How Peer-to-Peer Recognition Shapes Your Company Culture

Although peer-to-peer recognition is a popular buzzword these days, many HR professionals are still struggling to understand how it affects individual employees.

March 24, 2022 By Dime Galapchev Share on Twitter! Share on Facebook! Share on LinkedIn!

Peer-to-peer recognition stands out as one of the most important ways to show appreciation.  Let’s face it – we all love getting recognized by a valuable coworker, or a professional we look up to.

After reading this article, you’ll get a data-backed perspective on the impact of peer-to-peer recognition on your company culture. 

What is Peer-to-Peer Recognition? 

At its simplest, peer-to-peer recognition is getting kudos from your coworkers for your achievement or skills. It can be any form of positive feedback or recognition, as long as it’s genuine, and it comes from your peers. 

Think about that one time when you gave your 100% and your mentor acknowledged your effort and praised you in front of the team. 

It felt amazing and did wonders for your motivation, right? 

Imagine if, in fact, people knew exactly the value they contribute to their peers that they have no reason to consider ever looking elsewhere. Peer-to-peer recognition is when individuals feel like it is their job and their luxury and their privilege and that they will be accepted when their acknowledgment is given to each other. Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, formerly of Hamilton Health Sciences

It turns out that peer-to-peer recognition has an enormous impact on how we feel in our workspace. A survey conducted by the Network and BCG with over 200 000 participants found that appreciation for your work is the most important factor for happiness on the job. 

most important factors for happiness on the job

Now comes the eye-opener: In the same survey, appreciation outranked good life-work balance and career development in terms of importance. Developing a culture of peer-to-peer recognition is as important for your employees as having a career development plan. 

Why Are We Hardwired for Peer-to-Peer Recognition? 

When we feel motivated, it’s our brains are hopped on oxytocin. 

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which means it acts as a neural transmitter, sending signals from one neuron to another. Oxytocin relays the feelings of generosity and trust, it helps individuals recover from negative social interactions and plays an active role in decreasing fear. 

Currently, the University of Utah is conducting clinical trials to investigate the link between oxytocin and reward-related brain activity.  

In his study, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, found that introducing practices in which the individual is shown trust from members of the group, helps release more oxytocin to the brain. 

These laboratory studies showed that when trust between team members is high, oxytocin flows and work feels less like, well, work, and more like doing interesting things with friends. Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies

In return, higher levels of oxytocin cause employees to become more motivated, work harder and help achieve team priorities. Peer-to-peer recognition is so effective at raising oxytocin levels because, when other professionals acknowledge your achievements, they show they trust your judgment, skills, and ethics. 

By extension, you understand the value you bring to the workspace and feel ‌you’re a part of the group. You can then bond with your peers, tap into a new source of motivation, and help the group. 

How Peer-to-Peer Recognition Transforms the Workspace? 

We talked about why our brains are rigged for peer-to-peer recognition and how it affects the individual. 

These are the benefits that your entire workspace will reap once you make peer-to-peer recognition a standard practice. 

A Rise in Employee Helping Behavior

A scientific study on the effects of peer-to-peer recognition systems on group behavior found that members of a group with an established peer-to-peer recognition system will display more employee helping behavior, than a group without a peer-to-peer recognition system. 

likelihood of helping your peers study

According to this study, a peer-to-peer recognition system has a significant effect on increasing helping behavior among group members and enhancing a sense of team identity. 

The greater the sense of team identity, the larger is the willingness to help other members. 

Fostering A Positive Company Culture

When you make peer-to-peer recognition a standard practice, you’re effectively cultivating positive company culture

Company culture is defined as the set of beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees interact with each other and professionals outside the company (Schein, 2017). 

Peer-to-peer recognition gives you a chance to influence the behavior within the team and embed values that promote long-term, sustainable teamwork. 

Those values can be: helping others, providing growth through feedback, recognizing excellence, relationship-building, improved communications, etc. 

Increased Trust Among Employees 

Peer-to-peer recognition reinforces the feeling of trust within group members. 

