’s performance, don’t lay the blame at their feet in your recognition. This will only make them feel defensive and discouraged.
  • Be genuine. Recognition that feels insincere or forced will have little effect. Make sure your words come from the heart, and that you really mean what you say.
  • Avoid comparisons. It’s important not to compare teams against each other, as this can breed resentment and unhappiness. Each team is unique and should be recognized as such.
  • Be aware of your tone. The way you deliver recognition can be just as important as the words you use. Be positive, upbeat, and encouraging, and make sure your team knows that you’re glad they tried their best.

Remember that even struggling teams need to be recognized — in fact, they probably need it the most. By following these tips, you can help encourage them to improve their performance and become a more productive part of your organization.

Final thoughts

For managers who have been struggling with how to give their team the recognition they deserve, hopefully this article has given you a few ideas of how to go about it. There are many different ways to show your team that you appreciate them, and the most important thing is to be genuine in your actions and make sure that everyone on the team feels appreciated.