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Peer-to-Peer Recognition Guide (Benefits, Ideas & Examples)

Improve employee engagement, retention, and productivity with a peer-to-peer recognition program.

Jodie Sandell PHR and SHRM-CP
Consultant, project manager, writer, and process improver with over 15 years of HRM experience
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What is Peer-to-Peer Recognition?

Peer-to-peer is a type of recognition that occurs when employees recognize each other for their contributions, hard work, and successes. This is not a new concept, but company culture supporting this practice and creating infrastructure around it has been a more recent trend.

Because colleagues often work more closely together than they do with their managers, they have a unique perspective to provide feedback. They understand the work and the goals of their counterparts. They have a special opportunity to offer employee appreciation.

When an organization supports peers acknowledging other peers for their accomplishments by creating a framework, this more formalized approach is a peer-to-peer recognition program.

In This Article

A graphic depicting the types of recognition in a work environment.

Types of Peer-to-Peer Recognition

There are four general opportunities for appreciation in the workplace. These are not limited to peer recognition, but each type represents an opportunity for peer-to-peer recognition to occur.

They are:

  • service milestone recognition,
  • employee recognition for personal milestones and achievements,
  • “spot” recognition, and
  • performance rewards.

Within each category of recognition, there are a variety of ways to express appreciation top-down, bottom-up, and peer-to-peer. Here are just a few examples to get you oriented on how these programs can work.

Service Milestone Recognition

When employees stay with an organization for one year, five years, or to retirement, it is appropriate to show them appreciation for their service.

This might be a service year pin for a company lanyard, or a retirement party and engraved gold watch. These tokens of appreciation are provided by the organization. However, peers can recognize each other’s work anniversaries and service too.

Whether that’s taking someone out to lunch or making a card from the team, peers can add to the celebration and enhance the employee experience.

Employee Recognition for Personal Milestones and Achievements

Peers have a huge opportunity in this category to send a shout-out to recognize their colleagues. This recognition can be personal, such as a birthday or a big life event, or for a job well done.

Companies can provide blank cards with the organization’s values on them so that employees can write specific notes of gratitude or praise (related to the value). Organizational or departmental meeting agendas can designate a time slot for these organic acknowledgments and celebrations to come to light as well.

Company newsletters can also accept submissions for praise so that shout-outs from co-workers can be a form of public recognition.

“Spot” Recognition

Spot, or on-the-spot, recognition means showing gratitude immediately for something someone else has done. When they “catch” a colleague doing something helpful, resourceful, or otherwise positive, peers can give timely recognition by pointing it out to the person or the rest of the team.

Performance Rewards

Peers will not typically have the ability to impact performance rewards, bonuses, merit increases or other raises. However, what management doesn’t see, they cannot incent or reward.

Peers valuing and nominating their colleagues for rewards can potentially assist with highlighting the stars doing great work. This can lead to pay increases and promotions for those who are worthy of acknowledgment, but whose contribution is not as easily evident to leadership.

What Peer-to-Peer Recognition Can Look Like

Practically speaking, peer-to-peer recognition can manifest in various ways, for example:

Verbal Recognition: This involves employees verbally expressing their appreciation and recognition of a colleague's efforts. It can be done in one-on-one conversations, team meetings, or during a public forum like a company-wide meeting.

Written Recognition: Employees can write thank-you notes, emails, or messages to their colleagues to express their recognition and appreciation.

Awards and Certificates: Organizations can have formal recognition programs that include awards, certificates, or plaques issued amongst co-workers to honor outstanding performance or achievements. Some companies have established peer-to-peer award programs where employees can vote or nominate each other for specific recognition award titles, such as "Employee of the Month."

Peer Nominations: Employees can nominate their peers for recognition based on their exceptional contributions.

Social Media Recognition: Peer-to-peer recognition can occur on internal social media platforms or collaboration tools. Colleagues can post messages, shoutouts, or comments to acknowledge each other's accomplishments.

Team-Based Recognition: Teams can collectively recognize and celebrate the achievements of individual members or other teams within the organization. This reinforces and encourages teamwork and collaboration between departments.

360-Degree Feedback: 360-degree feedback systems can incorporate elements of peer-to-peer recognition, where colleagues provide input on each other's performance and contributions.

Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Employee engagement statistics show that 53% of employees in one recent study felt workplace culture through recognitions or celebrations. This was the second highest-rated culture aspect that dictated their feelings about company culture. (First place - 54% - indicated they experience workplace culture through mission or values).

