How To Create A Culture Of Gratitude With Strategic Recognition

If you think back to the most rewarding days of your career, what is the most vivid picture dancing through your mind when you envision those memories? For most, it comes down to a few simple things that are deeply intertwined – gratitude, appreciation, and recognition. A thank you for a job well done, an award for a successful initiative, a mention at an all-hands meeting for spearheading a new project.

There are few things in this world that bring humans as much joy as being praised or validated. It’s wired in our DNA by our primal need for belonging. For these reasons and more, appreciation and gratitude can propel your team to the next level. 

The key to cultivating this type of culture comes down to strategic recognition.

What is Strategic Recognition?

Strategic recognition is a deliberate and planned approach to acknowledging and rewarding employees for their contributions in a way that aligns with the overall business strategy and goals of a company. It goes beyond simple, sporadic acknowledgment and is instead integrated into the organizational culture. This is exactly how our NimblyWise founders, Mike Sweet and Sara Ortins, built their previous company to a satisfaction rate of 94% and have cultivated an equally engaged team at NimblyWise.

Strategic recognition involves systematically identifying and appreciating employees’ efforts and achievements to reinforce positive behaviors and enhance overall employee engagement. 

It’s important to note that what strategic recognition isn’t, though, is impersonal. 

The word strategic can sometimes mean calculated. While this type of recognition does come with an intentional plan, authenticity is at the core of its success for your organization.

So, how do you implement this? Especially given the remote/hybrid nature of work today, where employees are feeling more isolated than historically, with no water cooler chats to spark these interactions.

Let’s take a look at Gallup’s research-based suggestions.

Gallup’s 5 Pillars of Strategic Recognition

In a recent study by Gallup, researchers took a deep dive into employee engagement and the role of recognition to determine exactly what actions should be taken for success. What they found was that the five areas that are critical for strategic recognition are:


How often are employees being recognized? 


Are you truly thinking through how you’re recognizing your team and what your message to them is? 

The moment employees think you’re doing it to check a box is the moment you lose them and their engagement, ruining the goals of strategic recognition. Your actions must be from the heart and intentional. 


How are you showing recognition? 

Not every team member craves recognition in the same way. Some prefer to be front and center, others prefer a more behind-the-scenes kind of praise. By surveying your team or having managers facilitate conversations, you can learn how individuals want to be recognized for a more effective and impactful approach.


Are you recognizing team members equally for similar efforts and successes? 

The data shows most teams aren’t. The study found that only 26% of employees thought that they were recognized equally in comparison to other team members performing on the same plane. Be cognizant of this so no one on your team feels slighted by strategic recognition efforts.


Is this completely woven into your company culture? 

Creating an environment where acknowledgment and appreciation are valued and regularly expressed because it’s just what your team does is the ultimate sign of success in strategic recognition.

9 Types of Recognition to Express Gratitude & Appreciation for Your Team

So, with the five pillars in mind, what types of recognition should you start weaving into your company’s foundation? Here are a few ideas we love and have used ourselves: 

Gratitude Slack Channel

Remote/ hybrid teams and in-person teams both utilize chat platforms. Leverage this in your recognition efforts with an ongoing daily gratitude channel. Encourage your managers to post at least one shout-out daily and share with their team ways they can do the same.

Surprise Recognition Gifts

Surprise team members with thoughtful gifts that align with their interests or preferences. This could be sports game tickets, special company swag, a gift certificate to a local yoga spot, etc. This helps with the authenticity and personalization piece as gifting is uniquely tailored to each individual.

Work Anniversary & Birthday Celebrations

Not everything has to be performance-based or metrics-based. Especially those team members who are struggling at home or in a new role. They need to be motivated and cherished, even if things aren’t going well. This could be the thing that turns their performance or engagement around! If individual celebrations are too much financially or due to the size of your team, do one per month and invite everyone it applies to that month. 

Professional Development Opportunities

Recognize high performers by offering special opportunities for professional development, such as workshops, conferences, or training programs. This not only shows appreciation but also invests in the individual’s growth. We’ve shared many times just how critical personal and professional development opportunities are to employee retention!

Social Media Shoutouts

Acknowledge and appreciate employees on social media platforms, showcasing their achievements to a broader audience and enhancing the company’s positive public image. Not only does this boost recognition efforts – but it also helps your ideal client connect with your team.

Leadership Lunches

Team members crave upward visibility if they’re dedicated to the company. Arrange one-on-one or small group lunches with leadership to personally express appreciation and discuss career goals and aspirations.

Personalized Notes of Appreciation

Have your leadership team and/or managers take the time to write personalized notes expressing appreciation for specific contributions. This demonstrates authenticity and shows that you’ve thought about the individual’s unique efforts!

Flexible Work Arrangements

Today, one of the most sought-after job perks is flexibility. Acknowledge exceptional performance by offering flexible work arrangements or additional time off. This recognizes the individual’s hard work while promoting a healthy work-life balance, which also enhances performance.

Host Company Offsites or Team Events

Whether it’s an offsite to somewhere like Italy or a team-building event locally at an escape room, make it fun and celebrate collectively to build connections!

Other options could be donating to charities, having a recognition wall in the lunchroom, hosting a monthly “thank you” lunch, do raffles for a high-ticket prize monthly, gift cards for a coffee or lunch, wellness programs, association memberships with education opportunities- the list goes on. 

Listen to your team – they’ll tell you how they want to be recognized.

Why This Matters & One Way to Start Recognizing Your Team

In this research, Gallup found that “When recognition is an important part of an organization’s culture, employees are nearly three times more likely to strongly agree that they feel loyal to their organization.” 

Additionally, Glassdoor found that over half of employees surveyed would stay at their job longer if they received more appreciation from their boss. 

These are just two small statistics in a sea of many showing how small acts of recognition can boost morale, mental health, and engagement at your organization.

While a strategic recognition program may take time to build and perfect, there is an impactful step you can take today to demonstrate your commitment to such a culture. And that is investing in learning and development opportunities like NimblyWise’s Real-Time Learning (RTL) program.

This program aligns seamlessly with several pillars of strategic recognition identified in the Gallup study, particularly Authenticity, Personalization, and Culture.

Implementing RTL isn’t just about rewarding top performers; it’s about showing a genuine investment in the growth and development of all team members. 

This approach underscores the authenticity of your recognition efforts, allows for personalization to meet individual employee needs, and contributes to a culture that values continuous learning and development. 

Such an investment is a powerful demonstration of strategic recognition, reflecting a deep commitment to the professional and personal growth of your employees.

Over the course of six months, the participants you select will work through group workshops, as well as a one-on-one coach, to develop their real-time learning skills, which will truly serve them for life. 

There’s no better way to recognize your best team members than investing in them by providing opportunities that will serve them – and, in turn, your company, too. 

Let’s discuss options for your team!