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Employee Recognition

Employee Recognition Guide for Asia Companies

“Employees are a company’s best asset.”

However, it seems like employees worldwide certainly do not feel that way.

When employees were asked why they are quitting their jobs, they mention:

  1. They didn’t feel valued by their organisations (54%)
  2. They didn’t feel valued by their managers (52%)
  3. They didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%)

So how can leaders and organisations get it right?

Here’s everything you need to know about employee recognition (click to jump to the respective sections):

What is Employee Recognition? 

Employee recognition is the act of publicly acknowledging your people for their everyday contributions and exemplary performance in the workplace.

Showing employee recognition could be anything that gives positive feedback to help employees feel recognised and feel valued. From celebrating small wins like learning how to use a new software, to big milestones such as meeting a major sales KPI.

Used by companies and organisations worldwide, this helps employees feel valued, achieve a sense of belonging, and build purpose around their work. 

Benefits of Employee Recognition Programs in the Workplace

Overview of the benefits of employee recognition programs in the workplace. Source: PraisePal

Seeing how important the role of recognition is in the workplace, it’s essential for leaders to have an employee recognition program in place for their people.

But before they can do that, it’s equally important to know the different benefits of employee recognition:

  • Drives engagement: Multiple studies prove that recognition is one of the key drivers of employee engagement. In a report by Harvard Business Review, 72% of respondents view recognition as a key motivator for employee engagement.
  • Higher employee engagement leads to increased productivity. It's crucial for leaders to realise how better employee recognition leads to stronger emotional connections even among distributed teams, which helps boost morale across the whole team.
  • Reinforce company values and culture: Strong company values drive strong business. Consistent recognition allows colleagues to embody their company ethos on a daily basis. Companies can practice staff recognition that not only boosts employee morale but improves business outcomes linked to core values.
  • Such employee recognition can take place when employees' hard work is celebrated on a recognition platform which aligns employees' contributions and employee behaviour to the company's culture and organizational values.
  • Boosts employee motivation and productivity: When people are appreciated and seen for their hard work, this gives them a sense of purpose and encourages them to be more committed to the company’s end goal.
  • Having a sustainable employee recognition culture also means each person achieves the desired behaviour leading to better business outcomes, such as better customer service.
  • Increases employee retention rate: A Bersin & Associates Report uncovered that companies with a culture of recognition have a 31% lower turnover rate due to highly motivated employees.
  • Consistent employee recognition helps the employee cycle and reduces employee turnover, where employees feel appreciated and each person has more job security.
  • Enhances teamwork and employee relationships: With peer-to-peer recognition, team members can cultivate a habit of recognition while building a sense of camaraderie amongst each other.
  • When senior leaders take the first step towards proactive employee recognition with meaningful employee rewards, their employees feel valued and become more likely to pass on the culture of recognition to build a sustainable team with high employee engagement.
  • Improve a company's employer branding efforts: Employer branding not only strengthens your reputation with potential candidates and increases employee retention. It also makes existing employees feel secure and confident about their organization's current position.

Frequent recognition leads to better business outcomes, including having a work environment where employees' hard work gets public recognition and positive reinforcement.

Such staff recognition means employees are more likely to align with organizational values and empower employees to spread the good word about working in the company.

Types of Employee Recognition

Employee recognition comes in many different shapes and forms—there is no one-size-fits-all. An employee recognition approach that may work on one team may not work for another, and vice versa.

That’s why it’s important for founders and managers to determine which employee recognition methods would work best for their people, in order to get the desired behaviours across the team.

Here are two different types of employee recognition that we will be exploring:

Top-down recognition

This is often seen as a more formal recognition program. Just as its name suggests, this traditional method of employee recognition uses a centralised method to recognize employees based on the company’s organisational hierarchy. With structured recognition, HR managers and senior leaders are often the ones offering employee appreciation and gratitude on the company’s behalf.

Since this form of recognition is structured and given on an organisational scale, this ensures that all employees are included and will be recognised at one point or another. This includes ritual occasions such as work anniversaries, employee-of-the-month celebrations, as well as retirement.

However, some companies may see this as too formal, infrequent, and impersonal. The recognition is only made on the company’s behalf, isn’t given in real-time, and is only granted periodically during special occasions and personal milestones.

Unstructured recognition

Unstructured recognition is a relatively more modern approach to employee recognition. It thrives on regular, consistent, and spontaneous acts of praise to make employees feel appreciated.

This informal system doesn’t rely only on special events to appreciate team members and fosters a stronger emotional relationship with one another. People want to be recognised consistently, not just once a year.

Without the barriers to structured recognition, this allows employees and leaders from all levels to appreciate one another at any given time.

While this sounds like the ideal recognition method for employee recognition, this may not be for everyone. The lack of structure could still potentially cause internal biases when not handled properly.

