Employee Wish List: Recognition

Nostalgia comes from two Greek words, nostos, meaning “to return home,” and algos, meaning “pain.” 2020 has made us long for, well, any year except this one. According to Susan Malanowski of the Wilson Group, organizations are dealing with various workplace changes during this “Interim Normal.” So now is a good time for organizations to consider if a recognition program is appropriate to start or revisit and revise during this “interim normal” and beyond. Recognition is a process to positively acknowledge employee contributions relative to the situation and the employees.

The elements of recognition address:

  • Providing feedback to employees: verbal, written, and a public recognition presentation
  • Using meaningful nonfinancial/symbolic or financial rewards based on what is being recognized: certificates, gift card, cash, or merchandise with values ranging from minimal value to thousands of dollars
  • Timing feedback and rewards based on what is being recognized: on the spot to an annual event
  • Creating award criteria that represents performance that is above and beyond what is expected

We suggest a systematic approach to revamping or developing these programs during these times of change and uncertainty in the workplace.


–      Be candid; if the money is not there, don’t make a payment. It would be fiscally irresponsible.

–     Employees are not likely to leave because of one event. However, if the company is showing no leadership to address the issues that caused the situation, your ability to retain will be lessened.

–     Consider how you can make everyone feel appreciated during times of financial and business challenges with a meaningful cost-effective form of reward. Top contributors could receive a cash bonus, and others could receive a more symbolic recognition. Consider a verbal or written recognition, gift card, award, or extra paid time off.

As we long nostalgically for holiday parties and year-end bonuses, we can take comfort that we will remember what we learned about our organizations and our people a year from now.