“The deepest human need, is to be appreciated” – Willam James, Psychologist

In my previous post on what motivates people at the workplace, one of the major takeaways was how people have a need to feel appreciated by their peers. But does peer to peer recognition really have such a big impact? The short answer is a big resounding Yes!

But why is it so important, especially now?

In an increasingly connected workplace and a knowledge driven economy, people care more than ever before about what their peers think. Research has shown that recognition from peers has a direct bearing on motivation levels at work. Offices where teams appreciate and respect the work their compatriots do, typically have a much higher level of morale, higher productivity levels and much higher engagement levels.

Tómas Bjarnason, a doctoral student in sociology from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, studied over 900 employees in service organizations for his thesis and concluded that social recognition contributes to increased self respect, which means that employees make a greater effort to act in the company’s best interests. His measurement of the employees’ support for the organization was based on four dimensions.

(1) Organizational commitment

(2) Loyalty

(3) Service effort

(4) Service improvements.

The study showed that employees who felt that they had the means of being appreciated for their knowledge and skills were more inclined to continue in the employment of the company and put in greater effort towards delivering higher customer satisfaction.

Beyond the Coffee-Mug

Peer recognition systems are an excellent way of rewarding team members for their contributions and making them feel valued by their colleagues as well as their managers. Effective social recognition is the key today for keeping employees motivated and it extends beyond the customary impersonal T-shirt, Coffee-Mug or a certificate for appreciation (with the name sometimes misspelt).  This kind of appreciation needs to be part of the organizations culture and should be supported at the highest levels of management.

Corporate recognition programs might have a monetary reward component (more about structuring of reward programs in following posts) but research has shown that there is a very strong benefit associates with non-monetary peer-to-peer recognition as well.

When structured effectively and executed well in an inclusive manner across the organization, non-monetary peer recognition provides the following benefits.

(a)    It provides a peer level affirmation: The results of a successful project is evident for all to see, but the peers in the teams involved understand the complexity and challenges of the tasks involved in getting to the desired results. This recognition and acceptance of one’s contribution is especially gratifying for team members.

(b)   It provides a strong reinforcement to the organizational culture: Over a period of time, peer level recognition adds to the ‘story’ of the organization. The events, the achievements, the challenges overcome, team-work et. al. add to the culture of the organization. The public celebration of such wonderful stories, reinforces the culture that the organization builds up over its existence.

(c)    It provides a source of inspiration for the employees: There is hardly any effort is saying ‘Thank You’ or ‘Well done’ to a team member and most managers do it. But when this is done on an enterprise wide recognition platform, the impact is exponential and stays alive for a very long time when compared to an appreciation email that will be often sent to a limited audience and soon archived and forgotten. A public ‘Well Done’ from a superior, reinforced by appreciation from peers can help to energize employees like no gift or voucher ever can.

(d)    It helps reduces Talent churn and increases productivity: Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School, says: “Most human beings in the work environment rarely know what contribution they are making because no one ever tells them.” With peer recognition systems employees are made aware that their efforts matter and this increases their motivation to stick around and perform better. The non-monetary recognition helps to reduce employee turnover and increases the throughput because of the high energy levels it fosters.

(e)   It helps seed collaboration: When the stories of praise and appreciation are available for the organization to view and learn from, teams start to collaborate more. Teams get inspired from each other and reach out in a better way, helping to achieve organizational goals more effectively.

(f)     It builds strong communities: Public peer recognition helps to bring employees together. The stories serve to inspire, provide ideas, and provide knowledge about the skills and expertise that reside in various pockets of the organization. With increased engagement and collaboration, these communities can drive teams to meet the strategic goals of the organization in a much more effective way than if everyone was toiling away in their own silos.

With the advent of technologies that make it easier to connect with employees, non-monetary social recognition programs is a must have for any organization that seeks to retain and nurture talent. These programs are a win-win for the organization and its employees as it is not only substantially more cost effective compared to the established monetary rewards programs but it is also more effective in engaging the new generation workforce that craves for recognition.

Image in this post courtesy of

One thought on “The benefits of Non-Monetary Peer-to-Peer Recognition

  1. Completely agree. Immensely important when big outcomes and success is dependent on cross-functional efforts.
    Google has long had peer bonus programs and I see everyday how it can motivate team members. Its not uncommon ( happened this morning incidentally ! ) for recipients to reply back “You just made my day. This peer bonus means a lot to me” – specially if it comes from that one person in the team who sets the bar too high for herself ( and everyone else ) !


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