Employee recognition can be the key to employee retention, but too often, departmental programs lack the luster to keep staff motivated. ManageSmarter recommends giving workers the complete package — a comprehensive recognition strategy that includes a three-dimensional approach promoting day-to-day, informal and formal recognition.

1. Day-to-day recognition encompasses a wide range of recognition that is frequent, ongoing, and informal. It may consist of intangible recognition, awards, celebrations or eligibility for awards or celebrations to recognize behaviors that support organizational goals and values. It may include thank you notes or forms that employees give to one another or verbal praise. All employees can participate in this recognition, supporting recognition up, down and across the organization.

2. Informal recognition singles out individuals or teams for progress toward milestones, achieving goals or projects completed. Celebrations may include low cost mementos or refreshments as a way to celebrate achievements or outstanding positive behavior. It is less structured than formal recognition and reaches a larger percentage of the employee population.

3. Formal recognition consists of a structured program with defined processes and criteria linked to organizational values and goals, a nomination and selection process, and an awards ceremony where employees receive public recognition and are presented with awards in a formal setting. Generally speaking, it is an annual program and only a small percentage of employees are recognized.

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