Leveraging the superpowers of appreciation

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Leveraging the superpowers of appreciation. If I told you that there was a tool that could turn your people into superheroes, would you be interested? Now I’m not saying that they’ll be able to leap tall buildings or lift a bus like superheroes we see in comic books and movies, but the superpowers derived from this tool have been proven time and time again to help your employees feel and be at their best, which is good for them and for your company. 

The tool is appreciation and recognition, which can be defined as “a feeling or expression of admirationapproval, or gratitude.” Bring this into the workplace, and you can add onto this definition feelings of being valuedseen and acknowledged for your efforts, hard work, and contributions to an organization. 

But what do these feelings actually do? How do they turn your people into superheroes? This happens when the feelings are translated into actions, or using the superhero analogy, they translate into superpowers. Here are just four of the many superpowers derived from appreciation and recognition:

Superpower #1: Engagement
Let’s start with employee engagement, something that most companies focus on and measure as they’ve come to see the power it can have on their business. Recognition has been proven to be a key driver of employee engagement, with a study by Deloitte[1] finding that employee engagement was 14% higher in organisations where they practice employee recognition than in those without recognition. This should come as no surprise, for a key driver for engagement is to feel valued, which is a direct result of appreciation and recognition.

Superpower #2: Happiness
Employee happiness, like employee engagement, can also have a positive impact on a business. In Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, he talks about how happiness leads to employees who feel more positive, are more creative, are better at solving problems, and are more effective collaborators, all of which contribute to a more successful company.

And what is that connection to recognition? Well, according to a study[2] that ranked the 26 factors of happiness on the job, they found that “the most important single job element for all people is appreciation for their work,” which, as we know, occurs through recognition. 

Superpower #3: Productivity  
It’s not just employees who benefit from recognition, the company does as well. One way is through an increase in productivity, since having employees who are engaged, happy, less burned out and more aware naturally leads to a more productive work environment. 

A study[3] shows that 79% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were being recognised, and research[4] done by Shawn Achor shows that employee productivity can increase by 30% when employees receive just one piece of praise a day.

Superpower #4: Success
Next, is that these other powers will ultimately help your company be more successful and achieve higher business results.

According to a study[5], companies that excel at employee recognition on average are 12 times more likely to generate strong business results than their peers. And to make it even more compelling, according to another report[6], if organisations would double the number of employees who receive recognition for their work on a weekly basis, they would experience a 24% improvement in quality and a 10% reduction in shrinkage, both which contribute to achieving company goals.

Have I piqued your interest? Are you curious how to use this tool in the most effective way? Well let me share with you what I call the “Four Golden Rules of Appreciation,” which I write about in my book (See it. Say it. Appreciate it!). These are the four things you MUST do to get it right, with each letter standing for a key point. Together, they create a call to action, what we ‘must’ do to achieve our recognition objectives. Here is a high level overview for each of them:

Rule #1  – Make recognition meaningful

Let’s start with the letter ‘M,’ which stands for making employee recognition meaningful. This is critical so that the recipient truly feels recognised, and it happens when you deliver meaning in both what you say and what you do, showing the person that you have seen, value and appreciate their specific contributions. 

Rule # 2 – Make recognition unified

The next golden rule focuses on designing recognition programmes that are unified and inclusive. It’s important that recognition does not create a divide or wedge between your workforce, with the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ based on location, department, manager or function, to name a few. 

Instead, recognition needs to be universal, making it available for all to give and all to receive, thus increasing your chances of creating a recognition culture and achieving your recognition objectives. 

Rule #3 – Shine a spotlight on recognition

Let’s next move on to the letter ‘S,’ which stands for shining a spotlight on recognition. In the past, recognition was done in a very private way, between the sender and the receiver, but over the years we’ve come to see the importance of changing this to put it under the spotlight and watch the magic happen. The benefit is that it showcases what good and great look like to your workforce, it multiplies the impact as others see and get involved with the recognition, and it connects your people in a positive, meaningful and uplifting way.


Rule #4 – Make recognition timely

The last letter of the acronym is ‘T,’ which stands for making recognition timely, and focuses on the ‘when’ of recognition. The word ‘timely’ means to do something in an appropriate time frame, which is a bit wishy-washy, as what does ‘appropriate time frame’ really mean? I believe that this is part of the problem as we all interpret it differently. Does it mean giving recognition once a week, once a month? What, exactly, is the ‘appropriate time frame’ to give recognition? 

I propose that instead, we focus the definition and our efforts on the gap, the time frame between the moment the behaviour or action happens and the moment the recognition occurs. If we remove the hurdles and make giving recognition easy, there is no excuse for waiting, and we can all move to what is commonly called “in the moment” recognition. 

I encourage you to use the tool of appreciation over and over again with your people, turning them into superheroes and reaping the benefits of their powers. And don’t forget to deliver it using the four golden rules, delivering what I call the ‘appreciation feeling.’ For as poet Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”


[1] Deloitte (2020). “Talent 2020 study.”

[2] Boston Consulting Group (2014). “The Top 10 Factors for Employee Happiness on the Job.”

[3] Gallup (2016). “State of the Global Workplace.”

[4] Shawn Achor (2011). “The Happiness Dividend.”

[5] Josh Bersin (2012). “The Employee Recognition Maturity Model: A Roadmap to Strategic Recognition.”

[6] Gallup (2019). “State of the American Workplace Report.”