Employee appreciation and recognition, what’s the difference?

four peaple smiling and two shaking hands

There is a common misunderstanding between Recognition and Appreciation. All too often, professionals mix the meaning and use the terms as interchangeable. Although both are important, they are different approaches and should be used accordingly.

If you want your team to thrive, live a culture of engagement, loyalty, and high performance, then it’s important to understand the difference.

Lucky for you, we have broken down the differences and definitions for both.

What is employee recognition? 

Recognition comes in the form of a positive appraisal or feedback for results or accomplishments.

The key difference between recognition and appreciation is that recognition tends to be conditional. In other words, when an objective is accomplished, recognition is given. Therefore, it’s less frequent and built on previous accomplishments that lead to a goal.

An example of recognition: Give an employee a promotion after reaching their sales goals of the year. 

Recognition can be prizes, promotions or raises, and is characteristically more tangible and rare. 

cartoon figures of two people clapping with a heart in the background

The key things to remember when giving recognition? Make it genuine, time-sensitive and personal.  The goal of giving recognition is to enhance positive behaviours in the future. Moreover, it raises excitement and self-worth for the employee.

At Nais, we conducted a study and found that financial rewards have the greatest impact on lowering the rotation risk related to leadership and organizational influence in the organization. 

What is employee appreciation?

Appreciation comes from understanding and appreciating the value of a person. Unlike recognition, appreciation is separate from a prize. Instead, it focuses on the efforts, the behaviours and the intentions of a person that should be appreciated and valued organically.

An example of appreciation can be addressing efforts, intentions, and behaviour that merit positive encouragement. The reinforcement of behaviour works towards the overall success of the company and performance dynamics.

HR business professional, Kinga Makowska, defines appreciation as:

“I see appreciation as a notion that requires action. To me, it is very much about an active response to progress and effort” .

People looking at a computer and smiling

Whilst recognition is more scarce, appreciation has to be reinforced into the culture of a company. 

In fact, several studies prove the important role appreciation plays in strengthening employee engagement, and inherently, productivity. A recent study on rewarding highlights that employees who are appreciated by their boss are 27% more satisfied than undervalued employees. 

In conclusion, whether you give recognition or appreciation, it is vital to be genuine and honest in the appraisal. A manager needs to show they care for their employees and value the success they bring to the company. 

Appreciation is a key part in forming the habits that bring success to a company by keeping employees motivated and engaged. 

Would you like to know the current engagement and wellbeing of your employees? Download our free ebook that contains over 16 exercises to do a quick pulse check on your employees and discover what type of manager you are.

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