This tells us that recognition is a key lever in your work environment. Listed below are specific benefits of peer-to-peer recognition.

Trust and Teamwork

There is no oversight of peer-to-peer appreciation. It is not a top-down strategy. As a result, this interaction between peers is organic.

Colleagues working at the same “level” of the organization typically understand each other’s day-to-day world. Managers have different requirements for their roles and may not be “in the weeds”. This can limit their ability to give complete, positive feedback as their knowledge of the job’s details and struggles may be limited. 

When team members on the same level give each other kudos, it fosters trust and collaboration. Trust and teamwork contribute to employee engagement (and the other benefits listed below!)

Supported Productivity

Happy employees who feel valued come to work and are productive. According to one Workhuman report, employees who receive recognition are 73% less likely to "always" or "very often" feel burned out.

Teams of employees who feel seen by their teammates trust each other and tend to work better together. In fact, according to employee recognition statistics, the resultant team spirit cultivated by formalized recognition programs has a positive impact on employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention rates, all of which affect the bottom line.

Employee Retention

According to a 2023 Achievers.com white paper, both social and monetary recognition have a significant business impact. In general, social recognition is just as impactful as monetary rewards in increasing engagement, productivity, and job commitment.

The positive impact of a culture of recognition supportive of peer feedback shows up in employee retention rates. According to the Workhuman report cited above, when employee recognition is satisfactory, employees are five times as likely to see a future for themselves in the organization — a key component of limiting employee turnover.

Team members who work together, trust each other, and offer each other feedback have high employee morale. They feel valued and exhibit productivity. Thus, they are engaged and retained.

A Selling Point for Recruitment

51% of employees who receive regular recognition are highly likely to recommend their company as a great place to work.

With some industries such as consumer services having a tough time recruiting new employees, employee referrals are key. Employees posting your job openings on LinkedIn is free recruitment marketing for your position. This act of sharing the opening on social media shows your employee would recommend your place of work to their network.

Imagine if your peer-to-peer recognition program mitigated staffing issues by increasing your recruiting and the quality of candidates. After all, referral hires are 40% more likely to be retained after one year than non-referred counterparts.

An Improved Bottom Line

Employees recognized by their peers are good for your numbers. Better teamwork, higher productivity, employee retention, and more effective recruitment will all contribute to enhancing your bottom line.

The data tells us that recognition pays. Consider these metrics.

  • According to Deloitte, improving recognition by 15% in a company can increase its margins by 2%.
  • Gallup researchers reviewed the differences in performance between businesses that scored well in employee engagement and those that didn’t. Their data shows that the companies with the most engaged employees are 23% more profitable. Since we know that feedback and a peer-to-peer recognition program contribute to employee engagement, we can ascertain that these programs positively affect the bottom line.
  • The same Gallup survey also revealed a 10% increase in customer loyalty.
  • It also notes an 18% increase in sales made by teams with high levels of employee engagement.
An HR professional receiving a gift from her colleague while sitting at her desk.

Creating a Peer-to-Peer Recognition Program

When a workplace creates initiatives and infrastructure for colleagues to cheer each other on, it communicates something about that organization. It shows that they care about their people. It shows that they want their people to care about and support each other.

Peer feedback can be very powerful. It is particularly powerful when it is aligned with company values and fosters equity. If some people deserve positive feedback and claps for good work, then we all do.

Below are some considerations when creating a peer-to-peer recognition program.

Align the Employee Recognition Program with Company Values

According to a Gallup-Workhuman report “Employees who say their recognition program is aligned with the values of their organization are 4.9 times as likely to strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work.” This is compared to employees who indicated their recognition program is not aligned with the values of their organization.

Recognition reinforces your organization’s values if it is aligned and your values, in turn, provide guidelines for behaviors that are important to recognize.

Market the Program to Your Staff

Peer-to-peer feedback is important for all levels. From call centers to senior leadership teams, people need (and crave) feedback.

Make sure all of your staff know about the program and are given opportunities to acquaint themselves with the recognition platform you’re using. This can be a purpose-built employee recognition software or just a channel on Slack that is dedicated to peer-to-peer recognition.

Ensure that leadership models the way. Whether it’s leaders publicly recognizing their peers in a newsletter or at a company meeting, it is important for the rest of the organization to see that the initiative reaches all levels. It is also key that you do not require peer-to-peer feedback or force it.

