We all know how critical creating a culture of recognition is, but actually putting an effective one into place can be challenging. Many companies focus on the best-known forms of employee appreciation and recognition: top-down from managers or leaders to employees.
That type of recognition is wonderful, and certainly needed, but it’s not the whole picture. Creating a workplace culture where everyone feels their hard work is seen and valued requires encouraging recognition between peers as well.
When team members recognize and appreciate each other, your entire organization benefits. Here’s what you need to know about peer-to-peer recognition, plus innovative ideas for implementing your own peer recognition program.
What is Peer-to-Peer Recognition?
Peer recognition is, quite simply, peers providing recognition and appreciation to each other for great work. This recognition can be informal, like a quiet thanks after a meeting, or done through your formal employee recognition program.
Peer-to-peer recognition examples could be writing a thoughtful note to a colleague after a project is completed, emailing them to thank them and copying their manager, or posting a shout-out in a Slack channel for the team.
The Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Recognition
Employee recognition has many well-studied benefits, like improving employee engagement and employee retention. Peer-to-peer recognition has additional benefits of its own, however, which make it a powerful addition to your existing recognition program.
Gartner research has found that peer feedback can improve employee performance by 14%. And Harvard Business School research reveals a deep, and long-lasting, impact on performance and a feeling of belonging from peer recognition.
Why does peer-to-peer feedback have such a strong impact on the workplace? Partly because peer recognition can be given more frequently than recognition from managers or leaders — you have many more peers to give you appreciation and recognition. And since recognition needs to be frequent to be effective, peer recognition often fills an important gap.
Recognition from peers also often feels more genuine or meaningful because they know what goes into the work that you produce every day — they are doing the same kind of work, or benefitting from your expertise to make their jobs easier, so their appreciation comes from a place of deeper knowledge and understanding.
Plus, peer-to-peer recognition encourages connections between colleagues and a cooperative and appreciative work environment. And that just makes work a nicer place to spend your days, which is highly beneficial for retention rates, work friendships, and your employee experience).
Peer Recognition Ideas + Best Practices
Now that you know how critical peer recognition is to your organization, how can you incorporate it into your business? These peer-to-peer employee recognition ideas and best practices can help you think about recognition innovatively and effectively.
1. Make Recognition Social
Public recognition (also known as social recognition) is recognition that’s given in front of a whole team, a department, or company-wide. Sometimes it’s even posted on social media to get that lovely external recognition too. These public shout-outs help you model what your company values are to all employees — they can see for themselves the hard work and accomplishments that you celebrate and elevate.
Social recognition isn’t appropriate for every situation, of course. Some employees prefer a quick email or an aside after a meeting. But be sure to have a way to publicly recognize great work that your employees can participate in to celebrate their peers.
2. Practice Inclusive and Equitable Recognition
Peer-to-peer recognition needs to be equitable and inclusive to be effective. If you’re always seeing the same small group of employees get those moments of recognition from their peers while everyone else is ignored, that doesn’t fuel employee engagement or motivation — it can do the opposite, in fact.
Be sure that you’re also encouraging employees to celebrate teamwork, not just individual achievements, and that everyone’s great work is celebrated and shared by their peers.
3. Have Leaders Show the Way
Peer-to-peer recognition might sound like it bypasses leadership altogether, but there’s still a critical place for them in this process — they need to lead the way.
Yes, leaders can, and should, recognize the hard work of their teams and departments frequently. They should model the behavior they want to see in their managers and employees, from shouting out key milestones and work anniversaries on Slack to taking the time to recognize their fellow leaders too. That’s how you build a true culture of recognition.
Download our comprehensive guide, packed with creative and meaningful ideas to help you make each work anniversary a memorable and engaging experience.
4. Communicate the Program Details Clearly
To encourage employees to give more recognition to their peers, you need to communicate to them about your peer recognition program — what it is, why you introduced it, how to participate, and any incentives you’re giving to drive up program adoption.
The why is particularly important — tell employees what this program means for your culture, and what it means for them. They aren’t likely to participate unless they know why they’re doing it, and what exactly they should be doing.
5. Include Hybrid and Remote Employees
Any effective recognition program needs to consider remote and hybrid employees, but it’s especially critical with peer-to-peer recognition. Recognition is a great way to build bonds between colleagues who don’t see each other in person often (or ever), so make it easy for them to give each other kudos or even mail handwritten notes for really big projects.
Plus, more peer recognition can build increased camaraderie on your remote and hybrid teams — those moments of feeling seen and appreciated by coworkers are great for team building. And knowing how you helped a peer accomplish something great is deeply satisfying.
6. Don’t Forget About Top-Down Recognition
While peer-to-peer recognition is truly amazing, it doesn’t mean it can replace all other forms of recognition — your managers and leaders still need to regularly deliver thoughtful, genuine recognition to their direct reports and departments.
Peer recognition is one portion of a holistic, comprehensive employee recognition program and a building block of your company culture, but it can’t do everything alone. A culture of appreciation comes from feeling recognition all around you, for accomplishments and milestones big and small alike.
7. Give Employees a Great User Experience
Recognition needs to be frequent to be maximally beneficial, so ensure that your peer recognition platform is easy to fun — and fun too! It should be simple and rewarding for employees to share positive feedback about their peers, and easy for them to see the positive impact that has too as other people join in celebrating their good work and contributions.
But one word of caution — be sure not to gamify your recognition so much that it becomes only a game. Recognition needs to be authentic and genuine to be effective, and employees are very skilled at sensing when it’s not. So ensure your rewards system doesn’t encourage mindless box-checking to get incentives, but real and genuine appreciation.
An effective peer-to-peer recognition program begins with the right recognition platform. Cooleaf’s all-in-one employee engagement platform lets your employees recognize each other quickly and meaningfully as part of your overall recognition program. Try it today!