The different ways to appreciate a job well done – R&R, Spot Awards, Applause


“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” Voltaire

The little pat on the back, an encouraging smile, a few words to express appreciation. All these go a long way in creating a truly vibrant workplace culture.

In stressful timelines and heightened competition, such gestures can play a big role in motivating the workforce.

Appreciation can have a remarkable impact

A study by Gartner revealed that “well-designed recognition and rewards programs can drive an 11.1% increase in average employee performance”. Another study by Bonusly indicated that 63% of employees who felt adequately recognized were unlikely to look for a new job.

An effective system of rewards and recognition can help nurture outstanding performers. It can fast track their progress within an organisation. It can also create well-integrated teams and boost healthy competition, leading to enhanced output.

Why does appreciation provide a boost?

There is a scientific basis for the above – being appreciated and recognized leads to releasing a chemical, dopamine, which stimulates the part of the brain that generates positive emotions.

American psychologist Abraham Maslow defined a human’s motivation is driven by a Hierarchy of Needs. He conceptualised it like a pyramid: once the basic physiological needs are taken care of, subsequent higher levels pinpoint the emotional needs that must be addressed.

Combine the formal with the informal

Motivation through informal methods at the workplace must be combined with formal systems to yield long-lasting benefits.

Rewards are usually tangible. They can be something of economic value and are typically scheduled. Recognition, on the other hand, is normally less tangible. It has emotional value and most often comes unexpectedly, as a surprise.

A few principles in developing a system

Encourage only healthy competition: Any appreciation and rewards program needs to distinguish between encouraging healthy competition and creating unnecessary rivalries.

Reward individuals and teams: Use a reasonable combination. While stars need to be nurtured, they also need to learn to be part of a larger universe.

Monetary v/s non-monetary incentives: Monetary rewards have their place, but so do non-monetary awards that satisfy the emotions.

Public or not: Public recognition boosts self-esteem, though less-publicised one-on-one communication can also be a strong driving force.

Spontaneous or planned: Mix-n-match for best results. Aiming for an award can be an incentive to work harder, while an immediate and unexpected pat for a job well done can deliver its own high too.

Different forms of appreciation

Rewards & Recognition: The frequency, categories, and numbers of a formal R&R structure will depend on the size of the organisation and the nature of the business. These should be public, well planned, and offer a mix of monetary and non-monetary benefits.

Spot Awards: Occasionally, a special achievement/performance must be highlighted immediately to deliver instant gratification. Have plans ready for such moments, but keep them rare and unique.

Applause: Use other, more informal ways to show appreciation – both top-down and peer-to-peer. It could be as routine as acknowledging someone’s extra effort during a team meeting, or by emailing the individual or her team, remembering a birthday or a work anniversary, taking achiever(s) out for a meal, and so on.

One can extend the concept in fun ways, too – a bulletin board where a congratulatory note or even an appropriate emoji can be posted; colour-coded stickers on or around a person’s photo or workstation to convey feelings, or shared emojis and messages on special Apps that teams use to communicate.

 The idea is to be spontaneous, unstructured, and, of course, appreciative.


  • Appreciation is necessary to foster a vibrant work culture
  • The tremendous impact it can have is rooted in science
  • R&R systems should be formal and informal
  • They can take varied forms but should abide by time-tested principles.