Every skilled HR professional or team leader knows that the level of trust within a team is a winning factor. Teams that have high trust among members succeed, whereas low-trust teams fail. 

high-trust vs low-trust companies

Here are some ‌statistics that high-trust companies enjoy compared to their low-trust counterparts: 

  • 50% higher productivity
  • 76% more engagement at work 
  • 40% less burnout
  • 74% less stress

It’s clear that companies that cultivate trust among their coworkers outperform environments where peers don’t trust each other. 

Pillars of a Winning Peer-to-Peer Recognition System

By now, you understand how peer-to-peer recognition affects individual employees and the collective. 

Now let’s talk about what are the pillars of a successful peer-to-peer recognition system, so you can implement it on your team ASAP. 

A Proactive Approach for P2P Recognition

Your peer-to-peer recognition system has to be proactive. Whether you’re recognizing someone’s contribution publicly or in private, it’s up to you to take the initiative. 

Many professionals have to wait for a long time to get recognized by their peers. 

This is a dreadful practice. 

While they wait, employees become discouraged and start ‌questioning their value at the company. By the time their colleagues give them due credit, the recognition loses its flair. 

According to Business Insider, individuals should be praised minimally once every 3 to 4 weeks. If you’re recognizing your peers verbally, ‌do it even more often.

Instead of waiting for the quarterly report, recognize your peers for their actions or efforts. It doesn’t have to be a huge milestone or a team win; you can always give praise for smaller contributions that made a positive impact on another team member. 

You can also use efficient recognition tools that will help you streamline your peer recognition process so you don’t miss a chance to give praise. 

Specified Recognitions 

If you want an effective peer-to-peer recognition system, ‌specify why you are recognizing somebody’s efforts.

While it’s a great practice to give recognition for the little things, explaining what your colleague did and why it was helpful is a key part of the peer-to-peer recognition formula. 

For starters, nobody wants to get the same generic thank you in a recognition note. Bland, non-personalized messages signal low effort from your end and are easily forgettable. 

It could be argued that if a recognition program is used incorrectly, it can depress, not lift, employee morale. Cited from The Effects of Employee Recognition, Pay, and Benefits on Job Satisfaction: Cross Country Evidence report

Remember, the point of peer-to-peer recognition is to create a memorable, impressionable experience. 

When you give a personalized, descriptive recognition, you’re referencing the values and behaviors you want to promote. The recognition receiver gets a crystal clear understanding of what they did right, so they can repeat it. 

A scientific report published in the Journal of Business and Economics confirmed this claim and found that specifying your recognitions reinforces successful behaviors and encourages repetition. 


Easy Integration 

Everybody can give kudos or recognize their peers by praising them vocally or sending an email. 

However, if you want your peer-to-peer recognition to deliver winning results, consider leveraging a software solution. 

There are two major issues with the manual, no-tech approach for peer-to-peer recognition:

  1. The process isn’t automated, so there’s always a chance the new practices won’t stick, or it’s going to take an excessive amount of time before peer recognition is adopted fully
  2. You’re missing out on valuable recognition data that is critical for the success of your peer-to-peer recognition plan

In fact, a recognition report from TINYpulse found that 44% of employees give peer-to-peer recognition when they are provided with tools to do so. 

Using recognition tools will ensure peer-to-peer recognition becomes an everyday practice in your company, instead of a passing trend. 

Top-down Initiative

Leaders and managers should be the forerunners of positive change. The same applies to introducing peer-to-peer recognition in a company. 

If your peer-to-peer recognition system hasn’t reached maturity, it’s up to company leaders to start the initiative. In fact, you can’t have an atmosphere where peer recognition is standard practice if the company figureheads don’t practice it.

I recommend collaborating with upper management to combine peer-to-peer recognition with company-wide employee appreciation programs for a double-whammy of motivation and appreciation. Bill Glaser, CEO of Outstanding Foods


At the start of this article, we promised to give you a data-rich look into peer-to-peer recognition; how it affects the individual and the collective. 

Then we explained what the 4 pillars of successful peer-to-peer recognition are, so you can rethink peer-to-peer recognition in your company or enterprise. 

Reflect on what you’ve learned today and start thinking about applying these insights to your workspace. 

Take it from us; once your colleagues start recognizing each other, your enterprise will thrive!