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What Is Informal Employee Recognition: Importance And Ideas

9 min read   |  
Last Updated on
informal-employee-recognition

The quest to cultivate a motivated and engaged workforce stands as a cornerstone of organizational success. Amidst this pursuit, the significance of informal employee recognition has emerged crucial.

The power of appreciating employees’ contributions in a spontaneous and informal manner has garnered increasing attention.

The intention of this blog is to shed light on the importance of informal employee recognition. Some practical ideas to recognize employees informally. And the difference between formal and informal employee recognition.

Key Takeaways

  1. Meaning of Informal Employee Recognition
  2. Importance of Informal Employee Recognition
  3. Informal vs Formal Recognition

What Is Informal Employee Recognition

Informal employee recognition refers to the spontaneous acknowledgement of an employee’s achievements. Informal recognition is often impromptu, unlike formal recognition programs. And it is also versatile, as it may take various forms, such as

Forms-of-Appreciation

Informal recognition emphasizes the importance of genuine and immediate expressions of appreciation. It can foster a positive work culture. Primarily, characterized by mutual respect among colleagues.

Richard-Branson-Quote

Importance of Informal Employee Recognition

A study conducted by Forbes stated that,

92% of employees repeat excellent work when they’re recognized for it.

Employee recognition is a fundamental aspect of fostering a positive organizational culture. It is also a potent way to motivate your employees to do their best at their job. Informal recognition, which is about spontaneity, adds an extra touch of authenticity.

With this understanding in mind, let’s explore some key pointers underscoring the importance of informal employee recognition.

1. Instant Impact

Quick acknowledgments like a simple “thank you” or a public shout-out can work wonders to boost employee morale. It validates their work in real-time and reinforces their sense of purpose.

Moreover, it creates a ripple effect, inspiring others to strive for excellence.

How Instant Recognition Helps

  • Instant recognition keeps employees engaged.
  • Quick acknowledgement helps in booosting employees' confidence.
  • Instant praise foster a positive and supportive workplace culture.
  • Regular, real-time recognition can decrease employee turnover by increasing job satisfaction.

2. Everyday Effort Matters

Sometimes, it’s the little things that count the most. Recognizing the small, daily victories demonstrates that you notice and appreciate the consistent effort your team puts in.

Whether it’s a well-written email or a smooth client call, acknowledging these moments of excellence reinforces positive behaviors. It also encourages a culture of continuous improvements.

3. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Collaboration is at the heart of every successful team. When you acknowledge, you recognize their contributions. At the same time, you reinforce the significance of collective effort.

When team members feel appreciated for their collective endeavors, it strengthens bonds and fosters camaraderie. It motivates everyone to work towards shared goals.

Steve-Jobs

4. Specificity is Key

Generic praise is nice. But personalized recognition is even better. When you take the time to pinpoint what exactly was commendable about their work, it shows that you were paying attention and genuinely impressed.

Specific praises feel more authentic and meaningful. It resonates with employees on a deeper level and reinforces desired behaviors.

For example: Amanda, the product demo you gave to the clients yesterday was great. Your attention to details and in-depth understanding of the product features has impressed me. Keep up the good work!

5. Low-cost, High impact

A study by Bersin & Associates found that,

Companies allocating 1% or more of their payroll to employee recognition are 79% more successful in reaching their business objectives compared to those spending less than 1% on recognition.

Informal employee recognition is economical. It doesn’t require hefty financial investments or elaborate reward systems. Instead, it relies on genuine appreciation and acknowledgement.

Simple gestures like “thank you” or personalized shout-out can reap substantial benefits without breaking the bank. The emphasis on cost-effectiveness makes informal recognition accessible to teams of all sizes and budgets.

Now, here are some ideas to recognize employees informally.

10 Ideas to Recognize Employee Informally

Appreciating an employee’s efforts and achievements is more important than ever. Informal recognition isn’t just about boosting spirits. It’s about creating a vibe where everyone feels valued.

Here are ten simple yet impactful ideas to recognize and celebrate your employee’s contributions in meaningful ways.