Effective peer-to-peer recognition happens organically and within genuine conversation.

Create a Platform for Public Kudos!

Whether it’s a Google Jamboard or a whiteboard in the lunchroom, create a space for your employees to celebrate each other publicly.

In this regard, it is worth investing in employee recognition software. This software helps companies organize, implement, and track recognition programs. It can also help distribute peer-to-peer rewards, such as gift cards and other small incentives, fairly.

Find Out How Your Employees Like to Be Recognized

While some people love to get a shout-out in a group of 25 people, others might cringe at the thought of being the center of attention. So how will colleagues know who likes what? Ask!

Consider introducing a Google sheet or form to all employees (and new hires during onboarding) where they can indicate what makes them feel valued, and what doesn’t.

Do they want public recognition? Would they prefer to receive positive feedback on their employee performance in a one-on-one discussion? Perhaps they would appreciate an email with their boss and human resources cc-ed. We are all different, so ensuring we are celebrating an individual in a way they want to be celebrated is important for showing them that they are valued.

Offer Training

People especially enjoy feedback when it’s about something they are doing right. However, we must create space for critical feedback when improvement is needed. Otherwise, the feedback is not genuine. By fostering trust through positive feedback, peers can open the door to also providing constructive criticism.

But not everyone knows how to do this. Your company should consider offering training so that employees can discover the ways they want to receive feedback, and how to also give criticism in a helpful way. This could be a paradigm like Radical Candor or a less formal discussion around communication tips.

Measure the Success of Your Peer Recognition Ideas and Implementations

Measuring the success of a peer-to-peer recognition program can be challenging. It may be hard to know how often employees recognize each other if it’s not formalized.

Employee engagement software may be able to capture some of this data by surveying how often an employee felt recognized by a peer. A rewards program associated with the budget can easily be tracked.

This type of information could then be paired with retention, productivity, and overall employee engagement data to derive metrics for tracking the success and ROI of your peer-to-peer recognition initiatives.

Real-World Peer-to-Peer Recognition Examples

Peers can get creative when recognizing peers, and that’s part of what makes it so fun. Oftentimes, peers know each other on a more personal level than managers do. This creates an opportunity for tailored appreciation that goes a long way.

Here are some examples:

Employee of the Month or Employee “Spotlights”

Organize nominations for employees to be recognized. Set up a place (online for recognizing remote employees or in the break room) for a photo to be posted. Include a summary of why the person was nominated and won.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Whether it’s hosting a monthly cake party in the break room or sending a card from the team by US Mail, honoring birthdays and anniversaries feels good.

Celebrations can also extend to weddings, babies, and earning degrees or certifications. Plus getting the team together fosters camaraderie and boosts employee morale!

Social Media Shout-outs

Include shout-outs on your social media channels! Shout-outs are typically shorter and more timely than an “Employee of the Month” recognition.

These free employee recognition ideas keep morale up and can create momentum with your peer-to-peer recognition program.

Points-based Recognition Programs

Programs that involve points typically result in rewards for employees and it is a great means of tracking your program! Points can be earned for public recognitions or shout-outs. Ultimately, those points can be redeemed for items like:

  • Free lunch or coffee for recognized individuals or teams
  • Certificates or awards
  • Points-based purchases from a catalog (UC Health has a great example of this with their Recognizing You Points).

Final Thoughts on Peer-to-Peer Recognition

We know that recognition is a key driver of retention. Yet, many organizations aren’t doing enough to retain their best talent. 70% of resigning employees said no one in their organization had a discussion about their future or growth in the three months before their departure. In addition, 53% of these individuals weren’t recognized for their contributions to the organization.

Launching a peer-to-peer recognition program based on your organizational values shows that you care. It also shows that it’s important to you that your employees care about each other.

Encourage your team to provide each other with specific and immediate feedback. This will increase their engagement, decrease your employee turnover, and boost your bottom line. Peer-to-peer recognition programs are a win-win for all.

Jodie Sandell PHR and SHRM-CP
Consultant, project manager, writer, and process improver with over 15 years of HRM experience
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Jodie Sandell holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, a paralegal certificate and both PHR and SHRM-CP certifications. She has spent most of her career working in legal, education, and HR - writing, managing projects, and improving processes. 

She recently founded All In Project Services LLC to pursue her passion for this work. In her free time, Jodie can be found reading, hiking, paddling or traveling with her family.

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