Recognizing the outstanding performance of your employees is vital to creating a positive company culture. Recognition also leads to greater employee engagement, performance and job satisfaction. According to 2015 research by Aon Hewitt, 72% of employees value communication and recognition from their leaders, and 46% report they don’t get enough. Employees who are recognized are 33% more likely to proactively innovate and generate two times as many ideas per month compared to those who aren’t recognized well. For small businesses in particular, this can create a huge competitive advantage when trying to attract and retain top employee talent.

The organizational value of employee recognition is undeniable, but it can be difficult to get right. A recent article from Fast Company provides seven ways the companies commonly make mistakes with employee recognition, and how you can avoid them.

1- Making it all (or mostly) about money: Monetary rewards can be great, but should not make up your entire employee recognition strategy. To build deeper employee loyalty and commitment, you will need to focus on other types of rewards as well.

2- Holding too many contests: Adding a little healthy competition to the workplace can increase engagement, but making everything a contest can be demotivating. Having one winner means that there are a lot of losers. Find ways to reward performance rather than people.

3- Assuming the same things motivate everyone: Each individual is going to be motivated by different things. Some individuals will be more motivated by money than others. Some employees will be more motivated by an extra day off, public recognition of their work, or the positive feelings they have when they help others. One fool-proof way to gain understanding about what motivates your employees is to ask them.

4- Only recognizing from the very top: To be successful, recognition should occur companywide from at all levels of the organizations. Peers should be able to recognize one another. Managers should be able to recognize members of their team that are doing great things. While executive recognition can be powerful, not all recognition should come from the executive level.

5- Forgetting to be timely: Employee recognition is most powerful when it occurs immediately following the outstanding performance. Don’t wait until the monthly or quarterly staff meeting to recognize employees that are performing well. Thank them today what they did that made a difference.

6- Not making it specific: Being specific about what an employee is doing well not only shows that you repaying attention, but also reinforces the positive behaviors you want your employee to continue performing. Saying “Thank you for your hard work,” is nice, but saying “Thank you for the time and effort you put into keeping Customer X happy. Your efforts have helped us retain their business for another year,” is much more powerful.

7- Focusing only on hard goals: Just because something doesn’t directly affect the bottom-line, doesn’t mean it isn’t important. An employee who has gone out of their way to get to know their co-workers by inviting someone different to lunch each week certainly deserves recognition, even though their efforts have little to do with growing your business. These types of activities do have an impact on company culture. Those working to create a positive company culture should be recognized and rewarded.

If you are ready to revamp employee recognition at your organization, download our free Employee Recognition Toolkit and then speak with one of our HR Business Partners for ideas.