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The Facts Behind Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Rachel Reed
2/13/19 1:28 PM

Recognition in the workplace has been proven to drive success. According to a survey by Deloitte, recognition programs are one of the top three most effective factors for retention. The same study refers to five market factors that affect today’s evolved recognition landscape:

Unstable economy

The recent recession and other unfavorable economic events led companies to address employee engagement using recognition programs, which can boost employee engagement for a low cost, depending on the software used and the value of rewards offered.


The increasing demand for an agile business model creates the need for attractive employment packages.

Flat Structure

As businesses do away with a traditional hierarchy of management, creativity with recognition is required to keep employees motivated and competitive.


Technology has changed the way businesses communicate with employees. Recognition software that allows employees to recognize one another through social media has become the norm.


The newest generation to join the workforce requires feedback and transparency. Recognition programs are more important than ever in attracting, engaging, and retaining this large group of young professionals.

Recognition programs can be either top-down, manager-driven, peer-to-peer, or both. While traditional, top-down recognition is effective, it’s important to remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when considering recognition. Just behind self-actualization, two of the most important human needs are a sense of achievement and a sense of belonging. Peer-to-peer recognition not only allows employees to receive a sense of accomplishment from peers and delivers the same power to give to others, but it also creates unity and belonging.

Researchers have proven that when you thank someone, it releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes people more relaxed, collaborative, and happy. Gallup found that success from recognition comes from promoting a recognition-rich environment, first by identifying how employees like to receive appreciation, then by encouraging recognition from all members of the organization–namely, peers. One study found that employee happiness is 23.3% more correlated to the connections they form with co-workers vs. direct supervisors.

A 2016 survey found that peers are the number one influence behind putting in extra effort at work (i.e. employee engagement). Peer-to-peer recognition is 35% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than top-down, manager-driven recognition programs.

Companies are beginning to catch on to the benefits of peer-to-peer recognition. Zappos even gives each employee $50 to reward fellow peers for good work. Part of the program, however, is that managers are not recipients, further encouraging peer-to-peer.


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