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Employee Recognition: Public vs. Private

MTM Recognition public vs. private

A question we receive frequently is, “when should employee recognition be made public and when should it be kept more personal or private?” We’re here to help!

Making the decision between private recognition and public recognition can be a challenging choice. As employees vary on their preferred Language of Appreciation, lines often blur when deciding how to best express your gratitude. Here are some basic guidelines for when to recognize someone through a more visible or public way or when to choose a more personal or private approach. 

The Main Difference

Both public and private recognition help contribute to the overall Employee Experience. Here are some key features of each.

Public recognition is any form of recognition that is visible to not only the recipient, but also the recipient’s team, department or even the whole company through a presentation, email, video, or accolades in a company-wide newsletter. Public recognition may also include virtual recognition badges, such as on MTM’s Social Recognition platform, Carousel®. These badges are public, trackable, and driven by your Core Values. They may also include points if your organization chooses. Badges are a powerful and visible way to say thanks to a coworker for doing a great job. 

Ecards, a primary form of private recognition, are a more personal message between the sender and the recipient. They typically do not have any monetary value, and are not visible in a public way. Although they could be relevant to the organization’s Core Values, they are more likely to celebrate important milestones or life events, including service anniversaries, birthdays, retirement, sympathy, or even holidays. 

The Key Questions to Ask When Making the Choice

  • Does this pertain to our organization and core values? 

Certain situations may warrant thanking a coworker, but might not pertain to your organization and its core values. If the gratitude you’re expressing is for a behavior done to help your work, your department, or is beneficial to the organization, public recognition is most likely the correct choice. Some examples of recognizing a coworker for company-specific behaviors could be: 

  • Thanking your coworker for staying late to help reach a deadline
  • Expressing gratitude for above & beyond contributions to a group project
  • Giving accolades for finding a $3,000 cost savings for the department

When expressing gratitude for a situation that did not involve the organization, private recognition is often the best choice. Some examples of private recognition: 

  • Wishing your best friend at work a happy birthday
  • Saying thank you for a ride to work while your car is in the repair shop
  • Congratulating your coworker on their new baby
  • Is there a chance the recipient would prefer this information kept private?

While he/she may be ecstatic about the life event, an employee may not want his or her personal moments shared out to the company. Celebrating the wedding of a loved one or hitting a 50-pound weight loss goal may not be the type of information someone is comfortable sharing. When in doubt, private recognition is the best bet. On the other hand, reaching a sales goal or correctly following a new data-driven procedure are great things to share with the company!

  • Would this information be of value to the employee on reports and tracking?

Public recognition is often trackable. For example, MTM’s Carousel® offers a Trophy Case feature, which acts as a resumé of recognition. When deciding to recognize publicly or privately, it’s important to first ask yourself: does your recognition of this employee’s actions fit in with the core values, badges, and behaviors rewarded in that recognition resumé? Would this employee benefit from his/her supervisor seeing this recognition? If the answer is yes, public employee recognition is a great way to share with the team how awesome they are! If the answer is no, it is best to send your gratitude in an Ecard. 

The Bottom Line

While it can be difficult to make a choice between public or private recognition, there are some basic guidelines to follow. If you are sending public recognition, check that the recognition pertains to your organization’s core values, would be beneficial to the employee’s reputation, and is information the recipient wouldn’t mind being shared. If these things apply, go for it! 

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