One of the most effective tools for accelerating performance is also one of the least used: praise. Gallup finds that only one in three workers in the U.S. and Germany strongly agree that they received recognition or praise in the past seven days for doing good work -- and those who disagree are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year. Praise is that powerful.

Recognition has an equally powerful effect on teams, according to recent data from France, Germany, Spain, and the U.K.:

  • Gallup data indicate that praising teams can encourage collaboration by de-incentivizing self-protective behavior like information hoarding. More than half of the people on teams that are recognized strongly agree that they "openly share information, knowledge, and ideas with each other."

  • Praising teams can clarify organizational goals, which can enhance agility in the internal supply chain to the customer. Rivalry remains focused on other companies, not other departments -- it's "us against the competition" rather than "us against the other department." In fact, in businesses that recognize team achievements, only 2% of employees disagree that their company sets ambitious customer goals.

  • Recognition can reinforce a team's sense of meaning and purpose. Gallup finds that 74% of those who say their team receives praise also strongly agree that they "have the feeling that what [they are] doing at work is valuable and useful." Feeling that your company's mission makes your job important is fundamental to engagement.

  • Praising teams can improve quality. Two-thirds of workers on praised teams strongly agree that "quality is always a top priority" in their organization. And workers on praised teams are more likely than those on other teams to strongly agree that their coworkers always do what's right for the customer.

  • Team recognition can inspire trust. Indeed, 66% of those on adequately praised teams strongly agree with this statement: "I trust the colleagues with whom I work on a regular basis." Only about a quarter of employees, 26%, who don't receive team-based recognition trust their colleagues.

Considering the power of team-level recognition, it's alarming that no more than a third of western European and U.S. employees, according to recent Gallup research, strongly agree that their organization recognizes team achievements (33% in the U.K., 33% in Germany, 25% in the U.S., 24% in Spain and 19% in France).

Companies can do better. Here's how.

Make Team Recognition Part of the Culture

To turn those numbers around, leaders need to make praise part of their day-to-day work culture. Scheduling feedback in ongoing manager-employee conversations is an effective method. In fact, consistent feedback is part of the five conversations managers should have consistently. Regular feedback shows workers how they're contributing to the organization and that their contributions are valuable.

That feedback can influence team members' behavior with each other, too. For example, when western European workers' perception of their organization's approach to team recognition is negative to neutral, just 18% strongly agree that in their company, they "openly share information, knowledge, and ideas with each other." Conversely, when workers strongly agree that their organization recognizes team achievement, 56% also strongly agree that they "openly share information, knowledge, and ideas with each other" in their company.

Regular feedback shows workers how they're contributing to the organization and that their contributions are valuable.

work culture that abounds with recognition for each team's good work connects those teams' performance to overall corporate goals. For individuals and teams, praise should be tied to a specific event, well-founded, and precisely worded. Gallup data also show that group praise is more effective when it's:

1. Public rather than private. On an individual level, leaders and managers should give praise that complements the person's preference (e.g., some don't like public acclaim, and others think it's the only kind that matters). But leaders should highlight a team's efforts to the biggest possible audience. Doing so fosters better cross-team collaboration because it sends a strong message about what the organization values: team sport!

2. Continuous and spontaneous. Feedback has a shelf life. If you wait too long, it loses efficacy. So, use small opportunities in daily work to recognize teams with personalized, authentic, and honest praise. Though recognition at big corporate events and team or department meetings bonds a team in a way nothing else can.

3. Encouraged on a peer-to-peer basis. In cultures that encourage employees to celebrate each other, coworkers learn from each other's success. It improves accountability -- hence, higher productivity -- and gives everyone's honest feedback more value. And recognition begets recognition: A study conducted in Germany a few years ago found 66% of employees agreeing with the statement: "If I get recognition, I would also like to give others recognition."

Connect Employee, Team, and Organizational Goals

The power of praise can be measured, as the data show. But praise also changes the employee experience in subtle but important ways: Recognition helps individuals accurately assess their performance. It provides the data we need to master new tasks and demands. It creates positive emotions, inspires broader perspectives, and stimulates creative thinking -- all at the foundation of innovation.

And recognition is one of the most effective ways to connect the needs of the employee to the needs of the organization. Praising U.S. teams can redirect personal competitiveness toward organizational goals. Praising German teams, on the other hand, can offer a stamp of approval that spurs teams to be more creative.

In cultures that encourage employees to celebrate each other, coworkers learn from each other's success.

When employees are focused on team goals, the outcomes far outweigh any one individual's performance. Some companies have even abolished certain individual rewards. Bosch, for example, has eliminated all bonuses linked to individual goals and now bases end-of-year bonuses on the company's overall performance. Some companies are trying to hire whole teams, knowing a pedigreed team can outperform any individual star, any day.

These companies are laying the foundation for extraordinary partnerships characterized by a common mission, fairness, trust, mutual acceptance, and communication, Gallup finds. Some partnerships have two more elements -- forgiveness and unselfishness. These characteristics create extremely productive, virtually frictionless work styles. And they're qualities organizational cultures would profit from.

Quality partnerships -- including team-borne partnerships -- produce outcomes no one person could. It's worth asking: How much more could your teams accomplish if their achievements got the group recognition they deserve?