Top 10 Powerful Ways to Save Your Recognition Budget

 

When talking about recognition and rewards programs the word “budget” is sure to come up. There are few owners of corporate recognition programs who have not dealt with one cut or another over their lifetime. This month I asked 10 seasoned practitioners responsible for recognition programs for their budgeting advice. Their wisdom gives you the Top 10 Powerful Ways to Save Your Recognition Budget.

  1. Get strategic with your recognition budgets. Look at the different types of recognition programs and initiatives available to you and budget where you will gain the greatest business impact and positive response from people. Align recognition to achieve strategic initiatives and let the culture drive recognition.
  2. Measure recognition program effectiveness. Consistently measure both program usage metrics as well as employee perception of recognition effectiveness to learn which employees and where are being impacted the most. Move beyond just reports to actually analyzing the data and correlating with your KPI’s.
  3. Create a sustainable program budget. It is critical to create the business case for your recognition program budget that is sustainable year over year by your senior leaders. With a sustainable budget you can more likely add to it to than becoming the recurring target for being cut whenever financial problems arise.
  4. Build in internal and external accountability. Assign recognition and rewards budgets to each departmental leader and use the program data to hold them accountable. Hold external providers accountable by checking regularly on program usage and spend to reduce costs where programs are not having an impact.
  5. Do a reality check on program equality and accessibility. Correct expectations and educate leaders when not all employees are getting the same benefit of recognition as others do. Programs need to be accessible to all parties even if the criterion needs to be established differently for the various business units.
  6. Research everything and do your homework. Keep up with the latest research findings from professional associations, conference boards, academic institutions and consultants. Mesh their data with results you are getting from your programs. Do interviews and focus groups to collect internal data and compare findings.
  7. Prioritize and shake things up. Money has an amazing way of adjusting your priorities. Nice to have must take second place to need to have when budgets are tight. If stuck too much to the tried and true, a revised recognition strategy may dictate a shake up to achieve more meaningful business and people goals. 
  8. Demonstrate program impact and ROI. Leaders always want to know the results they get from the money they have invested. All recognition programs must demonstrate some form of business impact and where feasible a calculated Return on Investment. Sometimes the benefit is relational and keeping good people happy.
  9. Be transparent with everyone across the company. When recognition budgets are targeted for cuts it is every leader’s problem not just HR. Tell leaders the needs and brainstorm ideas. Gain everyone’s support for keeping recognition and doing it differently. Don’t work in isolation and be open to employee input as well.
  10. Collaborate inside and outside the organization. Ask your fellow leaders across the organizations for ways to save money and use internal resources for typically outsourced work. Shorten length of conferences or award events. Use less expensive award items. Be candid with your vendors and get their input too.

 

Previously published in Incentive Magazine, January 2016

You’ve Got To Really Know What You’re Thanking People For

Never give a person an empty thank you.

You may have experienced the kind of thank you I’m talking about at some point in your life.

What is an empty thank you?

This is when a manager or immediate supervisor thanks an employee without being fully aware of all that was involved with the task being acknowledged. It is hollow gratitude and means very little or nothing at all. (more…)

Thinking About Recognition In A Completely Different Way

I want to help you get unstuck about employee recognition. In fact, I want you to think about recognition in a completely different way.

But first I want to give you a quick orientation to the world of employee recognition.

Then I promise you that I will give you that new point of view. Okay? (more…)

Recognition Tip #40: Build in consistent, one-on-one, feedback time.

By holding frequent one-on-one meetings with each of your staff you will capture great examples of performance that merits immediate or formal recognition. This will also give you an opportunity to get to know your team members better and understand their personality and recognition preferences. Remember recognition is strengthened when you build positive relationships.

How To Get the Low Down on Your Recognition Program Metrics

It is essential for you to know your recognition program data so you can understand how to use this data to leverage the results for elevating your performance and people metrics.

Too often I get asked about best practices in various aspects of recognition practices and programs. The problem is, whenever I see a best practice it likely took the professionals in that company 2 or 3 years to get where they are today.

For you to simply copy what they are doing right now immediately puts you behind the times the minute you start to do what they are doing.

So don’t compare yourself too closely with your competitors or other industry leaders.

I am going to take you on a reality check regarding your recognition program metrics. Then we’ll see what we can do with the numbers. (more…)

How To Be a Leader With A Grateful Heart

When was the last time you saw the word “gratitude” in your company’s leadership development curriculum?

I know. I haven’t seen it in any either.

But having a leader who can lead with a grateful heart would be a phenomenal leadership trait for rallying recognition around.

Leadership consultants Kevin and Jackie Freiberg say, “Gratitude is a sign of wisdom and maturity, a hallmark of confident humility.”

Too often we are trying to develop leadership skills and forget about the underlying leadership traits that intrinsically drive a person to be a leader no matter what their role or whether they even have a title within the organization.

Let’s explore what it really takes to be a leader who has a grateful heart. (more…)

Is Your Culture Getting In The Way of Your Recognition?

