Creating a Culture of Appreciation & Recognition

Author: Antoinette Morris

Posted: 23 Nov 2022

Estimated time to read: 4 mins

With the introduction of wellbeing to the Ofsted framework, schools are looking for ways to monitor, improve and better understand how the different aspects of school life are affecting their staff wellbeing.

Only looking at wellbeing overall can be overwhelming and unhelpful, leaving school leaders and wellbeing officers without a clear direction for improvement. Breaking down wellbeing into its various influences and looking at these individually is often more successful, facilitating targeted action that actually makes a real difference. 

Satchel Pulse breaks down staff wellbeing into 8 key areas to help schools achieve this, the first of which is ‘Appreciation & Recognition’.

What is Appreciation & Recognition?

‘Appreciation & Recognition’ refers to how staff feel more motivated, engaged and self-confident when their work and efforts are appreciated and recognised.

But what do the words ‘appreciation’ and ‘recognition’ actually mean, and how do they differ from one another?

What is the difference between appreciation & recognition?

While appreciation and recognition may seem to mean similar things, there is actually an important difference between the two when it comes to applying them to staff, crucial for leadership to understand.

Appreciation is something that should be given regardless of a staff member's individual achievements. Staff should be appreciated simply because they are a member of your school community, because they add value to it just by being the person they are and not strictly because of what they achieve quantifiably. In other words, don’t just wait for the big achievements to show your staff how much you value them. From career anniversaries to the everyday, a high level of staff wellbeing relies on your staff feeling appreciated. 

Recognition, on the other hand, is performance based. Hitting goals, going above and beyond and reaching career milestones all require recognition. Whether that be positive written feedback, an award, a raise or just an informal verbal thank you, everyone wants to be praised for their hard work. It is this praise that will be largely responsible for how motivated your team is for the next big project. Nobody wants to feel like the work they’ve done was pointless or went unnoticed, and knowing that it wasn’t can be a powerful driving force for future hard work. 

Knowing the difference here is important, mainly because you want to make sure that you’re doing both for your staff. Appreciation without recognition can reduce productivity and motivation, and recognition with appreciation can make your staff feel like their only value is their productivity. Don’t leave your staff feeling like work is pointless, or like they’re just a cog in a machine. 

Graphic showing appreciation and recognition in schools

Why do Appreciation & Recognition matter?

A research article in the Journal of Managerial Psychology confirms the link between appreciation and higher job satisfaction, one of the greatest factors influencing staff wellbeing. 

Appreciation and recognition boost morale, foster a culture of self-improvement, and strengthen connections. They help build meaningful connections between senior leaders and staff, feeding into school culture and creating a more pleasant working environment. In essence, they are an essential part of a functioning, happy school. 

Knowing that appreciation and recognition are important is not enough to start successfully implementing them in your school. Follow the guide below to make sure that you’re progressing in the right direction, or just for helpful tips on where to start.

Celebrate the little things 

Don’t be afraid to recognise the little things. Something that may not be massive on its own might have a huge impact on a wider project, or have taken a lot of time and effort to overcome. Even if a little thing really is just little, why should your staff have to move mountains to hear your praise?

Don't wait too long

It’s important to be timely with your praise. Not only does this keep up the momentum of motivation, it also appears more authentic. Taking months after a project has finished to give positive feedback will diminish the joy of receiving it. 

Don't devalue your praise

Praise becomes far less meaningful if it’s generic in nature. Make sure that your reactions to staff's hard work are appropriate and specific, making it clear to them that you understand what they have accomplished and mean what you are saying.

It is also worth noting that giving out too much praise is an even faster way to devalue it. If everyone gets a ‘well done’ for everything they do, that well done means a lot less. It might take a bit of trial and error, but after a while you should naturally be able to find a comfortable balance between underappreciating and over appreciating.

Ask staff about their needs 

In addition to expressing gratitude, school leaders should also go directly to teachers and staff and ask what they need.

Even if leaders can’t meet all of the needs shared by teachers and staff, they might be able to fulfil some of them or find compromises that work for everyone.

Be open to suggestions

It’s not enough to ask for feedback. Leaders must also be receptive to the suggestions that they receive.

If teachers and staff don’t feel their needs or concerns matter, they might begin to feel resentful. 

You don’t need to be able to solve every problem that you’re faced with, but taking the time to do what you can is always a fantastic first step.


Staff Wellbeing Webinar Series: Appreciation & Recognition

Missed out webinar on Appreciation & Recognition? Sign up here to receive the recording!

This webinar discussed:

  • Why ‘Appreciation & Recognition’ is important for staff wellbeing
  • How can we gather data on this area of wellbeing 
  • Actionable strategies for improving staff wellbeing