By Dan Harris

When’s the last time you recognized an employee’s hard work? Chances are it’s been longer than you’d like to admit. In fact, a recent study by Quantum Workplace found that only 10.2 percent of companies are prioritizing employee recognition right now.

However, organizations that are focusing on recognition are seeing big benefits. Forty-one percent of the most engaged companies in the survey stated recognition programs are becoming more important.

But not all types of praise will work for all employees.

Forward-thinking companies are placing more focus on the needs of their employees. Knowing that employees are the most important asset to a company — and treating them as such — engages, motivates, and improves their overall attitude toward work.

Understanding what makes your team tick will move your company forward. Take the time to discover what each employee values and how they’re best motivated.  Do they prefer to be praised in front of their co-workers? How often do they like to be acknowledged? Does positive feedback show them they’re valued?

Here’s how to find out what your employees’ motivation is:

Focus on feedback

If you’re already giving employees feedback, you’re on the right track. However, throwing employees positive and/or negative comments once or twice a year isn’t enough to keep them motivated and productive.

According to the same survey, 54.6 percent of highly engaged companies have one-on-one performance conversations monthly or quarterly. This means discussing both positive and negative details, and making a solid plan for employees to work through before the next one-on-one meeting.

Promote growth, success, and trust among leadership by using frequent 360 feedback to help employees understand what they are doing well and where improvement is needed.

Creating a culture where feedback is constantly accepted and implemented helps employees feel comfortable with the process. Once employees see you’re implementing their feedback, trust and relationships will grow throughout your organization.

How it changes attitudes: When employees know leadership actively cares about their success and future growth, attitudes often improve, with motivation and productivity following suit. Scrap the annual performance review as your primary resource of giving employee feedback. Replace it with frequent performance conversations to improve communication, increase transparency, and grow employee trust.

How it changes performance: Frequent feedback keeps employees on the path to success, and knowing what they’re doing well will motivate them to continue on that path. On the other hand, constructive feedback helps employees understand where improvements are needed to heighten their own and the company’s success.

Tip: Offer feedback training for both employees and management. Giving and receiving feedback — especially constructive feedback — can put both managers and peers in a delicate situation. Create guidelines on how feedback will be used to foster employee growth. Include when and how feedback is given, what should or shouldn’t change as a result, and your plans of incorporating feedback into your performance management strategy.

Discuss the appropriate time and place to give feedback, the importance of offering detailed information with an explanation of what should or shouldn’t change as a result of the feedback, and how to sharpen listening skills.

Focus on employee recognition

Who’s up for a trip to Mexico? Hundreds of dollars in gift cards, anyone? Maybe a week extra of paid time off will do the trick?

All of these rewards sound enticing, but employees aren’t looking for a major handout. Instead, they seek formal and genuine recognition of their hard work, effort, and contribution to the organization’s success — which, in turn, contributes to even more success.

In fact, Quantum Workplace’s research found that half of the organizations that saw a positive ROI as a result of their employee engagement strategy have a formal peer-to-peer recognition program in place.

How it changes attitudes: Employee recognition is consistently ranked as one of the highest drivers of employee engagement. Employees are more dedicated, motivated to succeed, and more likely to go the extra mile for their company when they feel valued.

How it changes performance: When it comes to colleagues and peers, appreciation and recognition fuels employee motivation and productivity. Half of the companies that responded to the State of Employee Feedback survey reported a positive ROI after implementing a peer-to-peer recognition program. Plus, recognition systems don’t just motivate those who are receiving praise; making recognition public can influence co-workers to also go above and beyond in their duties.

Tip: Use employee feedback to help guide you to a recognition program that resonates best with your staff. Try using an online platform to boost the morale of both in-office and remote employees.

Do you think it’s important to take time to focus on both recognition and constructive feedback? Why or why not?

Dan Harris is a Workplace Insights Analyst at Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools that guide their next step in making work better every day. @QuantumWork