Frontline Employee Recognition: The Power of Praise

Frontline employee recognition Mark Bunting

Everyone wants a little recognition for the work they do. Unfortunately, 82% of employed Americans don’t feel that their supervisors recognize them enough for their contributions. These shortcomings have been heightened by the prevalence of positive feedback and kudos in our lives outside of work, thanks to social media. In this episode, we are joined by Mark Bunting, the CEO and Founder of Grata. Here, he explains:

  • Why Employee Recognition is so important;
  • The value of external recognition versus internal;
  • How praise structures for white-collar jobs and blue-collar jobs are different; and
  • How the Grata app can help!


If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 

The Importance of Employee Recognition

  • For Employees:
    • Recognition is a core component of people feeling good about what they are doing day in and day out. 
    • Employees need to be able to feel like they are part of a team, they need to feel recognized, and most importantly, they need to feel appreciated.
    • Employee recognition is the key component to letting your employees know that they are appreciated.
  • For Employers: 
    • Recognition drives many different outcomes and from the perspective of an employer, there is plenty of data that can drive the success of employee recognition.
      • “Offensive” Benefits:
        • Employees who feel recognized and appreciated drive top-line growth within the company. 
        • On average, employees who feel appreciated drive 4%-14% more than their peers. 
      • “Defensive” Benefits: 
        • Feeling recognized and appreciated also decreases employee turnover, drives better attitudes, better team development, and much more. 

Types of Employee Recognition

  • Depending on the industry, recognition takes different forms.
  • Internal Recognition: 
    • For all large, customer-facing teams: Internal recognition via annual, quarterly, and other reviews provide tangible praise and recognition, and are important, particularly with regard to employee development.
    • Emerging out of the pandemic, most large companies are focusing on frontline employee recognition, at least from an internal perspective.
  • External Recognition: 
    • From an external perspective, companies should also actively ask for feedback from customers because external praise can be exceedingly important to both the company and the individual recipients.

“White Collar” vs. “Blue Collar” Praise Structures

  • In the white-collar realm, recognition is documented on LinkedIn and other platforms where that information can be stored and accessed by past, current, and potential future employers.
  • The reality is, up until now, there hasn’t been a comparable platform for blue-collar workers.
    • For example, someone working as a bartender may be beloved by his/her regulars and even non-regulars, but that praise is often never saved to help advance the career of that person.
    • Without this public/external employee recognition, a great blue-collar worker may not get the attention and career development they deserve from their employer.

Is it Better to Give (Praise) Or Receive It?

  • There are clear benefits on both sides.
  • When people are recognized, they perform better, they stay longer at their job, and are overall, happier. 
  • Giving praise, however, can reduce employee turnover, create happier employees, and increase productivity.
  • Mr. Bunting mentions the “Gratitude Loop,” describing the phenomena as something that allows both the recipient and the provider of praise to feel good when recognition is given.

Why Is Employee Recognition Such A Pain Point For Companies?

  • Many industries there is a lack of mechanisms that allow customers to give praise to employees in a painless or convenient way.
    • Every now and then, companies will utilize surveys for external employee recognition, but very rarely does that survey take place in a short enough time period where the customer can accurately remember their entire experience with that employee. 
    • Even when opportunities are offered to leave external feedback, a large majority of customers will still not participate.
    • Companies lack the immediate and emotive mechanism that allows for genuine external recognition.

Leadership’s Role In Employee Recognition

  • The first thing leadership must do is prioritize employee recognition. 
  • If we look for a silver lining to the pandemic, we have finally begun to appreciate the value of front-line workers.
  • With the new world that the pandemic has created involving no-touch retail environments, employers must find a way to quantify the employee and customer experience now more than ever.

The Most Valuable Type Of Employee Recognition

  • The external customer-to-employee recognition is paramount to employee and company success. When your employees can build a relationship with your customers, the impact is almost immeasurable. 
  • The praise that comes from customers not only boosts business by building relationships between employees and customers, but also by giving employees feedback on their performance.

