Characteristics & Benefits Of Effective Recognition

Characteristics & Benefits Of Effective Recognition

There are many different types of safety recognition programs used and promoted these days. Of course, some are more effective than others, but there is certainly no “one-fits-all” program available today.

To be successful, management must understand that effective recognition is a key leadership skill that helps to develop positive relationships. You can tell when recognition is effective when there is an increase in the frequency of desired behaviors, better quality, and higher levels of production and services.

A world-class safety culture, characterized by a high level of trust, may not need to develop a formal written safety recognition program. Rather, managers will likely perceive recognition as their opportunity to demonstrate leadership so that ultimately, positive working relationships are established or reinforced. In the best-case scenario where there is the presence of strong safety leadership, a formal program may not be needed because leaders are regularly providing meaningful incentives and recognition informally, one-on-one to their employees.

The characteristics and related benefits of effective recognition include:

  • increased quality in terms of production and services to customers
  • improved employee job satisfaction and feelings of self-worth
  • improved employee morale and loyalty to the company
  • increased retention of employees and lower turnover
  • improved employee safety performance and fewer accidents
  • decreased stress due to poor management-employee relationships

Recognition and Rewards

Safety recognition and rewards come in many colors, flavors, and varieties. We are all motivated by primarily two types of rewards: extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic rewards are tangible and external. You can touch, eat, see, smell, or otherwise use them. Here are some examples:

  • money – raise, bonus, stocks
  • awards – plaques, pins, cups, certificates, jackets
  • time off – vacations, sabbaticals, conferences
  • social – parties, lunches, ceremonies

Intrinsic rewards are intangible, internal, and originate within us. They are expressed through the positive recognition others give us and the positive thoughts others think about ourselves. Here are some examples:

  • improved self-esteem
  • increased sense of purpose
  • higher credibility
  • feeling of accomplishment

Now, consider this: Is it the tangible reward, itself, that changes behavior, or is it the underlying recognition – the intangible reward – you receive that matters most? Like many others, you probably think it’s the recognition behind the reward that is most important, and we agree. We like to be recognized and appreciated for what we do by people who are important to us. It makes us feel valuable, important, and a part of a team: something bigger than ourselves.


When designing safety recognition programs, it’s important to remember it’s not the tangible “thing” awarded to the recipient that is truly important, it’s the form of appreciation shown for the accomplishment achieved that determines the effectiveness of the recognition. The secret to truly effective recognition is to:

  • identify the appropriate behavior so the recipient knows specifically why they are being rewarded, and
  • show sincere appreciation in the right way so the recipient feels appreciated.

You Get What You Give

The old adage, “you get what you give,” certainly applies when it comes to recognizing employees.

  • If you’re sincere in your appreciation for a job well done, your heart-felt sincerity will come across in the tone of your voice and through body language. Your sincerity will be felt and will result in a heart-felt expression of appreciation from the recipient. The recipient will know you mean it and will feel appreciated. The recognition will achieve the desired effect with lasting positive results – mission accomplished!
  • If you’re not sincere when you express appreciation, the recipient will know it, and you’ll not likely receive a sincere appreciative response or improvement in future performance. Hence, the act of recognizing will not have the desired effect: in fact, if the recipient thinks the recognition is not sincere, the recognition may be counterproductive in terms of morale and performance – mission failure!

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