Encouraging teamwork through recognition

Last updated:
February 26, 2021
December 16, 2021
min read
Gabe Nelson
Table of contents

Having a healthy team atmosphere among your employees is important. When people feel like they're part of a team, they work towards common goals, reduce friction among themselves, and turn out work that's simply going to be of higher quality than their individual efforts.

However, you can't force your employees to act as a team. Even if you assign a team project, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're making them feel like team members. Here's where employee recognition programs come in—creating an authentic team environment that engages each and every employee.

Recognition can look like many different things, from simple and informal gestures to structured activities. There are endless options to choose from, depending on your management style and the people you're working with. The bottom line is, employee recognition is a quick and easy way to get your team to act as, well, a team!

Plan some team activities

Setting up activities for your employees works in two very important ways. First, it gives them a chance to spend informal time together around a shared, enjoyable event. Second, it shows them that you're willing to put in the effort to come up with an idea, put it in motion, and invite them.

An activity can be almost anything that your group will have fun doing. You can start small or go big. As long as you're showing that you care, it'll work like a charm.

You can start having 'Casual Fridays' or spring for lunch. You can engage in charity events, like sponsoring each other to run 5Ks or plan a nice dinner out for everyone. You can scale down by starting an office raffle or ramp it up by organizing an employee retreat. Get creative and bring everyone to a karaoke bar or throw a spontaneous office party!

No matter what you do, recognizing your employees by planning team activities will pull them together as a group and let them get to know each other better. Involving the team in non-work events gives them the chance to let their hair down and bond with one another.

Ask for team feedback

What better way to show that you care about your employees than to let them know that you value what they think? Consider letting them know that you want their honest thoughts and opinions on your management style or how they feel about their current projects.

It can be tough to ask for employee feedback because it can make them feel like they've been put on the spot and might get in trouble for what they say. When you ask for a team to give you feedback, you can discuss their concerns and find common ground on what they like and dislike.

This also offers your employees the chance to consider what they need from you to better act as a team. That could look like needing more group meetings or more independence. When you ask for their feedback, not only do you show them how much you care about their opinions, you also learn how to help them succeed. In this way, you let them do the work for you!

Relevant: How (and why) to give positive feedback to employees

Show your employees that when they work together, they win together. A good way to measure employee performance is to use employee assessment tools to reward employees accordingly. While individual rewards, such as bonuses, are valuable tools for recognizing certain people, offering something to the whole group reaffirms the team mentality.  

A team reward could look like some free company merch (throwing in some free advertisement while you're at it!), bringing in a big box of donuts, or giving everyone the afternoon off. It can be a big or small effort, as long as it shows that you value everyone included.

Relevant: Fun employee recognition ideas

Team praise

Speaking of rewards, what better reward is there than verbal affirmation? If you can tell your employees that they're doing well, or that you noticed some particularly good work, or that you see some great improvement, they'll work harder because they'll know you're paying positive attention.

While you don't want to dole out praise excessively until a compliment doesn't mean much to them, you do want to be generous. When people feel like praise is few and far between, they can either become uninterested in earning your recognition at all or become hyper-competitive.

There are benefits to formal and informal praise. Casual, off-the-cuff compliments during meetings or around the office can make the space feel warm and inviting. More formal recognition, like in emails or office memos, demonstrate the thought and level of care you had in letting them know that you appreciate them.

This praise doesn't all have to be about the whole team. If you point out each team member's strengths, they might start to see each other in a complimentary light. If you highlight one employee's reliability or the thoughtfulness of another, others will pick up on those things and value them about each other.

You can even encourage your employees to praise each other. A simple question like, "Who helped you out this week?" at a group meeting is sure to encourage people to single each other out and strengthen their bonds.

Clear team roles

When you want a group of people to work on projects together, they all have to know their responsibilities. Strong, clear instructions for each member ensures that everyone knows how to do their part and contribute equally.

We can all remember team projects in school where some kids would take charge and boss everyone around, while others neglected their duties and left everyone to pick up their slack. Everyone dreaded these projects because they never felt fair.

If you want your employees to work as a team, they have to know what everyone's supposed to do, so the job flows smoothly, and the workers complement each other rather than highlight their shortcomings.

Keep it consistent

No matter what you decide to do, make sure you keep it up! You can't have a team culture on some days and an everyone-for-themselves culture on others. You want a team culture to be the norm, not just a special thing you do once in a blue moon.

For people to lean into a teamwork culture, they have to feel comfortable that it will stick. Knowing what they can expect every day from you means that they don't have to keep readjusting, which takes time away from a team-based workspace.

Additionally, a team only gets stronger as time goes on. Rather than starting from scratch every time you reinforce a team mentality, if you can keep it flowing, everyone involved will start to trust each other more and learn how to best work together.

Relevant: Tips for building a strong company culture and maintaining it in a virtual world

Go, team!

When you foster teamwork, you ensure that you're going to get higher quality work from your employees. People on a team rely on each other to get the job done and support each other along the way.

Creating an environment where teamwork becomes the norm doesn't have to be difficult. Believe it or not, it can be fun! From highlighting individual strengths to being clear with your expectations, recognition is an easy and foolproof way to encourage teamwork.

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