The Role Of Rewards On Recognition

  • Data shows that for frontline employees, recognition is far more valuable than compensation or rewards. This may not be true in every situation, but the majority of research shows that these types of employees benefit more from praise than incentive. 
    • Data shows that about 20% (1 in 5) frontline service employees will quit their job in the next year and the reasoning has very little or nothing to do with compensation and more about lack of appreciation. 

The Grata App

  • The idea for the app was inspired by a trip Mr. Bunting made to The Home Depot, wherein he experienced exceptional customer service, but had no way to pass along his praise. Frustrated by this missed opportunity, he was inspired to create Grata.
  • The Grata App takes cues from familiar apps like Uber where customers can leave immediate feedback and tips for their rideshare driver. 
  • Receipts from transactions at these businesses will contain a QR code or barcode that can be scanned through the Grata app to then leave that feedback and optionally leave a tip for the employee that helped you. 
  • Grata makes it very simple for the customer to give employees that important external employee recognition that benefits everyone involved. 
  • The system not only allows rankings, but comments as well. 
  • Each individual set of feedback a customer leaves for an employee is stored within the Grata program so that all of that feedback (rating, comments, etc.) can be used by prospective employers to help advance that employee’s career.
  • Read more on how Grata works here
  • Grata is created to be a two-way system, meaning that a network is built between people who leave Gratas for you, and people who you leave Gratas for.
  • This allows for communication between people who leave feedback and the employee that the feedback was left for.
  • It is also important to note that employees can control which reviews are viewable to the public, meaning that if an employee were to get a particularly nasty review from someone who may have just been having a bad day, employees can hide those comments, just the same as any white-collar worker could on a platform like LinkedIn. 

Grata’s Cost + Analytics

  • Employers do not have to subscribe to anything in order for their employees to show up on the app. 
  • It is free for employees to create their profile and the first time an employee creates their profile, Grata actually uses online data to populate information about the business itself to help that business build up their employee base and feedback from customers. 
  • The only aspect of Grata that is a for-fee service is the data and analytics portion. If a business would like access to the data that is left for their employees and business in general, they can pay to receive a very robust amount of quantifiable information that can lead to improvement from a personnel and business practice standpoint. 
    • This also includes some CRM features such as email addresses and information of customers to better connect with the customers who are giving feedback.

Gamification Within Grata

  • Rewards and prizes are available within Grata for employers to offer to employees.
    • For example, employers might announce an internal competition to see who can get the most positive Gratas in a given amount of time. 
    • On a larger scale, a hotel in South Florida has begun to give it’s employees business cards that feature their Grata profile information so that they can hand cards out to customers and encourage them to leave feedback on their experience. They also have QR codes placed around the property so that customers can leave feedback, and employees will receive $1 for every Grata they receive.
  • The gamification aspect of Grata can make receiving feedback fun for employees. 

Tipping Employees Via Grata

  • Depending on the organization, the default setting for tipping is turned on for employees. 
  • Grata then uses individual’s Venmo profiles’ to deposit tips directly to them. 
  • Some organizations do not want tipping to be available to customers, and that option is also available to employers within the Grata app.

The Grata Community

  • While the ability to save feedback and create a personalized “Grata Resume,” it is the community that participates within the app that truly makes the platform exciting.
  • When you have an ecosystem built for a certain type of worker like blue-collar workers, it allows for recruitment opportunities.
  • Employers can use Grata to recruit workers based on their ratings and reviews, and employees can feel confident that their profile is helping to move their jobs forward.
  • Grata democratizes data for employers and employees to help everyone distinguish who is good, and who is great.

Mark Bunting Background

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About the Author Jacqueline Gregory

As a creative, persuasive communications professional with extensive experience guiding projects from concept through completion Jacqui has produced custom communications for some of the world's best known brands. Producing ProjectHR has been one of her favorite ways to engage and delight HR and Labor Relations professionals!

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