The Ripple Effect: How Recognizing individuals impacts the entire organization

Written by Ivan Dimitrijevic

Software and culture builder. Experienced technology teams leader. Guitar and basketball player.

December 03, 2023

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Remember that story about the butterfly effect, where a butterfly flaps its wings and starts a typhoon? Dramatic? Maybe, but the idea that small things can influence nonlinear events within complex systems is hardly new, and it applies to corporate ecosystems.

One disgruntled employee complaining near a copy machine can nudge another disengaged coworker to leave the company and start a year of high turnover rates and missed deadlines. The good news is that the system works both ways.

Sitting next to a high performer boosts productivity by 15%, according to research from a US business school, Kellogg, whilst being next to a low performer can decrease it by up to 30%, which is why it is crucial to recognize your top performers.


How employee recognition cuts costs

A happy employee is not only more likely to be productive, go the extra mile, and recommend your company to more top talent, but their actions can also make or break your company culture.

Providing an environment where your employees can thrive reduces turnover costs, and hiring costs, reduces absence, and prevents them from leaving due to toxic work cultures.

One of the key complaints heard in exit interviews all around the world, regardless of the industry is that high achievers leave when they feel like their effort is not recognized by the management.

Employee recognition can help you mitigate employee dissatisfaction, and help you feel the pulse of the workplace.

Another tricky trait surrounding employee satisfaction is the fact that while satisfaction shines through dissatisfaction tends to be silent until it’s too late.

Recognition – motivation’s long-lost twin

HR teams, and managers alike tend to be baffled and even hurt when a previously respected employee suddenly resigns. One of the first things that comes to their mind is that the person is leaving because of the money, but a study by O.C. Tanner that focused on work dynamics found that 37 percent of employees valued being recognized more than getting a raise, or even getting a promotion.

A simple „thank you” from the managers showed a 69 percent increase in the likelihood the overall productivity of a recognized employee would increase.

Recognition can come in many forms, from the good old tenure award, structured feedback, a bonus, or – a public thank you.


Unexpected power of public praise

Turns out employees want to be recognized and want everyone from their boss to Sally in accounting to know they did a good job.

Public praise also showed an interesting correlation to overall team productivity.

When a team member is publicly recognized it creates positive competition within the unit, motivating others to receive the same accolades. This in turn helps with focus and employee engagement.

Satisfied employees who feel valued motivate others to achieve the same benefits creating a ripple effect that echoes throughout an organisation.


Driving force of engagement

Talking about engagement – can you guess what the main factor driving engagement is? You guessed it, it’s recognition.

Nothing boosts the desire to succeed more than a promise of public recognition. This behavior is hardly new. Even Roman leaders paraded their heroes and went the extra mile to build victory arches to celebrate successful campaigns and everyone who made them possible.

While creating marble monuments after a successful project might be a bit much, and a good old team building might seem tempting, data remains consistent – nothing makes your employees conquer challenges and deadlines like a simple thank you. Just make sure you know who deserved it.

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