Most companies run some kind of employee-recognition programs, but often they fall flat, wasting resources. Many become just another box for managers to check or are seen as elite opportunities for a favored few, leaving the rest of the workforce feeling left out. Meanwhile, a lot of individual managers also fail to adequately express appreciation, mistakenly assuming that reports know how they feel or struggling to balance gratitude with developmental feedback. In focus groups and interviews, however, employees reveal that making them feel valued and recognized isn’t all that complicated: It mostly comes down to a lot of small, commonsense practices.

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