A photo of co-workers sitting around a table with the title superimposed: Peer-to-Peer Recognition and How It Tranforms Workplaces.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition and How It Transforms Workplaces

From delegating tasks to standardizing communication practices to overseeing hybrid workplace policies, managers have a lot to consider when it comes to creating a productive, cohesive team. With everything they’re juggling, even the most observant managers can miss some of the good work their teams are doing, causing employees to feel unappreciated.

Fortunately, there is a solution that removes some of the burden from managers and improves employee recognition: peer-to-peer recognition. Peer-to-peer recognition is a transformative appreciation strategy that can boost productivity, teamwork, and loyalty, all without asking for any extra work from leadership.

In this guide, we’ll explain just what peer-to-peer recognition is, how it can benefit your team, and strategies for a strong peer-to-peer recognition strategy. Let’s get started with a basic overview of this workplace appreciation method.

What is Peer-to-Peer Recognition?

Here’s how one peer-to-peer recognition guide defines this type of employee appreciation:

“Peer-to-peer recognition, also known as social recognition, describes the process of coworkers or teammates recognizing one another for their hard work. As long as neither is a formal supervisor of the other, employees don’t need to be on the same team or at the same work level to engage in peer-to-peer recognition with one another. Ultimately, it’s a laterally-focused team-building activity that strengthens relationships to build a positive work environment.”

This is in contrast to top-down recognition, wherein members of leadership recognize those below them, such as a manager recognizing their direct reports.

The contrast between top-down vs. peer-to-peer recognition.

Both top-down and peer-to-peer recognition can be effective for improving your workplace culture, but they often have different connotations. Specifically:

  • Top-down recognition usually feels more formal. Employees often see recognition from a manager or other leader as signs of future advances in their careers, such as bonuses, promotions, and new responsibilities.
  • Peer-to-peer recognition is viewed more casually, as employees on the same level as one another have little control over the direction of their colleagues’ career trajectories. Instead, this type of recognition usually inspires camaraderie and loyalty among employee teams.

In your work environment, both top-down and peer-to-peer recognition should be prevalent. Think of these two types of appreciation as complementary. They work together to make employees feel recognized in different but important ways.

Additionally, there will almost always be more instances of peer-to-peer recognition as there are simply more employees than leaders. Plus, employees working alongside each other day are more likely to notice important but overlooked moments of good work that deserve recognition.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition Benefits

When properly implemented, appreciation strategies help employees feel more valued, increasing their connection to their workplace. With peer-to-peer recognition, more of your employees can express gratitude for one another and receive appreciation in return.

As a result, this strategy provides workplaces with the following benefits:

  • Increased retention. Employees who receive regular recognition are likely to feel positively about their co-workers and their workplace as a whole. As a result, they’re likely to become more loyal and stick with the team they’re strongly connected to.
  • Improved engagement. Engaged employees are personally invested in their work and the success of your business. When employees are appreciated by their colleagues, they will feel like their individual contributions matter, improving engagement and encouraging them to continue producing good work. Plus, research shows that high employee engagement leads to a 23% increase in profitability.
  • Greater advocacy. When employees have a positive experience at work, they’re likely to mention it to their family, friends, and LinkedIn connections. As a result, your business will gain a reputation for cultivating a positive work environment, which can result in more qualified applicants for open positions.

When you implement your peer-to-peer recognition strategy, make sure to check in with employees regularly. By doing so, you’ll be able to measure these and other qualitative metrics. For example, you might be able to track if more employees are arriving to work on time with basic clock-in software but need to talk with employees one-on-one to measure overall satisfaction levels.

Plus, by talking to employees about your peer-to-peer recognition strategy, you’ll gain insight into what is working and how each employee would like to be appreciated.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition Ideas

Now that you have the basics of peer-to-peer recognition down, it’s time to discuss specific ideas. Essentially, any type of recognition that employees can participate in to show appreciation to their colleagues is considered a peer-to-peer method. A few strategies you might try include:

  • eCards. eCards are electronic greeting cards that can be sent via email, text, or social media. Many businesses design custom eCards that celebrate various company values, such as efficiency, leadership, and teamwork, and invite employees to send them to one another. This strategy is especially effective for remote and hybrid workplaces where in-person recognition is not always possible.

An eCard from a company thanking employees for demonstrating the company value of reliability.

  • Gifts. Enable employees to give small gifts to one another. This might involve giving employees a budget to buy gifts, voting or advocating for specific employees to receive gifts, or hosting events where all participants receive a small gift. A few gift ideas include gift cards, lunches, company swag, and access to professional development courses.
  • Social media posts. If your employees are open to public recognition, encourage them to give each other a shout-out on social media. For most businesses, LinkedIn is the go-to platform for celebrating work accomplishments. For example, your company might post about a successful project and invite team members to comment on it with specific examples of the accomplishments their colleagues contributed.

When choosing your peer-to-peer recognition strategy, consider what tools you’ll need. For example, eCards require an employee recognition software solution to create and send them. Or, if you want to do physical cards, you’ll need a whiteboard or corkboard that employees can add their messages to.

Whatever strategy you choose, provide directions to employees about how to participate before rolling out your program. Explain how to use various appreciation tools and programs and provide examples of what types of actions and behaviors should be recognized. This will help you focus your team’s appreciation efforts and reinforce your business’s values.

Employees who have structured channels for showing their appreciation are more likely to connect with their colleagues, feel engaged at work, and strive to continue doing their best. When implementing a peer-to-peer appreciation strategy, talk with your employees to learn how they prefer to be appreciated and show their appreciation for others.