The Power of Inclusion and Recognition in Building a Positive Workplace Culture

Do you find it difficult to motivate your employees? Are you frustrated and tired? You’ve maybe read countless articles on inclusion and employee recognition programs and feel overwhelmed. I can help, let’s take a look at how you can use recognition and inclusion in your teams to build a stronger company culture and more productive employees.

The Benefits of Embracing Inclusion and Recognition for Employees

When inclusion and recognition are effectively woven into the culture of a family business, the company, owner, and employees receive significant benefits. It is a critical aspect of organizational sustainability, adaptability, and resilience in the marketplace.

Here are 3 key benefits:

1. Fostering a Sense of Belonging through Inclusive Practices

When employees feel valued, and part of a healthy community they thrive. They feel safe to grow and learn, express their thoughts and ideas, contribute with enhanced productivity, and want to stay and be a part of the company. They aren’t looking for another opportunity elsewhere because their needs are fulfilled where they are at. This is an investment into talent retention.

2. Boosting Employee Morale with Appreciation and Recognition Programs

When people are recognized, appreciated, and valued for their contributions, they feel good and psychologically safe. Employees will want to work hard to do well and be a part of a positive culture. Employee recognition programs, providing rewards and incentives, and peer-to-peer recognition are examples of building a healthy culture that encourages productivity and innovation.

3. Creating a Safe Space for Authenticity and Expression at Work

In cultivating psychological safety, you are encouraging open communication, and embracing individual differences. When an environment is created, whereby people feel safe from abuse and neglect and are provided with the resources to grow, learn, and develop healthy lifestyle strategies, they have energy and enthusiasm to perform their work. They will share ideas, want to be at work, and have pride in the company they work for. This translates into their interactions with customers and teammates, meeting deadlines, having a growth mindset, and feeling positive about learning from their mistakes.

Why Does Inclusion Matter? 

Employees who are welcomed, included, and valued for their unique selves and contribution, provide the following benefits to the company. With inclusion we see employees demonstrating:

  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Shared learning experiences

This translates into enhanced research and development of products and services, improvement of systems and customer satisfaction, cooperative and collaborative teams, and psychological safety, which supports the mental health and well-being of employees.

What Motivates Us

When developing inclusion and recognition programs in a family business it is critical to look at where motivation comes from, both for the employees and the leadership team. 

“It is hard to motivate another person. We want to create an environment where people can motivate themselves”. – Hillary Hellman

In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink addresses the topic of intrinsic motivation. How do we get people motivated, with the desire to be productive, take on challenges, and contribute to their work?

It comes down to 3 key elements and being aware money is not a guaranteed motivator for people. Focusing on external motivating factors such as money alone does not address the intrinsic motivators derived from creativity, innovation, and meaning.

Here are David Pink’s 3 Elements:

  1. Autonomy – to be able to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery – wanting to continuously improve through learning and practice
  3. Purpose – working towards something larger than oneself, seeing the bigger picture

In sum, give employees autonomy in their work, and master what you ask them to do, but you frame it in purpose.

When Is Recognition Most Effective?

Successful employee recognition efforts stem from the following 4 key practices:

  • The point of the work is clear
  • The work is tied to a greater purpose
  • Accountability is part of the culture
  • Collaboration is encouraged and accepted

These practices follow David Pink’s position that autonomy, mastery, and purpose are at the heart of motivation and personal success. Employees know what to expect, feel psychologically safe, and are responsible for their participation in building the company culture. Safe, secure, and motivated employees collaborate, have energy, and enthusiasm, and want to contribute to their own and the company’s future success.

Common Mistakes When Using Recognition

The key area to look at when building successful recognition and inclusion practices in a company is to look at common mistakes that are often made. As a coach, I’ve seen many family business owners struggle with recognition programs by using the following approaches.

  • Keep recognition limited to the annual performance review
  • Recognize an employee because looks like they might resign
  • The person is overworked, yet we need them to do more, so we recognize their work in hopes of motivating the employee
  • The person is super stressed and we want to get them past stress into being motivated, and we put a band-aid on it, calling it recognition

Caution: Recognition can become a source of pressure, depending on the purpose and goals behind the recognition. Be conscious of your “Why” behind wanting to motivate employees.

Healthy employee recognition initiatives support employee well-being, productivity, engagement, and company success. Make sure recognition practices do not become a lever leadership uses to get more out of their employees for less money. The initiatives will backfire and employee well-being and happiness will decline and a host of problems will result.

Happiness Matters

Martin Seligman’s (2012) research on happiness provides a valuable framework to follow when developing inclusion and recognition into your company’s culture. The link between the 6 components of the framework is positively associated with improved job satisfaction, health, energy, and organizational commitment. 

“When the PERMA Model is followed, there are higher chances of creating a happy workforce, which easily translates to a happy and productive workplace.” – CFI Team

The PERMAH Model and Happiness (Seligman, 2012 in Madeson, 2017)

  • Positive Emotions – hope, interest, pride, gratitude
  • Engagement – actively participating and being involved 
  • Relationships – colleagues, bosses, mentors, supervisors
  • Meaning – the intrinsic human need to find value and worth, purpose
  • Accomplishment – competence, mastery
  • Health – nutrition, exercise, sleep, optimism for physical and mental health

In creating a healthy workplace culture, really look at your employees and see what is missing. Rather than overworking them and simply responding with financial incentives, give them space outside of work to live a healthy lifestyle, engage in relationships, and physical activity, and have time for self-care. An important first step is establishing a policy for the team where certain hours are off limits for requests and communication, for example 7 pm – 8 am.

Burnt-out employees are worn out, take longer to get the job done, take more sick leave, and are not happy or healthy. They won’t last at the company. This ultimately will negatively impact company performance and revenues.

Conclusion: Embrace Inclusion and Recognition to Cultivate a Thriving Workplace Culture

Inclusion and recognition matter. Trying to motivate employees primarily with extrinsic factors such as financial incentives won’t work if employees are worn out, frustrated, and unhappy. Family business owners want a productive workforce, which is derived from a healthy company culture. Motivate staff through recognition, inclusion, and values alignment, and use autonomy and mastery practices to support employees to fulfill the roles and responsibilities they were hired to do. That is when the magic happens. Employees who are intrinsically motivated, committed to their organization, and want to be at work are productive and contribute to growing company revenues and sustainability.


CFI Team (2023). Perma Model

Madeson, M (2017, February 24). Seligman’s PERMA+ Model Explained: A Theory of Well-being.

Pink, D. (2011). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead Books: NY.

Pink, D. Pinkcast 4.33. This Is How To Flip Your Language To Create Psychological Safety.

Do you have an employee recognition program at work, but it isn’t generating the results you’d hoped for? You want healthy, productive, engaged employees, and can’t figure out why you and they are tired and frustrated? 

Reach out for a Discovery Call. I can help you. 

Working with family business owners who are tired and frustrated, wanting to improve employee engagement, health, and productivity is my coaching specialty.

Click the Discover Call button below and let’s meet!

Join us this month of November for our Lunch and Learn topic. We will be talking more about inclusion and recognition best practices in the workplace. Learn key tips and strategies to help build a healthy culture in your family business. CLICK THE LINK HERE to learn more and join us on Tuesday, November 28, 2023 @ 12 pm noon EST.

Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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