Employee Recognition Statistics You Shouldn’t Ignore

Source: PraisePal

1. 28% of organisations have no defined approach to the employee experience

Even as employee experience and engagement continue to be relevant in today’s day and age, many global companies still don’t have a concrete employee recognition program in place. A quarter of organisations, to be exact.  

People often see employee recognition as a secondary initiative and not as a priority. Then wonder why their turnover rates remain high and employee satisfaction rates remain low.

2. 51% of employees would rather be rewarded as individuals than collectively with their co-workers

The problem with most employee recognition programs today is how it rewards employees as a collective instead of individually.

Apparently, this is most evident in employees from Singapore (67%) and India (66%).

While this structured form of recognition has proven to work for some, most employees today want to be recognised for their individual contributions in a timely manner as a result of greater ownership.

3. Disengaged employees can cost you and your organisation

From absenteeism, lower profitability, and decreased levels of productivity among employees, disengagement can come in many forms.

With all these factors in play, this suggests that disengaged employees can cost companies nearly 34% of their salary. On top of that, another factor to consider is the turnover cost to hire and train new employees.

4. Companies with engaged workforces are more profitable

Business units with high levels of employee engagement are 21% more profitable than those without.

Employee recognition doesn’t only have a huge difference in employee satisfaction but also in business outcomes.

When engaged employees are motivated to complete their tasks and meet business objectives, results will start to show up and eventually lead to profitability and higher sales for the business.

5. Most employees see recognition as a top motivator in the workplace

Think a higher salary is the only way to motivate employees at work? Think again.

While a larger paycheck does play a role in boosting motivation across the entire team, it’s a short-term solution that doesn’t address a long-term issue.

A Glassdoor survey conducted among 2,044 staff revealed that 53% of respondents are more likely to stay in their jobs if they were appreciated more.

When employees feel seen and appreciated by their managers, they feel motivated to work harder at their jobs. This can be through simple and timely actions like a simple “thank you” for a job well done, or a public recognition message on the company’s Slack channel.

When do you give recognition to your employees?

Don't know which behaviours of employees to recognise? Look into their personal milestones, performance, efforts, and values.

1.  Milestone-Based Employee Recognition

Celebrating new joiners, work anniversaries, a recent promotion, or retirement are all examples of milestone-based employee recognition.

Sometimes, companies may also choose to go the extra mile and appreciate employees for personal, non-work-related milestones such as birthdays, engagements, marriage, and even having a baby.

Employees are more likely to feel motivated and engaged when they are recognised for important achievements in both their personal and professional lives.

2. Performance-Based Employee Recognition

When team members consistently hit their KPIs, this is the best time to tap into performance-based recognition. It happens to also be the most straightforward attribute to recognise, making it easy for HR managers and business leaders to implement.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to give your team members credit when it’s due and not let their hard work go unnoticed.

When individuals are rewarded for achieving a specific goal, it’s only natural for them to feel inclined to deliver the same quality of work or go beyond that. Ultimately, this drives measurable results and leads to business success.

3. Effort-Based Employee Recognition

While performance management is fixed on long-term goals, effort-based recognition is focused on immediate, short-term outcomes instead.

Have a teammate that helped you with a last-minute pitch deck? Or perhaps an employee that went the extra mile to help a new joiner get settled in?

These seemingly small efforts may not be as grand as closing a deal with a new client, but they still deserve all the praise nonetheless.

4. Values-Based Employee Recognition

Every organisation has its own set of unique company values. The goal of value-based recognition is to reward employees for displaying behaviours aligned with your company culture.

This allows founders and leaders to see which employees are embodying the company's values each day and applying them to their work ethic. Seeing your company ethos in action drives strong business results.

Here are a few company core value examples from some of the leading global companies including Google, TikTok, ShopBack, and Slack.

What makes an employee recognition program great?

1. It’s intuitive and easy to use

If there are too many steps to your company's employee recognition program, then it's unlikely that you can convince your people to actively participate easily.

As managers, it's your job to eliminate all logistical barriers to ensure a smooth onboarding process for all employees.

With our current technology today, there are multiple recognition tools and software that can seamlessly integrate with your company's Slack or Teams channel. Take PraisePal, for example.

2. It caters to employees in diverse locations

As hybrid and remote work arrangements continue to be the norm in most industries, it is a must for employee rewards and recognition programs to reach staff in various parts of the globe.

For instance, remote employees in Indonesia are often based outside of Jakarta like Balikpapan, Bali, Java, and Sumatra. Likewise in the Philippines, working remotely can mean working from provinces like Laguna, Cavite, and Ilo Ilo.

The great thing about creating an employee recognition program is that there are no limits to what you can do to reach your employees. Founders, this is your time to get creative!

