Re-thinking employee recognition: understanding employee experiences of recognition

Smith, Charlotte (2013) Re-thinking employee recognition: understanding employee experiences of recognition. In: 28th Workshop on Strategic Human Resource Management, the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM), 15 - 16 April 2013, Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Despite widespread acceptance of the importance of employee recognition for both individuals and organisations and evidence of its increasing use in organisations, employee recognition has received relatively little focused attention from academic researchers. Particularly lacking is research exploring the lived experience of employee recognition and the interpretations and meanings which individuals give to these experiences. Drawing on qualitative interviews conducted as part of my PhD research with 29 employees at a UK insurance company, this paper examines the ways employees interpret their experiences of recognition.

The findings of this study indicate that employee recognition is a form of message sent by one individual to another within a social context, and interpreted by the recipient within a(nother) social context which includes the recipient’s personal background and experiences and the relationship between the sender and recipient. This study suggests that a conceptual shift is needed in understanding the experience of employee recognition. Moving away from “best practice” assumptions about how employee recognition programmes should be designed and implemented, researchers and practitioners need to acknowledge how the meaning of employee recognition is constructed within particular social and organisational contexts.

Furthermore, employee recognition was perceived as having a social purpose as a form of investment into positive workplace relationships from which the giver hopes to eventually benefit, suggesting that a form of reciprocity may underlie the process of recognition. This paper will consider how anthropological and sociological theories of gift-giving may be usefully combined with reinforcement theory and needs-based motivation theory in order to bring us towards a more nuanced understanding of the social function of employee recognition as well as its use as a management tool for reinforcing desired behaviours.

Keywords:Employee recognition, Qualitative research, Lived experience, Social Constructionism, Reciprocity, Gift exchange
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N600 Human Resource Management
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
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ID Code:28885
Deposited On:04 Oct 2017 09:56

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