Many factors affect the success of implementing the practice of giving effective and meaningful employee recognition where you work.

Your organizational culture is just one of those factors but it’s often ignored.

Organizational culture is the shared values and beliefs that inform and govern how people behave in an organization. It influences how people act at work and do their jobs.

The successful use of your recognition and reward programs is directly impacted by the strength and positive perception of your company’s culture.

That’s why you must ask yourself: Is our organizational culture contributing towards making recognition giving a way of life?

Or, perhaps your culture is getting in the way of recognition. (more…)

Top 10 Solutions to Typical Recognition Program Problems

Whenever technology is involved there will always be bugs and glitches that get in the way. Likewise with recognition and reward programs. However, for the most part the biggest problem with recognition programs is not technology. It is the people factor and how recognition programs are used. Consider these Top 10 Solutions to Typical Recognition Program Problems to help you out.

  1. Poorly Planned Programs. Too many leaders launch recognition programs without a plan. Create a recognition strategy with purpose, philosophy and principles. Determine overall objectives you want to achieve with them. Then set specific, measurable goals so you know how to measure your progress. Develop an annual plan to improve the weak areas of your recognition programs.
  2. No Management Participation. Start right at the top by lobbying for an executive sponsor to champion the recognition cause. Show leaders how to use the programs and provide supports. Personally commit leaders to using recognition programs. Educate managers on recognition practices and using programs. Hold managers accountable for usage and monitor program reports.
  3. Lacking Consistent Usage. You have your recognition programs in place but managers and employees aren’t using them. Apathy and complacency are the enemies of using tools for what they were meant for. Set clear expectations for using the programs. Regularly communicate how to use programs and share positive examples of great recognition givers and their impact on people.
  4. Inability To Recognize. Recognition programs are simply tools for giving appreciation and recognition to other people. An effective user of recognition programs must already be effective in giving recognition face-to-face. Teach people the positive behaviors associated with giving people meaningful, memorable and motivational recognition. Expect people to apply these skills first.
  5. Too Achievement Focused. Some recognition programs are really reward or incentive programs labeled solely as recognition programs. That’s because rewards are being used to reinforce performance outcomes. This can create an entitlement mentality. Don’t forget to use recognition programs to express appreciation, acknowledge people, and communicate gratitude for everyone.
  6. Programs Remain Unknown. Sad to say it but there are companies with recognition programs that their employees don’t even know about. I’ve seen it when we get companies to inventory all the rogue programs that exist. Create a centralized strategy with some core programs and allow local programs to continue. Now brand, communicate and promote them everywhere you can.
  7. Unclear Program Expectations. Spell out the expectations for each type of recognition program. Social recognition programs connect people with each other and positive actions. Performance recognition programs reinforce positive behaviors and strategic goals. Milestone or service awards are a celebration of people’s contributions. Don’t expect the wrong things from different programs.
  8. Lousy Rewards Criteria. Recognition and reward programs can create problems when criteria for rewards are not clearly determined. What one person determines is above and beyond is different for someone else. Develop clear criteria for rewards based on whether the action was once or consistently done; the degree of impact of their actions; and who and where the impact was made.
  9. Big Hoopla Launch. Beware grand launching of new programs with big, glitz and full of pizzazz. Ask any IT department about introducing new software and they’ll tell you there are always bugs. Best advice I can give is if you start big you will end small; if you start small you will end big. Start with piloting the program in one division first. Iron out any program glitches before going company-wide.
  10. Not Creating ROI. Recognition programs can be a sitting duck for being reduced in scope or completely eliminated when seen just as a feel-good-activity. Your recognition programs must be aligned with your businesses goals and seen as a performance driver. Make sure you are fully using reports and analytics to correlate recognition with results and always calculate business impact and ROI.

 

This article was originally published in the Strategy column of September 2017 issue of Incentive Magazine.

 

Focus on Recognizing People Instead of Generations

When I write, you don’t necessarily know which generation I belong to.

Oh, there may be the odd word or two I use that might give away which generation I’m from. But for the most part I write the same way I speak.

And as each of you read what I write about authentic recognition, I hope you will respect and value what I contribute from my expertise on the topic of employee recognition and not by which generation I’m from.

What has this got to do with generational differences and employee recognition, you ask?

Some of you know me, I know. But most of you do not.

You are blind to my age and generational category.

Yet you read what I write because you believe that I have something in my content that might help you in your work.

You respect me for what I write and this correlates with you respecting me as a person.

You do not value or recognize me for my age. You do not categorize me into a generation and say I must treat you differently. You hopefully engage with me as a human being who has worth independent of anything I write, say or do. Then if I do contribute something that merits recognition you will acknowledge me the same way you would your neighbour at work or at home.

You will recognize me as a person and not a generation.

(more…)

Recognition Tip #39: Let them eat cake.

Whether a birthday or workplace celebration, a decorated cake with a message on it can be shared with almost everyone. Consider ice cream cakes in the summer. Make note of any personal allergy or diet restrictions and accommodate with a substitute treat.