Developing Your Talent


Informal Recognition – A Decency Every Organization Can Afford

By Steve Harrison on June 13, 2013

Your workforce is the key element of organizational success today. It’s your employees’ knowledge, skills and experience that provide companies with a sustainable competitive advantage. So what should leaders do – beyond salary, benefits, bonuses and formal recognition programs – to demonstrate appreciation for our employees? What do employees want?

Studies indicate that the most important nonmonetary incentive employees want from their leaders is recognition – an immediate demonstration that they’re appreciated and valued. Informal recognition takes on many forms, but fundamentally it’s a small gesture that’s authentic, low cost, and – because it doesn’t require elaborate planning – easy to do on a frequent basis.

Here are a few tips for delivering informal recognition:

  • Say thanks. The most obvious form of recognition is a simple “Thank you” best delivered in front of peers, in real time or soon after a specific contribution has been made. This could also take the form of a personal letter or handwritten note.
  • Stay on point. When recognizing good work, including a “but” will negate any positive benefits. Keep the message affirmative and encouraging.
  • Increase accessibility. Informal recognition works best when management is available and informed. Walkabouts through the organization provide plenty of opportunities to catch people “doing things right.”
  • Share the praise. Complimentary letters (from customers, managers, vendors, etc.) should be posted in a public forum, e.g., a “brag” book in the reception area.
  • Practice generosity. Express your appreciation through small acts of generosity. This can mean sharing your time or your counsel. Or it could be providing team members with a treat or lunch. It doesn’t need to be a big production.

There are innumerable small ways to recognize employees. Think creatively – and then get started.


Steve Harrison is a long-time management and corporate culture innovator. He is the author of “The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Can Build Great Companies.” This is the sixth in an eight-part series from Steve addressing a philosophy of doing business that goes beyond the transfer of goods and services. It calls for a transfer of values known as small decencies. Steve is co-founder and Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison and former chief ethics and compliance officer of Adecco Group.

One Response to “Informal Recognition – A Decency Every Organization Can Afford”

  1. Renata Pagliaro

    Great advice Steve! This is really so simple, and yet there is so much time and effort put into complicated rewards systems. People are really very simple, and what you recommend is exactly what is missing in most work environments.


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