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Six common barriers to employee recognition

Elissa Dennis
10th August 2021
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Saying “thank you” takes less than a second to say, but for so many reasons it often goes unsaid. Why is this? We wanted to find out, so as part of research into employee recognition we asked them what the barriers to employee recognition were.

Failing to articulate appreciation for help or support from colleagues may not seem a big thing, but it’s a lost opportunity to brighten some one’s day and give them a boost. Knowing that your efforts have been appreciated and you’ve done something positive makes work feel all the more worthwhile. It also creates an environment that is supportive and encouraging, somewhere people want to work.

Employee recognition in a digital world

With so many more people now working remotely, the opportunities to say thank you in person, when passing in the corridor or meeting for lunch, are vastly reduced. This physical separation is a potential barrier to employee recognition which employers need to be aware of. In a post-Covid world, where employees are likely to spend more time away from the workplace, employers need to think about how they can make it easier for employees to pass on their appreciation and make it part of their working day, so the value of recognition is not lost.

Creating an employee recognition culture becomes second nature needs time and effort to build. The right conditions need to be put in place for it to flourish. All employees must be clear about how and when to give recognition and feel comfortable doing so.

Our survey identified the following six barriers to employee recognition:

Not enough time

31% of employees said that time was the big issue, stating they were too busy to give their colleagues recognition. Employers need to make it as simple and easy as possible for their employees to recognise their colleagues, considering the most effective method possible.

No tool or clear process

20% of employees said not having an online tool or clear process was what prevented them from giving recognition. Employees need to feel comfortable showing their appreciation and have a clear process for doing so if they are going to do it on a regular basis.

Not something they think about

Nearly one in five in our survey (18%) said giving recognition is not something that occurs to them. Employers need to communicate to their employees how important recognition is for it to become something that is part of working life.

Not sure how to do it

15% of employees said it was their uncertainty around what to do was the barrier to employee recognition. It is easy to assume that everyone knows what to do, but new and junior employees can feel uncomfortable or intimidated recognising more established peers.

Not encouraged

Almost one in 10 (8%) of employees said it was the attitude of their organisation that was holding them back and they were not encouraged to recognise their colleagues. If companies aren’t encouraging recognition, they are missing a golden opportunity to build a positive, inclusive culture.

Not comfortable

8% of respondents said that they didn’t feel comfortable giving recognition. This highlights that some employees would benefit from training on the subject to make them feel more confident to appreciate the help and support of their colleagues.

Download our infographic on the barriers to employee recognition.

Building a culture that supports recognition

These barriers to employee recognition show how closely it is linked to company culture. For employees to give regular recognition there are certain requirements that are needed:

  • Leadership buy-in – senior managers must be seen to give recognition and use their platform to encourage others in the business to do the same.
  • A consistent process – everyone across the business should know the best way to recognise their colleagues.
  • Make it easy – the easier it is to give employee recognition, the more likely it will be for employees to recognise their colleagues.
  • Make it individual – saying thank you means much more if it is personal and genuine. Encourage people to think about the person they want to thank and what is the best way to show their appreciation.
  • Training – if employees know how valuable employee recognition is, what good recognition looks like and how to give it, they are more likely to show their appreciation more often.
  • Make it part of working life – recognising the efforts of other should come naturally and not feel forced. If from the moment a new employee joins a business, they are encouraged to recognise their colleagues it will become a habit and part of the company culture.