Employee Recognition Is the Cure to Quiet Quitting

By Mark Wachen Mark Wachen has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on September 9, 2022

The recent trend of “quiet quitting” isn’t always about the employees themselves. Too often, it’s about how they’re being led.

Specifically, it’s a response to how they’re being managed.

There’s been a lot written about “quiet quitting,” where employees set firm boundaries around their workday and do the bare minimum required of them. It’s being positioned as a “new” trend, with many sharing their experiences about burnout culture and bosses expecting them to sacrifice more than they should. But it’s actually nothing new – some workers have always felt disengaged. But when an employee is primarily working remotely, it’s much easier to hide it. And much easier to go through the motions without anyone really noticing.

Engagement is core to building a strong culture. Recognizing employees for their hard work and accomplishment is a surefire way to keep them engaged.

Indeed, recognition is the single-most important factor in what motivates employees. Gallup has found repeatedly that workers are much more likely to leave a job if they don’t feel recognized. By contrast, Gallup found that recognition boosts individual employee engagement, increases productivity, and fosters company loyalty.

So where to start? Here are three considerations to boosting engagement through effective employee recognition.

Create a Program

While it’s good to have gratitude in your heart, you also need employee recognition in your handbook.

Creating a formal, transparent recognition program that is followed through from C-Suite to junior level, tells your employees that gratitude and recognition are part of your company culture. This will also help you recruit and retain the best talent for driving your workplace success. What’s more, you’re creating a simple framework for your managers to show recognition frequently.

A great example is Hilton. The company maintains an entire digital site devoted to ways managers can recognize employees. Want to recognize your support staff on Administrative Professionals Day? Hilton has a page for that, replete with creative recognition ideas like extended lunches, car washes (performed by management), or a “manicure in a jar.” It’s no wonder then that Hilton is routinely rated one of the best places to work by Fortune every year.

Make It Personal

While it is easy to simply say something like, “Thank you for all you do,” employees like more specificity. After all, it’s not the gift itself that matters, but the sentiment.

That was the idea that inspired my current company, CardSnacks. I noticed as my kids were growing older that more and more, the gifts that were being given at birthday parties were almost exclusively gift cards. The guests would walk in and hand the birthday boy a gift card with no more than a “From Johnny” scribbled on the back of the gift card wrapper. Now, gift cards are great – convenient, flexible, and always well-received. But the way they were being delivered felt so impersonal, they might as well have just handed the kid a $20 bill.

The gift would be so much more meaningful and memorable with a personalized greeting, a photo or video, an inside joke, or something to show that you valued them as a friend. The same goes for employee recognition. Why not say precisely why you’re recognizing employees? Some are easy: Five years of service. Getting a big contract. Working on a successful product launch. But you can also look more deeply and recognize colleagues for the more subtle accomplishments: Grace under pressure. Solving a stubborn problem. Just being loyal in a time of need. And it will become extra special if you add a personal touch: a funny anecdote or memory that will have meaning just to them.

The more specific you get, the more your teammates will feel seen and heard. That makes the recognition all the more powerful.

Encourage Employees to Recognize One Another

We tend to think that employees only want validation from their bosses, but research actually shows the opposite.

In a study on giving thanks in the workplace by Deloitte, employees consistently said being recognized was an important component of their own engagement. Recognition led them to invest in themselves at work, ultimately growing their careers. But who they wanted the recognition from was surprisingly split. Overall, 32% said they wanted recognition to come from their direct supervisor. Thirty-seven percent wanted recognition from above their supervisor. Yet, 31% said they preferred to be recognized mostly by their peers.

The fact that so many employees value peer recognition is a great opportunity for business leaders and HR executives. By creating an easy and convenient way for peers to honor other peers for their work, like a digital “thank you” or a gift card, you can encourage a culture of gratitude that is grassroots rather than top-down, which will make it more sustainable.

As a business leader, it’s your responsibility to set and define the culture you want for your company. You know that you will succeed or fail based on the enthusiasm and engagement of the people who work with you each day. Recognizing their good work, in an intentional and meaningful way, will turn “quiet quitting” into “roaring retention” and contribute to your overall success.

By Mark Wachen Mark Wachen has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Mark Wachen is the CEO of CardSnacks. He also is the Managing Partner and Founder of Upstage Ventures, a firm that advises and invests in consumer internet and interactive marketing companies. Wachen was the founder of the Dreamit NYC accelerator program, which he ran from 2011-2013. Prior to Dreamit, Wachen was the CEO/Founder of Optimost, the company that pioneered multivariate testing and optimization on the Internet. He served as CEO for the company up until its acquisition by Interwoven in November 2007 for $52 million. Wachen also worked for seven years at Sony, overseeing a wide variety of Internet initiatives. Wachen graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College and has an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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