The Great Resignation has told employers in no uncertain terms that they need to treat their workers with respect and decency. In many workplaces, that means that business leaders, on top of their existing mountain of daily responsibilities, must be sure to recognize and appreciate their workers’ contributions on a regular basis.

Recognition is undeniably important, but it is also a lot of work for busy managers — which is why so many business leaders try to shift the burden of recognition onto their staff. Peer-to-peer (P2P) recognition is becoming more popular in a post–Great Resignation world, but many managers misunderstand what this form of recognition is and how to establish it in their workplace.

What P2P recognition Is and Is Not

Peer-to-peer recognition is one worker’s commendation of another worker’s skills, talent or deliverables. For P2P recognition to be impactful, it must be genuine; employees are too adept at identifying in authenticity, and false praise can have the opposite impact, weakening relationships, lowering morale and increasing turnover.

Perhaps the most important element of P2P recognition for business leaders to realize is that it does not replace the need for top-down recognition in the workplace. A thriving culture of recognition is driven by praise from leaders; employees model the behavior of their leaders, so leaders need to be generous in supplying recognition of varying types to all workers. The truth is that leaders can never fully eliminate the responsibility of seeing, hearing and positively responding to the contributions of their staff. Leaders looking for solutions to make recognition easier might consider investing in an employee recognition platform, which can assist in developing recognition programs and tracking their progress and effectiveness.

While P2P recognition is not a perfect substitute for recognition for leaders, it is nonetheless beneficial for workers to receive praise from their peers. Because fellow employees perform similar work and thus understand the challenges associated with daily tasks and long-term projects, appreciation and recognition from peers can be more meaningful than the same from leaders.

Generally, P2P recognition develops organically, as workers feel connected to one another and supported by their organization with a culture of cooperation. Attempts by business leaders to force team members to recognize one another will almost always fall flat. Still, business leaders can build a foundation of recognition from which P2P recognition is likely to develop. Here are a few behaviors business leaders should adopt to encourage employees to recognize one another in the workplace.

Quick Tips for P2P Recognition

Make recognition public. As often as possible, recognition should take place in view of a worker’s peers. Public recognition shows the worker of honor that their accomplishments are worthy of attention from their peers, and it tells other workers how to achieve similar attention and appreciation from leaders. Of course, leaders should keep workers’ personal preferences in mind, and especially shy or introverted employees might benefit more from instances of private praise.

Be inclusive with recognition. All employees should have the opportunity to develop trust and connection with their workplace, which means that all employees should benefit from regular and meaningful recognition. Leaders should be careful to recognize the contributions of all employees, even those who do not directly contribute to the company’s bottom line.

Recognize workers frequently. Small and informal acts of recognition should be almost incessant in the workplace. Handshakes, high-fives, thank-yous and the like demonstrate the unending gratitude that leaders should feel toward their staff. The more often workers see leaders displaying appreciation for those around them, the more likely workers are to adopt these behaviors themselves.

Offer opportunities for P2P recognition. Leaders can create formal programs that encourage P2P recognition. Some examples include a rotating MVP trophy that team members pass around monthly or quarterly, a group video message for workers during birthdays or employee anniversaries or appreciation boxes on workers’ desks for anonymous messages of praise. Leaders can brainstorm with their staff to come up with a P2P recognition program that is fun for everyone.

Measure P2P recognition. It is impossible to determine the success or failure of P2P recognition programs if leaders are not measuring them. Metrics like amount of praise sent and received, number of program participants and staff satisfaction levels are critical to understanding whether P2P is working and how to improve it.

Leaders can and must learn from the Great Resignation. Taking steps to make workplaces more supportive and engaging spaces — through programs like P2P recognition — is a good way to ensure that a business does not suffer from an employee exodus into the future.

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