How Good Is Your Recognition Program Anyway?

Lots of companies think their recognition programs are the very best. Many that I have seen are truly pretty amazing and exemplary. A few think of themselves a little better than they really are. But at least they’re trying.

Since judging the best practices nominations submitted to Recognition Professionals International for the past 11-years, I have seen the overview of nearly a hundred or so recognition programs. Based on the criteria that I had a hand in developing, the other judges and I score each nomination, and also provide helpful, written feedback on their programs.

Often, those who submit their nomination the first time receive a best in class award covering a few of the seven best practice standards. They usually act on the judges’ feedback and resubmit the following year. If companies carry out the recommendations that judges suggested they typically raise the bar and can merit earning the best practices overall award.

How good do you think your recognition programs are? If you submitted a best practices award nomination for your company, would you measure up?

Take a look at RPI’s seven best practice standards below and assess where you think you would stack up on a seven or 10 point scale.

Standards That Help Create A Measuring Stick

The Recognition Professionals International’s best practice standards help get everyone on the same page and are a useful tool to help you plan your programs and practices around. Here are the seven best practice standards:

  1. Recognition Strategy
  2. Management Responsibility
  3. Recognition Program Measurement
  4. Communication Plan
  5. Recognition Training
  6. Recognition Events and Celebrations
  7. Program Change and Flexibility

Let’s explore each of these standards to better understand what each one means and their implications towards the types of issues practitioners face with the development of recognition initiatives.

1. Recognition Strategy

RPI essentially defines a Recognition Strategy as a written strategy statement and plan with specific program objectives, addressing how recognition is aligned with an organization’s culture (i.e. vision, mission, and values) and the business strategy and objectives, using a three-dimensional recognition approach of formal, informal and day-to-day recognition practices. This Recognition Strategy document typically outlines the procedures and processes utilized and the program delivery methods of the various types of recognition adopted.

Do you have a written recognition strategy? According to WorldatWork, only 55 percent of companies have one.

2. Management Responsibility

Responsible management will steer a sound recognition strategy for success. Senior management must be involved in strategy development, the creation of clearly articulated objectives, supporting and advocating of recognition resources and budgets, policy and procedure content, communication planning, management education, and training, and ensuring accountability for recognition practices and program results.  Consider a Wirthlin Worldwide study that asked corporate CEOs and vice presidents of human resources the question, “What makes a recognition program meaningful and successful?” The top answer, with a response of 89 percent, indicated successful recognition programs included senior management participation. Managers at all levels must become exemplary practitioners of giving meaningful and effective recognition.

How involved are your senior leaders and management team with giving recognition? Make sure you have a senior leader champion to support your recognition plans.

3. Recognition Program Measurement

RPI’s third best practice standard of Recognition Program Measurement places accountability upon recognition practices and programs by expecting quantitative and qualitative measures to align and prove results against a recognition strategy, the business and people strategies, and any program objectives. Evidence of employee and manager nominations and program participation must always be offset with meeting targeted objectives and solid ROI calculations. You also need to gauge the meaningfulness and effectiveness of the recognition given in the eyes of the recipients.

Are you measuring recognition program participation levels? Most companies are doing that. But they neglect to drill down to management accountability and predicting performance outcomes.

4. Communication Plan

Another all-encompassing standard is having a well-articulated and strategic, recognition Communication Plan.  This goes beyond the lead-up to and the launch plan for a new recognition program. It should also establish goals and plans for ongoing information, reinforcement of recognition practices, and educational resources. A solid communication plan also includes branding information, agreed upon messaging, identification of target audiences, the types of media to be used, and the frequency of distribution.

Do you have an annual Recognition Communications Calendar? Few companies get beyond the program launch and promoting annual best of best, award events. Get more granular and systematically communicate and reinforce recognition practices.

5. Recognition Training

Recognition Training supports the overall Recognition Strategy by defining specific learning objectives for providing instruction on administering vendor or in-house developed recognition programs, as well as education and skills development of recognition practices by managers and employees. Recognition system orientation is often delivered through online webinar or video, screen capture tutorials.  Management and employee education of knowledge and skills on giving effective and meaningful recognition can be given through in-class, online and a blended learning platform, delivered through a learning management system. Various methodologies may be planned to accumulate measures of successful learning, reporting of ROI calculations, and carryover of learning into the workplace.

Is teaching effective employee recognition skills on the manager development curriculum? Make sure you have some learning objectives and delivery methods that managers and employees can access. Use online, eLearning to educate on the why and how of recognition,

 6. Recognition Events and Celebrations

Most organizations have some degree of ongoing Recognition Events and Celebrations if only for celebrating service award milestone anniversaries. RPI has made Recognition Events and Celebrations a standard to ensure there are written processes, policies and procedures for the various formal and informal events and celebrations, which should be happening to recognize and honor employees. Organizations must demonstrate how responsibility for event planning is coordinated; outline the involvement and participation of management; and accountability for the review and improvement of planned events.

Do you set objectives for each event and measure the outcomes of those goals? Create a plan before going into each event. Find out how successful you were after the event through surveys, focus groups, or random interviews.

 7. Program Change and Flexibility.

Recognition programs and practices must be continually evaluated to monitor success and requirements for refinement and revitalization. Program Change and Flexibility, as a standard, ensures a process for regular review and assessment of recognition program elements and a commitment to change any aspect of recognition programs not fulfilling their targeted objectives. It’s the continuous quality improvement piece of recognition that is often neglected. A program must continually be checked to ensure it is aligned with, and achieves and promotes, the organization’s goals and values.  No recognition program is perfect after it is launched, and there must be open-mindedness to adjusting, modifying, and even stopping elements of programs, or programs in their entirety, if they do not fulfill their original mandate.

Are you holding regular (perhaps quarterly) and annual reviews of your recognition strategy and plans? Set up a recognition steering committee to assist you with continually improving your recognition programs and practices.

Consistently using these seven best practice standards to guide your recognition program design and development, will ensure you have very good recognition programs in place. You might even be a potential best practices award winner!

Recognition Reflection: How do you presently gauge whether you have good recognition programs or not?

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