The business benefits of employee recognition are numerous. Studies published by Forbes and Hppy show that employee recognition improves engagement, customer satisfaction, employee retention, employee experience, and performance.
Actually, “Praise and commendation from managers was rated the top motivator for performance, beating out other noncash and financial incentives, by 67% of workers,” according to
We can all agree that employee recognition is important. But is all employee recognition equal in its impact? In his book, Coaching Questions, Tony Stoltzfus shares three types of recognition in increasing levels of impact to the individual. Not all recognition is equal in its impact.
As you prepare to recognize an individual, keep in mind these three types of praise. Which is most appropriate for the impact you want to make? Is level one enough or are you aiming for level three? If you gave level three recognition in public, would the person freak out? Be intentional with the type of recognition you give and how you give it.
Here are the three levels:
Level One: Celebrating Progress
According to Stoltzfus, the lowest level of recognition is Celebrating Progress, which is “affirming what the person has done or accomplished so far.” The emphasis is past performance.
For example, “Karen, you did a great job managing the company event last week. It was well organized, the food was really good, and everyone seemed to have a fun time.”
If you want to celebrate progress, ask yourself questions like these about Karen:

  • “What specific accomplishments do I want to celebrate?”
  • “What growth have I seen that I want to call out?”
  • “How has she met or exceeded expectations?”

In Celebrating Progress, you recognize Karen for work she’s already completed. Now listen, just because this is level one doesn’t mean it should be disregarded. Plenty of employees never get recognized at even the lowest level, so use it when appropriate, and trust it’ll be meaningful.
Level Two: Expressing Belief
The next level of recognition is Expressing Belief, which is “sharing your confidence in what the [employee] will do in the future.” The emphasis is future performance.
For example, “Karen, I’m really looking forward to how you will manage the company retreat. Your special touches always make our time awesome!”
To express belief, you could ask yourself questions like these about Karen:

  • “From what I’ve seen, what do I want to affirm about her future?”
  • “What strengths does she possess that will lead to future success?”
  • “How can my belief in her raise her belief in herself?”

In Expressing Belief, you recognize Karen for work you are anticipating her to perform. This isn’t the top level but can still be deeply impactful.
Level Three: Naming Identity
Now we get to level three, which is Naming Identity: “positively articulating who this person is in their core being.” The emphasis is on the person’s identity and character.
For example, “Karen, you are kind and trustworthy. I see how people trust you. You’re a big reason why the company culture is strong.”
To name identity, you could ask yourself these kinds of questions about Karen:

  • “What character traits do you admire in her?”
  • “What value does she bring to the organization in who she is?”
  • “What passions have you seen in her?”

In Naming Identity, you recognize Karen for who she is. This level may feel too intense or personal for the workplace. Perhaps it will make some employees feel uncomfortable. However, we cannot forget we are full-person people. We may be at work, but we still have our hearts. Speaking to the heart of a person makes the greatest impact when it comes to recognition.
The benefits of employee recognition are numerous, and we all agree that employee recognition is important. As you prepare to recognize employees, think about your choices. Do you want to celebrate progress, express belief or name identity? Either way, the goal is the employee feeling seen, known, and appreciated. That will go a long a way.

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