Employee Recognition Begins in the C-Suite

When is the last time you recognized an individual or team in your organization for achieving results, satisfying a customer or living company values? Or the last time you told someone in the organization how much you appreciated them being on the team? I mean you, their leader, personally delivered the message – separate from the company recognition and rewards program. 

While formal programs are an integral part of delivering the employee value proposition, there’s something quite special about receiving kudos directly from the CEO. It’s empowering for an employee to know that the individual at the top of the org chart is aware of and appreciates his or her value. CEOs who express gratitude and give accolades will be rewarded with employees who are more engaged, committed and motivated to higher performance levels. And being thoughtful about how you communicate praise will increase trust in your leadership.

So back to my question. If you answered ‘today,’ then read no further. You’ve got this. But if you have not yet realized the power of this simple and effective engagement tool, it’s time to make it a habit. Here are 7 easy ways to identify opportunities, be inclusive and integrate it into your regular workflow to build stronger connections with your employees. 

  1. Act in the moment
    When you see or hear about someone whose efforts should be acknowledged, don’t hesitate – do it right away. If you’re in a meeting together, tell them in person. If you’re hearing about their contributions secondhand, make a call or send a note right afterwards. Your immediate action ensures the gratitude is timely, authentic, and heartfelt – and the opportunity is not lost.  
  2. Make it public
    Expressing your gratitude and acknowledgments in public provides additional benefits. For the recipient, highlighting their knowledge, skills and contributions to others affirms their value and motivates additional positive feedback from others. The broader audience also benefits by gaining a better understanding of what is expected. Use already scheduled meetings, events and CEO communications as your platform to give them the greatest exposure and make it a standard part of the process for you. 
  3. Share something extra
    Make comments that reflect your familiarization with not only the results achieved, but the individuals/teams themselves. For instance, you might say, “Halle’s launch of a new product was 60 days ahead of schedule and is 10% ahead of revenue projections in its first three months… did you know she and her husband were also training for a marathon during this time?” Or “the Huntsville Plant construction team reduced safety incidents by 80% this year as a result of their “Safety First” program. This is the same team that organizes a Toys for Tots drive every year serving over 500 local children.” These statements confirm you care about the people as much as their results.
  4. Span one to many
    Identifying opportunities to give shout outs is easier when you think about it in terms of individuals, teams and the whole enterprise. You can recognize an individual for leading the team in monthly sales, the sales team for beating their monthly sales goal and the enterprise for achieving record profits on revenues. 
  5. Reinforce words with action
    Consider how you can reward star employees in ways that are meaningful to them. Many employees seek growth and development opportunities. Ask them to lead an initiative or present at a leadership meeting. Move them into a new role to expand their capabilities. Have them represent the company on an industry council or community board. This positive reinforcement will help retain them and motivate higher performance.
  6. Share employee stories externally
    Continue celebrating employees by sharing relevant stories externally with key audiences. Through their actions, employees are demonstrating firsthand the company’s core values and commitment to customers, investors and communities. Integrate their stories into your speaking scripts, highlight them in customer and analyst meetings, incorporate them into web and social sites. Your employees become visible ambassadors for your brand.
  7. Be Intentional
    As you focus on developing organizational culture, be intentional about thanking and recognizing employees who demonstrate the behaviors you want and are moving the ball forward. Many companies today want to communicate they care about employees’ health and wellbeing – take time to publicly thank the team who comes to work each day focused on just this. Another key focus is equity, diversity and inclusion. Recognize managers and mentors who are supporting these efforts. Think about employees and teams who work remotely and be sure to include them.  


Becoming a leader who wakes up each day seeking opportunities to share your appreciation and praise requires focus – but the execution can be integrated into your regular workday, for the most part. By developing the mindset, engaging in discovery and communicating thoughtfully to make your expression of gratitude a memorable experience, you will drive higher engagement, retention, productivity and results.