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Public vs Private Recognition: Which is Better and How to Give Effective Recognition

August 18, 2022

Happy employee woman receiving public recognition

We all know someone who thrives in the spotlight. Someone who enjoys attention and comes alive with all eyes on them. We also all know someone who is the total opposite. When it comes to attention, there's a wide range that people are comfortable with. And, more than likely, all of these types of people work in the same office.

While this is great for creating a vibrant work environment, it can make it challenging for managers to recognise each employee the way that they'd feel the most comfortable. But when it comes to public versus private recognition, the research may surprise you.

What is Public and Private Employee Recognition?

Let's first establish what public and private recognition is. As the name suggests, public recognition is acknowledgement that happens in front of others. This could be in a company meeting, event, or on a social recognition platform that connects the company.

Private recognition, on the other hand, happens between only the person giving recognition and the person receiving it.

Public Vs. Private Recognition

It's safe to say you should recognise people based on their preferences. But research suggests that when in doubt, give public recognition. It may sound surprising, but according to a survey by Gallup, public recognition has the greatest impact.

According to the findings, 37% of employees were more likely to say their organisation had a strong culture of recognition when recognition was mostly public. Followed by 22% when recognition was mixed, and only 11% when recognition was private.

These results are likely in part due to the sheer awareness of recognition. If most recognition is done privately, people are unaware of when it happens. But when recognition is public, it brings the whole team in.

Another benefit to public recognition is something called "observational learning." It essentially means that when someone witnesses a behavior and sees the response to that behavior, the observer can learn from the exchange as well. Meaning, the observer can learn which behaviors are rewarded and should be repeated.

This can be a great way to help generate a culture of recognition within your organisation because it keeps recognition top of mind. It also encourages leaders and employees to look for things to recognise every day.

Examples of Public and Private Recognition

If you're wondering how to best give public and private recognition with everyone's comfort level in mind, we have some tips and tricks to help you get started.

Public Recognition Ideas

Utilise Meetings
Since the team is all gathered for meetings already, this can be the perfect time to give public recognise group. Just keep in mind the type of meeting, the recognition being given, and the person receiving the recognition. Depending on the recipient's comfort level, it may be best to move quickly through this portion or it may be appropriate to take a moment to really celebrate.
Don't forget to celebrate personal wins here too. Maybe they just bought a house or are taking a class. Following up with your employees about their achievements outside of work is a small way to so that you support them as a person, not just an employee.

Offer a Team Lunch
This can be a great option to recognise multiple people or groups at once. It also is perfect for publicly recognising people who may not love the spotlight. Since it's a group activity, the attention is distributed amongst the team.

Use a Social Recognition Platform
Some social recognition platforms, like Terryberry's, offer an online solution for peer-to-peer and manager-led recognition. Our 360 Plus employee recognition platform looks and feels like a social media site.
This allows recognition to be given without having to be in-person. This can be another great public recognition option that doesn't put the spotlight too strongly on one person.

Private Recognition Ideas

Send an Email
It may sound simple, but this tried and true option still works. Just make sure your message is thoughtful, specific, and genuine.
A good general structure to follow is to greet the employee and include a broad thank you. Then get specific. Talk about what they did that prompted the thank you note. Even if it's as simple as being consistently reliable or being kind to the new hire, specific acknowledgement will go a long way. Follow with talking about the impact their efforts have or will have on the company. And end the note with your preferred sign off.

Invest in Skills
If you have a team member who has a spark for a certain aspect of their job, consider offering to invest it in. This could be through an online course or at in-person learning events.
This will allow your employee to grow and develop in their career, which helps show them a clear future with your company. This doesn't have to be announced to the company, but it still shows your employee that you've noticed their talents and think they're worth investing in.

Use a Social Recognition Platform
We put this suggestion as both a public and private recognition option simply because many social recognition platforms offer both capabilities.
Terryberry's platform allows for recognition to be sent publicly, but also privately through direct messages. Managers can choose to even award their employee with points or awards without the need for public acknowledgement.

RELATED: 10 Employee Recognition Ideas

happy employee group

Why Recognise

You may be wondering how significant employee recognition (of any kind) really is. Sure, it's nice to have, but is it necessary? The answer may depend on your company's goals, culture, and resources.

But research suggests that effective employee recognition programs are linked to a number of positive business outcomes.

Increased Retention

Research supports that employee recognition is directly related to employee retention. A structured employee recognition program could help companies retain their top talent during a time when many are leaving.

  • 63%of employees who feel recognised are unlikely to look for a new job. (Curiosity at Work)
  • Companies with effective recognition programs have 31%lower voluntary turnover. (Forbes)
  • 82%of professionals feel that they aren't adequately recognised for their contribution. (OGO)


Increased Engagement

Recognition can help employees feel connected to their work, which can in turn improve engagement.

  • When employees believe they'll be recognised for their work, they're 7 times more likely to be highly engaged. (Quantum Workplace)
  • Employee engagement, productivity, and customer service are about 14%higher where recognition occurs compared to where it doesn't.
  • The single most important driver for employees to do "great work" is employee recognition. (Great Place to Work)


Increased Productivity

When employees are engaged in their work, productivity increases. Therefore, employee recognition is linked to higher productivity.

RELATED: Employee Recognition Statistics: What HR Professionals Need to Know in 2022

Just be sure to remember that while employee recognition can be great for your employees and your company as a whole, it requires commitment. An effective employee recognition program requires consistency over time to work. A Gallup study found that the ideal number for employee recognition is once a week. So, depending on your team size and your workload, giving genuine feedback weekly can be difficult.
But being inconsistent with recognition won't work. When an employee gets recognised sometimes and overlooked others, it can end up feeling random rather than meaningful and intentional.

Ready to Get Started?

If you're interested in getting started with social recognition software, Terryberry is here to help.

Contact us to learn more or schedule a demo. Our 360 platform is designed to incorporate social recognition, performance awards, milestone awards, and communication channels all in one place.