1. Employee Shout-outs

Employee-Shoutouts

Employee shout-outs can be a great way to recognize your employees informally. It’s a powerful way to show appreciation to your team members. In fact, it’s akin to a resounding round of applause for their outstanding contributions.

The reasons to give shout-outs can be countless, whether it's celebrating a milestone, appreciating steady progress, or simply acknowledging a job well done.

Make shout-outs a regular part of team meetings or company communications. Maintain consistency in recognizing achievements.

2. Spot Awards

Spot-Award

Spot award is a spontaneous reward given to employees for exceptional performance. They're like surprise bonuses that recognize employees' hard work and dedication in real-time.

Whether it's a gift card, a day off, or a small token of appreciation, spot awards show employees that their efforts are noticed and valued.

3. Peer-to-peer Recognition

A study by Select Software Reviews found that,

28% of employees feel that feedback from their peers has the greatest impact on their sense of acknowledgment.

Peer-to-peer recognition efforts can go a long way. Our peers are the ones who help us in fostering a collaborative work environment. They can also reinforce the idea that we’re all integral parts of a unified team.

So, here are some examples on how to add that personal touch and recognize your colleagues.


A. Natasha has always gone above and beyond to get the work done. But what stands out is her ability to communicate and collaborate with her team members. Always ready to help and take proactive initiatives to maintain the highest standard of work. May the force be with her.

B. A massive shout out to Eric. The way he manages to get the job done with efficiency is commendable. With his support our team can achieve great results. Certainly, an amazing team player.

4. Personalized Thank You Notes

Personalized-Note

It's not just about saying "thank you." It's about acknowledging their specific contributions and the impact they've made. Whether it's for a job well done, going the extra mile, or simply being a supportive teammate, personalized thank-you notes show employees that their efforts are noticed and valued.

These messages serve as tangible reminders of their significance within the team, reinforcing their value and boosting morale.

Consider handwriting your thank-you notes. A handwritten note adds a personal touch and shows that you’ve taken the time and effort to appreciate an individual’s unique contributions.

5. Surprise Time-off

A study by Forbes study underscored that,

31% of employees named paid time off as a top benefit.

Surprise time-off is a cherished break that demonstrates a genuine concern for employees' well-being. It can be an impromptu afternoon off or an unexpected long weekend.

Such gesture allows employees to recharge and return refreshed.

6. Recognition in Company Newsletters

Company-Newsletter

Highlighting employee achievements in the company newsletter is like sharing success stories with the entire team.

You can recognize milestones, showcase impressive projects, or praise outstanding performance.

Featuring these accomplishments in the newsletter reinforces a culture of appreciation.

7. Wall of Fame

Wall-of-Fame

People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.
~Dale Carneige

Seeing their name up on the recognition wall can be a real boost for employees. It's like a pat on the back, saying, "Hey, you're on the right track!"

But it's not just about winning. Sometimes, when things aren't going so great, that wall of fame can serve as a reminder to keep pushing forward. It showcases achievements and reinforces the values we all strive to embody, motivating everyone to keep giving their best.

8. Impromptu Celebrations

Impromptu-Celebrations

Spontaneous celebrations for team successes or milestones strengthen team camaraderie and morale. A pizza party, a team outing, or a simple acknowledgment during a meeting. These impromptu celebrations show employees that their hard work is valued and appreciated.

9. Celebrating Milestones

Celebrating-Milestones

Regularly celebrating personal and professional employee milestones such as work anniversaries, birthdays, and project completions is a great way to show appreciation. These celebrations can take the form of informal gatherings with snacks and drinks, creating a relaxed environment where everyone can enjoy each other's company.

For remote teams, virtual celebrations can be just as effective. With video calls, online games, or even sending care packages to make the occasion special. Recognizing these important moments fosters a sense of belonging.

Incorporate personalized touches into your milestone celebrations. For example, include a brief speech highlighting specific achievements of the individual or team being celebrated, or create a custom slideshow with memorable moments.

10. Write a LinkedIn Recommendation

You can craft a compelling LinkedIn recommendation for your employees. It’s a testament to their exceptional skills and professionalism.

