How To Align Recognition with Behaviors and Performance

Organizations need to do a much better job of aligning recognition practices and programs with the great things their employees do.

The 2017 WorldatWork Trends in Employee Recognition Survey showed that above-and-beyond performance recognition programs were offered by 77 percent of the organizations surveyed. The challenge with above-and-beyond programs is that so few employees can ever be “above-and-beyond” at any one time. This leaves a lot of employees out in the cold, so to speak, from being recognized for positive actions.

WorldatWork results also revealed how only 51 percent of the companies offered programs to motivate specific behaviors.

In the past five years, recognition programs used to motivate specific behaviors, have risen from the fourth most used type of program to now being in the third position. However, even with this apparent popularity rise, behavioral type recognition programs only recognized 25 percent of employees, on average, in the past 12 months of the survey.

How can you, as a recognition program leader, use your recognition programs to consistently reinforce positive behaviors and lift workplace performance?

Valuing Positive Behaviors

What do we mean when we talk about behaviors?

Behaviors are the various ways in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others. Of course, as companies, we want to recognize employees for the positive behaviors and actions they do.

For you, these positive behaviors are any actions considered socially acceptable and contributing to the good of others and the company. These behaviors can easily be measured because they are observable by one or many.

Most organizations have a set of values to guide people with how to act on the job.  These agreed-upon values usually consist of written statements of accepted behaviors that define a company’s culture and beliefs. It’s the way things are done at your company.

Living your company’s values is a great source of positive behaviors that your employees can recognize one another for.

Take for example the vice president of human resources at a hospital I once consulted with. He stopped mid-conversation with me when he saw a coffee spill on the lobby floor. He located one of those collapsible wet floor signs to put over the spill. Then he got on the phone to contact environmental services to come and clean up the liquid. It’s no wonder this action happened when you consider that at the time of this event, safety was one of their values, and one of their strategic goals was to be the safest hospital in the province.

A peer or leader could verbally acknowledge this vice president for their positive action. Or an employee could use a behavioral recognition program to thank them for their great example. I was impressed, so I personally wrote him a note because it stood out for me.

Leaders should be encouraging their employees to acknowledge and express appreciation to one another for positive behaviors they see, for the personal effort their peers put forth, and for the wonderful contributions, people make throughout the company.

Using Behavioral Recognition Programs

Recognition programs are the regular informal or formal, organizational procedures and online administered programs for providing spontaneous and scheduled individual, or team, acknowledgment, awards, incentives or rewards, for achieving various strategic, behavioral or performance-based criteria.

Peers, managers, and leaders should use these recognition programs on a daily or weekly basis, to recognize employees, and even permit monthly and annual opportunities to award people as approved.

Social recognition programs are a new rage, allowing all employees on the hierarchy to catch people doing things right and leave comments in a newsfeed, send graphic-themed ecards, and give branded social badges. According to the WorldatWork recognition trends survey, 49 percent of companies now host peer-to-peer recognition programs, which usually include social recognition platforms.

Values-based ecard categories can give employees a cue to acknowledge someone who demonstrated one of the company values. Giving praise through the social newsfeed allows everyone the chance to commend a colleague and like the comments made to them.

Sometimes, companies use rewards or awards to tangibly acknowledge a person or team members for significant achievements, consistent exemplary actions, or service performed.

Perhaps you already have cultural and customary ways your organization shows people that they and their contributions are valued.

Getting Programs Strategically Aligned

When asked if organizations had a written recognition strategy on the WorldatWork survey, only 55 percent of responders reported actually having one. But for all those that did have one, 95 percent of them were aligned with the organization’s business strategy.

This means that the smart leaders at the companies who drafted a recognition strategy also had the sense to synchronize and integrate their recognition programs with the company’s business objectives.

A written business strategy is a company’s operating plan for achieving its stated vision and prioritized objectives. The purpose of a strategic plan, or business strategy document, is to help the organization compete in the marketplace, optimize financial results, and maximize standardized performance measures.

I will take a look at one company, Intel, as an example, and show you how you could align your recognition programs strategically.

You can read about Intel’s values here where they have an extended description of behaviors. But I have summarized them below for context:

Recognition and Values

The Intel Values

Quality: There’s a strong commitment at Intel to quality and continuous improvement.

Risk Taking: Risk taking recognizes that some failures are unavoidable.

An Inclusive, Great Place to Work: At Intel, we believe a productive and challenging work environment is vital to our success.

Discipline: Our employees pride themselves on their ability to make and keep commitments…

Customer Orientation: Intel’s concept of customer orientation goes beyond conducting business in the marketplace.

Results Orientation: We strive to set challenging and competitive goals, focus on output, assume responsibility, and execute flawlessly.

Imagine recognition programs depicting ecards with various graphic images associated with each of these six values.

Leaders and managers who receive reports on various output measures can acknowledge employees under Results Orientation, and possibly award them with whatever reward or award vehicle is used: points, gift cards, or nominations.

Fellow employees acknowledge and thank a colleague for An Inclusive, Great Place to Work, for helping them reach a specific work target.

A supervisor recognizes a team member in another part of the country for Quality with improving a new process that will speed up productivity results on the production line of the latest processor development.

Recognition and Business Strategy

Intel’s Business Strategy

Look at Intel’s strategic goals. Intel’s business strategy is referred too schematically as Intel’s Virtuous Cycle of Growth.

Imagine a circle graphic as the virtuous cycle.

  • Cloud and Data Center are at the top.
  • Memory and FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Arrays, or integrated circuits) are at the centre.
  • Things and Devices are at the bottom.
  • Circling all around these items at the edge of the circle is the concept of connectivity, joining and driving everything else.

You can add these strategic initiatives to your recognition programs. You’ll be able to show leaders and managers how the recognition programs can be used to recognize any and all behaviors supporting the strategic goals. They can reward employees and teams for the achievement of goals and significant outputs. Proper use of your recognition and reward programs will help the company reach their strategic objectives.

Show all employees how they can celebrate the small wins of peers and teams. Your recognition programs, help keep the strategic goals in focus for employees every time they log in to recognize someone.

Design your programs to have categories for your values and for your strategic goals. Create ecards for each section that you can use to congratulate and acknowledge employees. Show your employees how to effectively communicate praise for when employees demonstrate living a value. Educate them on the importance of recognizing colleagues and teams when they achieve a significant goal that supports the strategic plan.

As you align recognition programs with your organizational culture and to the strategic business plan, you will have a powerful leveraging tool for reinforcing positive behaviors and encouraging top performance.

Recognition Reflection: In what ways have you aligned your recognition programs with your values and strategic business plan?

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