Examples of how companies can make employees feel valued from anywhere in the world may include peer-to-peer recognition initiatives, global gift cards for employees across Asia, customised experiential rewards, and even budgets for mental health resources.

3. It’s given and implemented in a timely manner

Would you rather give immediate praise to your staff as and when they meet a sales target, or only during their work anniversaries once a year?

Relying on yearly celebrations and 'employee of the month' awards just doesn't cut it anymore. Recognition needs to be given in a timely manner for it to have the most impact on your people.

Whether it's small wins or massive accomplishments, companies need to create a mechanism or find the right tools that will facilitate instant recognition.

4. It creates a consistent engagement loop

Consistency is key, even with employee recognition. If your recognition program only focuses on short-term engagement and isn't built to last, it's only a matter of time before the hype dies down and employees go back to the same old ways.

With a frequent recognition loop among co-workers, the act of recognition becomes a shared habit, which encourages the right behaviours company-wide and brings out the best in your employees.

How to build a successful employee recognition program

1. Define clear program objectives

Before diving straight into creating an employee recognition strategy, HR professionals must take one step back to first determine the objectives of their ideal program.

Is it to boost employee morale and engagement? Decrease employee turnover? Create a healthy work environment?

Or perhaps it's all of the above.

Take the time to ensure that these goals are aligned with your company values. This will serve as the foundation for a successful employee recognition program.

2. Tap into technological and digital solutions

Technology plays an essential role in employee recognition. Gone are the days when physical, hand-written appreciation messages are the norm. Today, it's all about acknowledging achievement in real-time to encourage employees instantly.

Qualities that set modern employee recognition programs apart from traditional methods include:

  • Flexible, tangible rewards: Employees want to be rewarded with things they will actually use. Tap into variable rewards to keep your staff hooked and engaged.
  • Personalised recognition: When appreciation messages are specific, employees feel cherished and know exactly what they did to deserve the praise and recognition.
  • Instant and timely: No need to wait for a whole year to celebrate your employee's work anniversary. Or only recognise them on national employee appreciation day once a year.
  • Seamless integrations: It's easier to make employee recognition a habit when integrated into your company's existing programs or channels. With the right resources and tools, say goodbye to additional software downloads for good.

3. Incorporate personalised and multifaceted rewards

One common mistake HR managers and founders make when coming up with employee rewards are assuming that all their staff wants is monetary incentives.

But the truth is people are naturally more receptive to personalised employee rewards that fulfil their needs.

For instance, consider thoughtful rewards like a mental health day, enrichment course, or an extended lunch, instead of a simple salary bonus that probably took ten seconds to think about.

4. Make recognition programs visible and inclusive to all

While recognising employees can be done in private, everyone likes being appreciated through public praise.

Through a company-wide employee recognition platform, not only does this encourage the recognised individual but also creates a positive company culture where everyone thrives.

5. Determine the actual scale of your company's employee recognition initiatives

With a significantly smaller employee size, implementing a company-wide staff recognition program is a whole lot easier for smaller startups than it is for larger companies and SMEs.

For a start, larger organisations can consider carrying out their employee appreciation programs on a department-wide basis before expanding towards a global scale.

For instance, focus on specific teams with an immediate need for employee recognition such as engineering, marketing, and sales teams.

But if you insist on launching an entire company-wide recognition program from the get-go, ensure that you tap into the right tools and platforms to help you execute a recognition strategy and plan of that scale.

Great employee recognition ideas

There are a variety of ways leaders and managers can show their appreciation to their employees, through formal and informal ways. No matter how big or small, it’s the thought and execution that counts.

Need a little inspiration? We got you covered.

  • Celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries
  • Send out company swag packs to remote teams
  • Offer a transportation budget for commuting staff
  • Send an employee onboarding kit for new joiners
  • Give an employee a promotion or pay raise
  • Post a company-wide shoutout on social media for all to see
  • A special company newsletter feature
  • Surprise employees with a care package delivered to their doorstep
  • Host an all-expenses-paid team lunch
  • Introduce shorter work weeks and mental health days for employees
  • Provide gift cards or employee discount programs
  • Match donations to an employee’s chosen charity or non-profit organisation
  • Plan a hackathon for your employees
  • Create a sabbatical programme for staff to recharge
  • Write a classic handwritten thank-you letter
  • Write a public LinkedIn recommendation or endorse their skills
  • Provide mental health days
  • Offer experiential rewards employees can enjoy with friends and family

While this list may not be the most extensive, it’ll definitely get your creative juices flowing. Don’t be afraid to explore all the ideas out there, and use a combination of both formal and informal methods.

From being just a nice thing to have within the company, employee recognition has now become a vital component for employee satisfaction and the overall success of a business.

If a habit of employee recognition isn't a natural part of your company culture just yet, it's never too late to start.