These endorsements serve as valuable assets that can unlock new opportunities and fortify professional connections.

tips-to-create-perfect-LinkedIn-recommendation

Example of LinkedIn Recommendation

Linkedin-Recomendation

Informal Employee Recognition vs Formal Employee Recognition

Some of the key differences between informal and formal employee recognition are:

Aspect Informal Employee Recognition Formal Employee Recognition
Definition It is a spontaneous and casual method of acknowledging employee efforts. It is a more structured and officially sanctioned method of recognizing employee achievements.
Scope Often individual or small team-based recognition. It can be individual, team, or company-wide recognition.
Criteria It is flexible and often subjective based on immediate contributions. Often based on predefined criteria and performance metrics.
Formality Casual, personal, and often public within small groups. Official, formal, and often involves larger audiences.
Delivery Method It is delivered through verbal praise, written notes, emails, social media mentions. Formal events, official announcements, formal presentations.
Cost Informal recognition is generally low-cost or no cost. Eg, time-off, small gifts. Can be higher cost. Eg., monetary bonuses, trophies, formal events.
Flexibility It is highly adaptable to different situations and individual preferences. It is rigid and standardized across the organization.
Example Shout-outs, thank-you notes, spontaneous celebrations. Annual awards, employee of the month, formal certificates, bonuses.

Informal Employee Recognition vs Formal Employee Recognition

Aspect: Definition

Informal : It is a spontaneous and casual method of acknowledging employee efforts.

Formal : It is a more structured and officially sanctioned method of recognizing employee achievements.

Aspect: Scope

Informal : Often individual or small team-based recognition.

Formal : It can be individual, team, or company-wide recognition.

Aspect: Criteria

Informal : It is flexible and often subjective based on immediate contributions.

Formal : Often based on predefined criteria and performance metrics.

Aspect: Formality

Informal : Casual, personal, and often public within small groups.

Formal : Official, formal, and often involves larger audiences.

Aspect: Delivery Method

Informal : Delivered through verbal praise, written notes, emails, social media mentions.

Formal : Formal events, official announcements, formal presentations.

Aspect: Cost

Informal : Generally low-cost or no cost. Eg, time-off, small gifts.

Formal : Can be higher cost. Eg., monetary bonuses, trophies, formal events.

Aspect: Flexibility

Informal : Highly adaptable to different situations and individual preferences.

Formal : Rigid and standardized across the organization.

Aspect: Example

Informal : Shout-outs, thank-you notes, spontaneous celebrations.

Formal : Annual awards, employee of the month, formal certificates, bonuses.

Read more: Types Of Employee Recognition-All You Need To Know

Formal or Informal: Which is Better?

If your business operates within a formal and corporate environment, it's crucial to implement a recognition program that aligns seamlessly with this structured approach.

Conversely, if your business culture leans towards informality and flexibility, investing efforts into establishing an informal recognition program can prove to be highly beneficial.

Nevertheless, integrating both approaches according to your unique circumstances is the most effective strategy. By doing so, you create a dynamic recognition framework that accommodates various work styles and preferences.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide abundant opportunities for your employees to surpass their potential and feel genuinely valued.

Ensure your recognition program is inclusive, taking into account the diverse backgrounds and contributions of all employees. Tailored recognition fosters a sense of equity and belonging within the team.

Wrapping Up

And there you have it! Informal employee recognition is a game-changer in today's workplace. From those spontaneous shout-outs to surprise celebrations, these little moments of appreciation pack a powerful punch.

So, whether your workplace is all suits and ties or more casual Fridays, don't underestimate the power of informal recognition. By mixing it up with your formal programs, you're creating a workplace where everyone feels seen, heard, and motivated to give their best.

Cheers to celebrating the small wins and making every day at work a little brighter!

This article is written by Sanjeevani Saikia who is a part of the marketing team at Vantage Circle. Sanjeevani loves to split her leisure time between reading and watching TedX. Her curiosity is easily piqued by the most recent developments in Human Resource Management and Organizational Psychology. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com.

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The Ultimate Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition