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Everyone likes to be recognized. Whether it’s for a job well done, scoring the winning goal, achieving academic excellence, or being named volunteer of the year, recognition is rewarding. Acknowledgment and praise play a significant role in everyone’s lives. Recognition fills the recipient’s heart with pride, appreciation, and acceptance, and the presenter's soul with gratification. If there has ever been a win-win relationship, this is it.

We want to help you understand the value of awards and recognition programs and offer tips on how to develop an effective recognition program to use in the office, on the field, in the classroom, or with a volunteer-based organization. We all strive to be recognized. Begin the process today and you'll see why recognition is rewarding.

What Is Recognition?

The desire for validation is one of the deepest human needs. Everyone wants to know that he or she is a valued member of an organization, has done an outstanding job, or has achieved a certain degree of success in sports, academics, business, or another field of endeavor.

Giving recognition is a powerful means of rewarding effort, saying thank you, providing a sense of belonging to something important, building loyalty, and encouraging positive performance. Being recognized for anything—whether it is accomplishing a goal, making the sale, completing a successful season of soccer, getting an A on an exam, or simply for making the effort—is an excellent feeling, one that lasts for a long time.

This need to feel honored is as old as time. As industrial psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs illustrates, people need motivation and encouragement on both their paths of personal and professional growth.


Maslow's Hierarchy of needs

Maslow researched human motivation extensively 50 years ago and determined that needs drive motivation. As Peter B. Grazier points out in his article “Starving for Recognition: Understanding Recognition and the seven Recognition Do’s and Don’ts," “from our most basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, and safety and security to our most sophisticated needs of ego satisfaction and self-actualization, we are driven to fulfill these needs. And we usually undergo some internal tension (for example the tension of hunger when we need to eat) until the need is satisfied. This tension then prods (or motivates) us constantly until the need is met.”

The need for recognition, one of our more sophisticated needs, is one of the most difficult to achieve. It is the only one that is wholly dependent upon others to respond appropriately. In other words, recognition, by definition, must come from others. “I wondered for years why so many recipients would experience an emotional response (such as tears) when receiving some recognition. What I came to understand was they there were finally breaking through a barrier (need fulfillment) that they had spent years striving for,” explains Grazier. “Someone had finally thanked them for their good work.”

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