Never underestimate the positive impact that employee recognition can have on your people. When you create a rewarding and nurturing work environment for them, you are essentially building your team and organisation up for success.

Companies in Asia with Great Recognition Initiatives & Happy Employees

We understand that to see is to believe, especially in the context of business. Unless they see the business value of employee recognition firsthand, founders will not take the plunge and make the investment.

This is where case studies of companies with successful recognition efforts come in.

If you're an HR or business leader who's still in doubt about the wonders of employee engagement initiatives, let these examples prove that employee recognition is certainly worth the investment.

1. Canva Philippines

The Canva Philippines Team. Source: Great Place to Work

Graphic design platform Canva has consistently topped the 'Best Workplaces in Asia' list by Great Place to Work, especially their team in the Philippines that are steadily growing in number. With its people-driven culture, the company always puts its employees at the forefront through various initiatives like gym allowance, daily nutritious meals, access to a life coach, and even a fair share of company profits.

Compared to 53% of employees at a typical company, a whopping 94% of Canva Philippines employees say that it's a great place to work.

2. Foodpanda

Foodpanda team in Singapore. Source: The Vulcan Post

At the 2021 Singapore Best Workplaces Summit organised by Great Place to Work, the online food and grocery delivery platform Foodpanda was recognised for its continuous efforts to put its employees' well-being first.

At the height of the pandemic, employees were given access to one-on-one coaches, and resources for their physical and mental health for support.

3. HP Singapore

Employees of HP SIngapore team. Source: The Muse

HP Singapore has also made it on the list as a certified Great Place to Work for the second year in a row.

To support their team during the shift to remote work, employees were given financial incentives for all their work-from-home needs as well as support groups for a variety of workers including young employees and women.

4. Cisco

The global leader in IT and Networking, Cisco, consistently ranks as one of the top places to work in the world. Source: Great Place to Work

With a variety of leadership programs and opportunities for professional development, Cisco employees have consistently raved about how it is the ideal company to work in.

By embracing their people's strengths and weaknesses plus providing them with a platform to excel, it's no wonder why Cisco's #1 World's Best Workplaces list by Great Places to Work and Fortune Magazine.

5. PAP Community Foundation

Local Charitable Organisation, PAP Community Foundation, was lauded as the best workplace in Asia this year under the category of ‘large workplaces’, as ranked by global institute Great Place to Work. Source: Straits Times

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the PAP Community Foundation still managed to prioritise the well-being of its 8,000-strong employee base. For remote employees in Singapore, weekly recognition messages and other peer to peer recognition initiatives were launched to boost staff morale.

On top of that, hospitalisation coverages were also provided for team members overseas who needed immediate medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions on Employee Recognition

Q1. What are some employee recognition ideas?

Apart from gifts, perks, and conventional physical rewards, other ways you can recognise employees include:

  • Personal development opportunities
  • Holiday rewards and days off
  • Experiential rewards
  • Employee bonding activities
  • Extended breaks and early finishes
  • Complimentary wellness or gym subscriptions
  • All-expenses-paid team lunch

Q2. What is the best way to recognise employees?

There is no one way to empower employees in the workplace. In fact, the opportunities are endless. That's why this is the best time to experiment and get creative.

Some simple yet impactful ways to recognise employees include sending them a personalised appreciation message with their own words, tapping into peer recognition, implementing a combination of formal and informal recognition programs, and creating a positive company culture for the entire workforce.

Regardless of the method, leaders must make recognition personal, give timely appreciation offer rewards that fulfil their employees' needs.

Q3. What are some of the key benefits of employee recognition?

Some of the benefits of employee recognition are that it encourages positive reinforcement among employees, boosts morale within the organisation, and increases employee retention rate, among many other things.

Q4. Why is a culture of recognition important in the workplace?

When employees are appreciated for their hard work, it reiterates the fact that their efforts are important and valued by the company.

By making this a consistent habit, employee satisfaction and productivity will naturally increase, leading to a continuous cycle of engagement for all.

Q5. Which rewards will employees be more receptive to?

Most HR managers and leaders still think that monetary incentives and bonuses are the only reward types that keep employees going. However, individuals are often most inclined by rewards they can choose.

A simple example would be through PraisePal rewards. Through their points earnings, users can take their pick from global gift cards from over 1,000 partners or custom company rewards curated by their managers.

This mechanism allows employees to choose the rewards they want from dining and retail vouchers, experiential rewards, and travel incentives, among many others.

On top of that, it also takes the logistical load off of the employer's end and makes rewarding employees a seamless, hassle-free process.

Q6. Are recognition programs expensive to implement?

The truth about employee recognition programs is that it doesn't need to cost a fortune. It's all about meeting your employees in the middle and giving them what they want, but also aligning rewards with your company's core values and culture.

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