How employee recognition can support inclusion in the workplace


June 30, 2020


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Diversity and inclusion programs, and the progressive thinking behind them, are essential to organizations – influencing their values, culture, policies, and procedures.

How employee recognition can support inclusion in the workplace
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Diversity and inclusion programs, and the progressive thinking behind them, are essential to organizations – influencing their values, culture, policies, and procedures. While the diversity side of these programs deals with who gets hired and why, the inclusion side is about creating and maintaining workplaces where every person feels welcome, safe, and valued for who they are. Both are vital, but here we will look at the inclusion side.

Our thesis is simple: while often overlooked, a recognition program can help organizations make important strides in creating an inclusive workplace. Here’s how:

Give everyone the power to be heard

One of the great innovations and insights of modern recognition programs has been to democratize recognition by making it peer to peer. This is a major advancement over the previous “top down” style of workplace recognition that only gave voice to senior managers according to their (no doubt narrower) criteria of which actions and which people should be recognized.

When you democratize recognition, everyone has a voice: the people (your team) decide which actions, tasks, accomplishments, attitudes and values get recognized. That means more diverse viewpoints that not only create a culture that is better at innovation and problem solving, but that also spreads the good feelings and empowerment that come with recognition to a wider range of people. When everyone is heard, everyone feels valued.

Promote a diverse range of qualities and values

The pillars of a company’s culture are the values they promote. A good recognition platform lets a company choose the values or behaviors they want to encourage in their organization. When you use a typical recognition platform, you can check off the qualities or behaviors you want to recognize your team members for. To give you some idea of the range, the list of qualities you can select to recognize their colleagues could include: attentive, communicative, compassionate, creative thinking, execution, gratitude, intentional, positive, supportive, teamwork, timely, passion, professional, accountable, and agile.

Having a wide range of qualities to choose from encourages us to think more broadly about the qualities and values that matter to us. This leads to more people getting recognized for more actions – spreading the feeling of belonging more widely across the company. And perhaps more importantly, we are inspired to appreciate and value the different strengths and capabilities that make us all individuals.

Encourage values and actions that increase a sense of belonging

A well-designed recognition program can also lead team members to think and act in inclusive ways. Recognition in a business can be thought of as coming in two forms: appreciative and performance based. Both are important but appreciative recognition can sometimes get overlooked or at least take a back seat. A well-designed recognition program can help an organization get the balance right.

Appreciative recognition honors team members for everyday actions. Delivering someone’s documents when we go by the printer (when we used to be in the office together!) could earn someone recognition for being “Attentive.” Making sure everyone is heard at meetings would be “Compassionate” and “Supportive.” Contributing to group activities in a video call: “Teamwork.” Raising morale with a well-timed joke: “Positive.” Especially when shared, these simple gestures are the building blocks of a culture that creates a sense of connection and belonging.

And, of course, recognition is a great way to support and encourage team members who are consciously supporting a respectful, compassionate, inclusive, and diverse workplace.

Get data that helps you know how to improve inclusion

Recognition platforms typically include dashboards, reports, leaderboards, and the ability to see the messages people are sending. The first, and perhaps most important benefit is that you can see if any individuals or groups are being left out and take action.

You can also see and track which values people in your organization are living and expressing. If you see a lot of recognition for qualities like compassion, positivity, being supportive, and teamwork, for example, you’re probably on the right track at encouraging an inclusive workplace. If all of the recognition being sent in your organization is for more performance-based qualities, you might have some work to do.

Make connections you might not normally make

When you actively encourage recognition and make it easy – as recognition platforms are designed to do – you are more likely to see people connecting with and appreciating people outside of the groups they normally interact with. This is especially valuable in the era of remote work where a recognition platform can supplement the usual “physical” interactions that you expect around the office are not available.

Hopefully, you’ll find these ways recognition programs can support inclusion initiatives helpful. Along with your other initiatives, we think you’ll find a recognition program a powerful tool in creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace where every team member feels welcome and valued for who they are.

Kudos® is an employee recognition and engagement company that supports companies in a wide range of market sectors in 80 countries. Our easy-to-use SaaS recognition platform helps organizations by supporting employee inclusion, reducing turnover, increasing employee engagement, strengthening culture, and boosting morale and productivity.

More: What COVID can teach us about diversity and inclusion

We had the honor of having Cornell Verdeja-Woodson, a Diversity Business Partner for Google Cloud, as a guest on our Work From Home Show podcast. Cornell has a very original and thought-provoking take on what the remote work era can teach us about privilege and diversity and inclusion. Hear the podcast. Read the blog.

About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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