Employee recognition is more than picking your employees out of a lineup

employee recognition

Saying “thank you” and noting people’s contributions is key to business success. Here’s why employee recognition matters in your spa. 

Do you recognize your employees? We don’t mean “can you pick them out of a lineup?” We mean, do you acknowledge your employee contributions in meaningful ways? If not, you should start. Employee recognition is a key element of business success in your spa or hospitality company. 

When spas and hotels are busy and everyone is rushing around, working to make guests happy, people’s individual efforts can be overlooked. But saying “thank you” and noting people’s contributions is important.

As we have previously reported, hospitality’s record for making its employees feel valued is less than stellar. A 2020 study by Qualtrics found that travel and hospitality employees are the least likely out of all industries to feel valued at work. Another, more recent, report from Microsoft found that frontline workers, including hospitality workers, feel undervalued within their companies. And separate research found that 60% of job seekers wouldn’t even consider working in a restaurant, bar, hotel or other hospitality job. Those last findings don’t necessarily come down to a lack of employee recognition, but they do highlight that there are issues.

There isn’t one solution that is going to change this, but we do know that employee recognition can help people feel valued at work and improve morale and  engagement.

We have written before about the importance of communicating goals to your staff and involving them in decision making processes. People feel more invested in the success of a thing when they fully understand how they are instrumental in that success. Similarly, when they feel that their contributions are recognized and appreciated, not only does this boost morale, it engages and motivates them to contribute further. We all want to know that we matter. Some people might say that’s all anyone really wants.

We spoke with Mindi Cox, Senior Vice President of People & Great Work at O.C. Tanner, a company that specializes in employee recognition platforms. Cox believes “an organization’s business potential is intimately tied to its sense of humanity,” and she helps cultivate workplace cultures where people feel connected to the greater purpose and impact of their work. She was named 2018 Human Resource Executive of the Year by the Stevie Award for Great Employers. Here’s what she had to say about employee recognition, why it matters, and how to do it right.

Mindi Cox, O.C. Tanner

Why is employee recognition so important? How does it change organizations and employee experience?

Employee recognition has the power to transform organizations and the people in them. Being deliberate about recognizing the positive actions, heroics, experiments or ideas that are of strategic and operational importance to your organization will lead to more of those behaviors. We often speak of company values, even put them on the wall, but recognition can be a strategic way to show our employees what those values and priorities look like in action. It’s amazing to watch the benefit of recognition to both the recipient and those who witness a great recognition moment. While the moment itself may incorporate an award, points or a trophy for the celebrant being recognized, some of the biggest benefit is experienced by those who watch and listen to a leader or presenter detail the accomplishment, connect its importance to the organization, and then think to themselves, “I can do that, too” or “I know a way I can create an outcome like that in my area.” This creates the best kind of ripples in an organization.

Beyond its key role in helping organizations bring strategy to life, recognition also improves the wellbeing of employees as it connects them to the purpose of their work and communicates that their hard work is seen, they are of value, and their work matters.

What are some examples of best practices around employee recognition?

The best kind of recognition is steeped in authentic appreciation for personal contribution that is connected to strategic outcomes. That sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, if you want your team members to greet customers in a specific way, catch someone doing it right and make a moment out of it. Need creative thinkers solving critical business issues? Don’t wait until you are sure the project will solve all of your problems, take the time to cheer the person or team for diving in, asking hard questions, and making progress. The best recognition is specific, timely, and sincere. Recognition done well connects people in your organization to their purpose and each other. Too often organizations opt for less personal, large group events where everyone is thanked – that is a great start and can be done in the right way, but too often that type of recognition is generic and scheduled in a way that makes it an expectation rather than a memorable, personal experience. You might also consider a peer-to-peer recognition program that ensures the everyday goodness your employees are bringing can be recognized by those who see it most and up close.

How can organizations improve their recognition practices?

If you are new to encouraging appreciation in your organization or prioritizing more formal recognition, just get started. You may find a quirky way to celebrate something unique about your company or way that you work – run with it. You can always iterate as your organization matures its recognition and appreciation practices. I would recommend taking the time to create or participate in a leadership training or at least a conversation that includes sharing both how to recognize effectively and why appreciation is critical to organizations, teams and individuals – this is key to ensuring appreciation becomes a key aspect of your culture modeled by its leaders.

You can visit octanner.com/global-culture-report to learn more about what employees are saying about what type of appreciation matters most to them in today’s workplace.


Hi! Check out this list of the spa & wellness trends we’ll be watching next year. Click here to download the Handbook: Seven wellness trends for 2022 


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com

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