Why employee recognition should be every manager's top priority

By Robert Half on 8th January 2024

A business is only as good as its employees. Your workforce is one of the company's most precious investments, and a robust commitment to employee recognition is one of the most effective ways to safeguard that investment. This is supported by our research — 12% of workers would leave their current role due to a lack of career progression opportunities, and 24% said that lack of employee benefits is a valid reason to leave a role.

Our UAE recruitment experts share why strategic employee recognition initiatives are vital to company culture, the positive impact on business outputs, and how you can reward your employees for their efforts.

How important is employee recognition?

Employee recognition is the key to businesses and workers flourishing as one. More than an infrequent platitude, true employee recognition is baked into business culture. It is genuine, equitable, and tailored to the individual. Giving thanks where it's due won't just make you feel good as a manager — there's also a wealth of business benefits behind it.

Related: 3 signs of low staff morale and how to counteract them

Higher rates of productivity

Praise and recognition are their own motivators. Employees who feel like their contribution is recognised and appreciated are far more likely to take satisfaction in their work and may even work harder.

A study by Gallup and Workhuman found that one in four employees strongly agreed that they'd recently been praised for their work. The study predicted that, by doubling that figure, businesses could see a 9% improvement in productivity. It also indicated that a 50% increase in employee recognition could lead to an average productivity gain of $91,989,474.

Employees who feel valued are more likely to withstand workplace stress or periods of high pressure. This is due to the connection forged between personal input and organisational success, and the appreciation shown for their tenacity.

More positive workplace culture

Appreciation and recognition for employees can spark a healthy sense of competition and encourage employees to celebrate one another. Potential employees will look at your workplace culture before deciding to take a role with you. Celebrating your employees through recognition programs sends a clear message to those potential candidates: the people who work here are valued for their contribution.

Attract and retain top talent

By committing to a robust and well-rounded employee recognition strategy, you can gain a competitive advantage in the hiring market while continuing to retain and hone your best talent. Of all the workers surveyed for the 2024 UAE Salary Guide, the majority ranked benefits, company values, and development (like training and progression opportunities) among the 5 key factors influencing their decision to take a role.

Employee rewards and recognition: what it takes to be a good manager

As a manager, you’re expected to guide your team in delivering fantastic results for the company. As we’ve already seen, employees who feel appreciated are far more likely to perform well and have longer tenures, which makes employee recognition one of the most crucial management skills you can develop.

Related: What makes an effective manager?

Because most UAE workplaces are multicultural, managers should consider honing their cultural awareness and adopting a more sensitive approach to people management.

Our recruitment experts also recommend regular career development check-ins with employees as part of performance appraisals. This will ensure they have an active hand in their own development, are working proactively towards goals that benefit themselves and the business, and are regularly praised for their achievements.

It's also worth noting that successful managers often give their team the freedom to work with autonomy. This shows trust and encourages workers to tackle their tasks in a way that suits them, leading to higher productivity overall.

Ways to boost employee recognition

Establish a rewards and recognition program

Building employee recognition into your company's culture effectively keeps gratitude at the heart of your people management framework. By making it a core part of your business values, employees learn to expect rewards and recognition as a natural outcome of working hard rather than seeing it as a rare occurrence.

Small incentives and gifts

Gift cards, extra days off, and other non-financial incentives are rising in popularity in the UAE as many businesses attempt to react to the tight market and tentative economy. Managers integrate these into their employee recognition programs as a weekly, monthly, or quarterly prize awarded to the top performers alongside a public thank you.

Employee engagement software

According to Gallup, UAE leaders can build on recent engagement momentum by using data to identify employees' needs. Employee engagement software creates a direct line between managers and workers, facilitating engagement analytics, satisfaction polls, and recognition systems that reward top performers fairly.

A simple ‘thank you’

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be a grand gesture — a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way. If someone in your team deserves praise, nominate them for a company-wide award or celebrate their work by taking the time to thank them in front of their peers during a team meeting.


For more management advice and employee insights, visit the Robert Half advice blog. To learn more about hiring trends and benefits in the UAE, download your free copy of the 2024 Salary Guide here.

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