How to build an employee recognition program in Microsoft Teams & Outlook?

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An employee recognition program is one of the best ways an organization can boost employee engagement, drive performance, and foster a sense of community and belonging in their employees.

In fact, 40% of American employees believe that they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized for it.

Regardless of the size of the institution, building a strong culture of recognition and employee appreciation that spans the entire organization is one of the best decisions a leader can make, especially in a time where employee disengagement is one of the main concerns among employers.

In this post, we will not only go over the fundamentals and basics employee recognition but also show you in clear and easily applicable steps:

How exactly can you implement an employee rewards and recognition program for both remote and in-house teams?

We will walk you through each step of building your employee recognition program while providing you with the right digital toolset to help you reward and recognize your employees over Microsoft Teams and Outlook.

What is an Employee Recognition Program?

An employee recognition program is a system implemented by organizations to reward and acknowledge the hard work, achievements, and contributions of their employees.

Employee recognition programs are designed to foster a positive work environment, enhance employee engagement, and promote a culture of appreciation organization-wide.

By recognizing employees’ efforts, organizations not only boost morale and motivation but also increase job satisfaction and loyalty, which can lead to improved performance and reduced turnover.

The core idea behind these programs is to make employees feel valued for their individual contributions and to reinforce behaviors and actions that align with the company’s goals and values. Recognition can be expressed in various forms, from verbal appreciation and certificates to financial rewards and public acknowledgment.

The structure and implementation of these programs can vary widely depending on the organization’s size, budget, culture, and objectives.

Types of Employee Recognition

Employee recognition can be categorized into several types, each serving different purposes and suited to different occasions. Understanding these recognition types can help organizations tailor their recognition efforts to meet diverse employee needs and organizational goals.

5 types of employee recognition

Formal Recognition

This type involves structured programs where employees receive scheduled awards such as “Employee of the Month” or annual performance awards.

These recognitions are often announced during formal events or ceremonies and might include trophies, certificates, or monetary bonuses. Formal recognition is typically based on specific criteria that are known company-wide, and the selection process is often rigorous.

Informal Recognition

More spontaneous and less structured, informal recognition can occur at any time. It includes acknowledging an employee’s hard work on a project, their effort to help out a colleague, or their ability to meet a tight deadline. Informal recognition often takes the form of verbal praise, handwritten notes, or small tokens of appreciation like gift cards.

Social Recognition

Leveraging social platforms within the organization, social recognition allows colleagues to recognize each other publicly.

There are plenty of different ways social recognition can be practiced. As a recognition type, it can be facilitated through internal social media tools where employees post thank you messages, share stories of teamwork, and highlight peer accomplishments. Social or public recognition builds a sense of community and promotes a culture of peer-to-peer appreciation.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Similar to social recognition, peer-to-peer recognition comes directly from colleagues and can be either formal or informal. Many companies encourage this type by providing platforms or tools that allow employees to acknowledge each other’s contributions. Peer-to-peer recognition democratizes recognition and leads to a more inclusive and motivating workplace environment.

Performance-Based Recognition

Performance-based recognition is directly tied to performance metrics and is often part of performance management. While all recognition is based on merit, this particular type of recognition is centered heavily on performance metrics established prior.

Employees are recognized for achieving specific goals, exceeding targets, or significantly improving their productivity. Performance-based rewards can be very motivating for high achievers and are often linked to promotions, raises, or bonuses.

Rewards and Incentives

Employee rewards programs include tangible rewards and incentives that serve as direct compensation for employees’ efforts and achievements.

Rewards can range from financial bonuses, stock options, and extra paid time off, to non-monetary incentives like travel vouchers, event tickets, or company merchandise.

Incentives are particularly effective for motivating employees towards short-term goals and can be structured as part of sales or productivity challenges.

How to Build an Employee Recognition Program?

1. Define Objectives

The first step in developing an employee recognition program, or any other workplace initiative for that matter, is to define its central objectives.

What re you trying to achieve with this employee recognition program? Are you trying to boost engagement? Are you trying to keep spirits high during a tough period? Perhaps your retention rates could use some boosting?

Having a central foundation will guide all subsequent decisions about the program’s structure and implementation. It will also provide you with some objectives to hold the program up against when it comes time to evaluate its effectiveness.

So begin by identifying what you hope to achieve through the program. Common goals include increasing employee engagement, boosting morale, enhancing productivity, improving retention rates, and aligning employee behaviors with organizational values.

  • Consult with Leadership: Engage with company leaders to understand their vision and how a recognition program can support overarching business goals.
  • Solicit Employee Input: Include employees in the planning process to ensure the program meets their needs and values. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, or informal discussions.

2. Determine Criteria

The criteria for recognition are the benchmarks employees must meet to qualify for rewards. These criteria should be clearly defined, achievable, and directly tied to the program’s objectives.

  • Include Behavioral and Outcome-Based Measures: While it’s common to recognize results, it’s also important to reward the behaviors that lead to those results, such as innovation, teamwork, or exceptional effort.
  • Be Inclusive: Design criteria that can apply to many or all employees, regardless of their role or level within the organization. This encourages a more inclusive environment where every contribution is valued.
  • Keep It Simple: Avoid overly complex criteria that might be difficult to understand or measure. Simplicity ensures that employees clearly understand what is expected and how they can achieve recognition.

3. The Necessary Digital Infrastructure

Preparing an employee recognition program on paper and actually applying it are two very separate concepts.

While employee recognition programs are brilliant ideas on paper, if they are not implemented in a way that giving praise and recognition is always in the flow of work, they are bound to fail.

When employees have to go out of their way to recognize each other, and the recognition system isn’t streamlined, it turns into a compliance exercise that is soon to be forgotten about.

We’ve previously highlighted some of the best employee recognition platforms out there today in this particular list: Top Employee Recognition Software.

The best tool for an organization is one that is fully integrated into its main communication and collaboration platforms.

As two of the most commonly used communication platforms in the corporate world today, Outlook and Microsoft Teams truly stand-out in that regard. They are the perfect base for your employee recognition and rewards program.

An Integrated Solution: Teamflect for Microsoft Teams & Outlook

The only thing you need to do to start using Teamflect for your employee recognition and rewards right away inside Microsoft Teams or Outlook is to head over to the App Store and search for Teamflect.

Since you can simply log in with your Microsoft account, there is no need to sign up separately.

You also, don’t need to do any prior set-up. Since Teamflect draws your organizational chart directly from Entra ID (Formerly Azure AD), everyone in your organization will be readily available for you to start sending recognition to right away.

Set-up Recognition

Employee recognition in teamflect

From this point on, you will have complete access to Teamflect’s “Recognitions” module, even with a free plan.

Teamflect will have some recognition badges readily available for you to start sending to your teammates right away.

You can, however, create your custom badges that have their own unique images, texts, and of course, point values.

Employee recognition badges customization in teamflect

This is something we highly recommend. Recognition is at its most powerful when it is authentic and customized to fit your organizational culture.

This is your opportunity to integrate inside jokes, personalized messages, and other elements that make your organization unique.

  • Pick images for each recognition badge.
  • Give your badges their own unique names and descriptions.
  • Assign point values to each recognition badge (Later to be used for rewards and leaderboards.)
  • Or simply use a set of existing badges.

Set-up Rewards

Employee rewards and recognition in teamflect

Having a rewards program that works hand in hand with your employee recognition program elevates both initiatives. After all, 78% of workers work harder and with more drive when their efforts are being rewarded!

As is the case with employee recognition, the rewards program shouldn’t also be too far removed from your day-to-day workflow.

Your employee rewards program should also be a breeze to run, not putting any extra workload on whoever is responsible from it.

With every recognition badge received in Teamflect, your employees will receive a certain amount of points.

Points they can easily exchange for rewards in a custom rewards catalog right inside Microsoft Teams.

Determining which rewards should be included in the catalog and how many points they should be worth is completely up to you, and your organizational culture.

Employee rewards in Microsoft Teams: Customization.

With complete control over your rewards catalog and an intuitive way to manage it, you can set it up with rewards ranging from simple gift cards to interesting experiences, or even non-monetary incentives your employees would be interested in.

This is where your in-depth knowledge of your team can really help determine the range of rewards you are planning to offer.

Not sure? You can always conduct a pulse survey and simply ask them!

4. Practice Continuously

Now that you have your employee recognition program built and ready to go, the next step is to make sure recognition is practiced continuously in your organization.

Encourage employees to celebrate each other’s successes. Whether you are delivering manager-to-direct report recognition or peer-to-peer recognition, praise and appreciation need to become a daily habit.

Employee recognition inside Microsoft Teams chat

Using Teamflect, your team can exchange recognition easily inside:

  • Microsoft Teams chat.
  • E-mails in Outlook.
  • Ongoing Teams Meetings.
  • The Teamflect App itself.
  • Through Teams channels.

Another way to ensure employee recognition and praise is always visible is to take advantage of leaderboards:

Employee recognition badges in teamflect app

While integrating leaderboards into your recognition program an boost motivation and engagement greatly, it can also be a double-edged sword.

The leaderboard view in Teamflect can be completely turned off, if you feel that the competitive aspect isn’t a cultural fit for your organization.

5. Evaluate Results

Employee recognition programs, at the end of the day, do require an investment of time, funds, and effort.

In order to make sure you’re getting the most out of your recognition program, you need to evaluate its efficiency and regularly make the necessary changes.

Analyzing employee recognition program with reports in teamflect app

Heading into the Teamflect admin center, you can view detailed usage reports on how your recognition program is going.

Your employee recognition program will not be perfect from the very start. As opposed to some other workplace initiatives, a recognition program needs a lot of organic growth.

It needs to be shaped by how your employees use it and how it affects your company culture. Regularly evaluating your employee recognition program and making changes where needed is how you make sure this process is going well.

Conduct Surveys

Employee engagement surveys inside Microsoft Teams

Reports aren’t the only way to measure how your recognition program is going. The best way to know whether something is a hit or miss with your employees is to simply… Ask them!

As a complete performance management platform, Teamflect doesn’t just offer engagement and recognition features.

You can also, in a matter of minutes, send out completely anonymous employee engagement surveys to your team in order to see just fruitful your employee recognition program is.

Based on their feedback, you can simply keep tweaking the program until it fits your teams needs just right!

Praise your employees inside Microsoft Teams!
No sign-up required.
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6 Best Practices for Employee Recognition

While we’ve already highlighted some of the best practices that have to be followed as we explained how you can build a recognition program at work, here are six universally accepted best practices for employee recognition programs to be successful!

  1. Be Timely and Frequent: Recognition should be given as soon as possible after the achievement to reinforce positive behaviors. Frequent recognition can help maintain momentum and morale throughout the organization.
  1. Make It Personal and Meaningful: Personalize recognition to fit the individual. This means understanding what makes each employee feel appreciated, whether it’s public acknowledgment, a private thank you, or a specific type of reward.
  1. Use a Variety of Recognition Forms: Different employees value different types of recognition and rewards. A combination of formal awards, informal acknowledgments, and tangible rewards can cater to diverse preferences and reinforce a range of positive behaviors.
  1. Incorporate Peer-to-Peer Recognition: Encourage employees to recognize their peers. This not only boosts the morale of the recipient but also fosters a positive culture and empowers all employees to engage in the recognition process.
  1. Leverage Technology: Use modern tools and platforms that facilitate easy and immediate recognition. Many software solutions offer features like social feeds, badges, or leaderboards that make recognizing efforts fun and interactive.
  1. Regularly Review and Refresh the Program: Regularly seek feedback from employees on the recognition program and be prepared to make adjustments. This keeps the program relevant and ensures it continues to meet its objectives effectively.

Benefits of Having a Rewards and Recognition Program

Implementing a well-structured rewards and recognition program brings a multitude of benefits to an organization, significantly impacting its culture and operational success. A few of the many ways having an employee rewards and recognition program can benefit your organization are as follows:

  1. Increased Employee Engagement
    Recognition makes employees feel valued and part of the organization’s success, which boosts their engagement. Engaged employees are more motivated to contribute their best work, leading to higher productivity and better service quality.
  1. Enhanced Job Satisfaction
    When employees receive recognition for their efforts, they typically experience increased job satisfaction. This can lead to greater employee retention rates, reducing the costs and disruption associated with high turnover.
  1. Promotion of Company Values
    A recognition program that aligns with the company’s values reinforces those values across the organization. Employees are encouraged to act in ways that reflect the company’s core principles, promoting a unified corporate culture.
  1. Improved Teamwork
    Programs that include peer-to-peer recognition strengthen team bonds and promote a more collaborative environment. When team members acknowledge each other’s contributions, it builds trust and helps to form a more cohesive team.
  1. Attraction of Top Talent
    Organizations known for valuing and recognizing their employees attract high-quality candidates. A strong recognition program can be a significant part of your employer brand, making your company a desirable place to work.
  1. Better Financial Performance
    There is a direct correlation between employee engagement through recognition and the overall financial performance of a company. Engaged employees often lead to better customer service, higher sales, and increased profitability.

Written by Emre Ok

Emre is a content writer at Teamflect who aims to share fun and unique insight into the world of performance management.

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