Formal v informal employee recognition – which is best?

Posted by Kevin Chamberlain

It’s widely accepted that employee recognition is an important and positive process for any business to have in place. For a company wanting to take their employee recognition to a more productive level, there are a number of questions to take into account and a key one is: what form should it take?

With so many kinds of rewards, not to mention the many and varied schemes available to implement them, it can be tricky to decide what’s a good fit. This isn’t just about the rewards themselves, but also the way in which they are offered and delivered.

Thinking about individual company culture

Every company has an individual culture and this is a good place to start, as any new processes should reflect your established ethos and office environment if it’s going to fit with your incumbent workforce. There are plenty of companies that won’t fit into a specific category and might want to incorporate formal and informal options together. With the more contemporary, tailored recognition schemes now available, you can decide how you want your programme to run and exactly what you want your staff to receive.

Ways to deploy an informal recognition programme

Informal recognition can be put into practice every day to acknowledge the multitude of ways that staff go above and beyond. It’s a personal way of providing ad-hoc awards exactly when they are deserved. It could be:

  • Ordering a take away for the team that stayed late to finish an important project
  • Giving vouchers for a member of staff to take their partner out for dinner when work has been taking up more personal time than it should.

Recognition rewards can be scaled up or down, depending on the activity that you want to reward. Informal rewards also tend to be more visible, as they are usually more frequent, and might be publicly given or announced as part of a working day. This in itself generates an immediate feel good factor that will affect the recipient and inspire those around them.

Empowering and feeling valued

Peer-to-peer recommendations, where members of staff are empowered to nominate a colleague who they believe deserves to be recognised for their performance or input, is another way to manage informal recognition programmes. Again this would happen as and when an employee notices something that they think should be rewarded.

So, although there would be an established process for the nominator to go through, it would be on an ad-hoc basis rather than anything the nominee is consciously working for. It can have a positive impact across an organisation as it fosters good feeling within teams and makes individuals feel valued and that their opinions are taken into account.

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Why you might use a formal recognition programme

Formal types of recognition will be set out into a structured programme whereby staff members know exactly what rewards they are working for, possibly even with timelines in place. These schemes might also be tiered for different award values, or possibly divided into sections according to the types of awards on offer.

More formalised arrangements are also much more likely to be driven by management, with senior decisions about who receives what and when. They are also likely to be tied into company review and appraisal processes, incorporating measurable company metrics and possibly even company values.

Is there a winner?

Broadly speaking, if your business is positioned as very corporate and formal, then you’re likely to need a rewards scheme that matches this approach. Conversely, if your business style is more laid back and relaxed then an informal rewards scheme is likely to work for you.

Employees are likely to respond differently to these contrasting approaches to employee recognition, although both will generate positive feelings as they are about rewarding effort and performance.

Combining formal and informal recognition

Interestingly, companies that incorporate a combination of formal and informal rewards together are likely to see the greatest response, as you can cater for more personalities and provide more opportunities for employees to be rewarded.

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Indeed they can complement the other very successfully, as employees will see regular rewards taking place, even if they aren’t the recipient.

This has an impact on company culture and breeds an environment that brings out the best in your workforce – see this case study for how companies like Virgin Atlantic and Brother have benefited. Not only will they want to achieve and succeed individually, but they will enjoy seeing their colleagues recognised too, especially if they have had a hand in it themselves.

Employee recognition that’s right for your business

When putting together an employee recognition programme, it’s important to consider one that’s right for your business, whether that’s formal, informal, or a combination of both. You should also think about schemes that meet your business requirements and budget.

At CR Worldwide, we can provide effective employee recognition programmes with your business in mind. They are:

Easy to implement – Our recognition schemes can be quickly set up and easily tailored to suit your staff and their needs, while meeting your aims and business goals.

Easy to use – Our programmes use simple, engaging and effective methods to reward your staff’s hard work and achievements. This is done in a way that makes them feel valued to improve their performance, boost their loyalty, and create an instant emotional bond with your business.

Easy to manage – Our schemes offer real-time reporting allowing your managers to easily keep track of staff achievements. This can help them instantly recognise and reward them as they achieve new goals. A range of exciting rewards can also be selected from a catalogue.

We’d love to excite, engage and inspire your staff with our innovative employee recognition services. To speak to a member of our award-winning team:

Or visit the contact us page to make a quick online enquiry to find out how to drive your business performance today.