How To Implement a Recognition Strategy in Large Organizations

Over the years I have helped several large organizations in facilitating a team of their leaders in developing a written recognition strategy. The challenge I face after they have completed a recognition strategy session is leaving the owners of the strategy document with instructions on how to implement it and then see them make it happen.

Sometimes these recognition strategies become glorified documents that a manger or leader can now say they have a written recognition strategy whenever someone asks.

But if you don’t implement a strategy and plan then nothing ever changes.

Reality Check on Recognition Strategies

Few organizations have a written recognition strategy. In its 2017 survey, Trends in Employee Recognition, WorldatWork identified just over half of its member organizations—55 percent—as having a written recognition strategy. 

Yet, almost all of these organizations with recognition strategies were alignedwith their organization’s business strategy. This suggests they understood the impact employee recognition practices and programs can have on employees and their performance. 

And Recognition Professionals International (RPI), a non-profit professional association, for recognition practitioners and providers, even has Recognition Strategy as their first of seven best practice standards. 

Implementing Your Recognition Strategy

Just because you have a written recognition strategy does not mean it will happen all by itself. This is the grunt work stage and the hardest task after organizations craft any strategic document.

You need an implementation team that will help you turn your strategies, focus areas, and plans, into action. You want to see the strategic objectives and goals accomplished your leadership team members set in the strategy session. 

Some say that implementing a strategic recognition plan is as important, if not more important, than creating the actual strategy document.

How to Successfully Implement Your Recognition Strategy

I thought I would share with you what I have seen in successful organizations who have put their recognition strategy documents into action.

  • Every successfully implemented strategy plan has an executive leader who champions carrying out the plans.
  • Besides having a Recognition Strategy or Steering Committee you also need an implementation committee that reports to the strategic group.
  • A simple framework model that outlines the newly defined recognition purpose and philosophy statements and your recognition plan with its objectives, goals and metrics. Easy to view and read and so all employees can understand it.
  • Build your working implementation team with key players and subject matter experts from various departments to achieve the various specific goals. You could have a separate team for each goal or perhaps one team who systematically works through each goal.
  • Establish 90-day implementation plans for each sub-team, if you have them, to achieve a specific outcome. If you had Recognition Training as a goal you might have employees from Learning and Development, Organizational Development, and manager and employee representation to give end user input on your team.
  • Scheduled regular meetings by sub-teams to meet and work on their action plan. Individuals will do their part independently and bring their contributions to the team meetings to collaborate on next steps.
  • Expect these sub-teams to submit emailed reports at 30 and 60 days as to their progress to the executive champion and other sub-team leaders. Accountability needs to be built into the implementation process to keep the momentum going.
  • At the 90-day mark the team lead must submit a written report to their executive leader to show their progress to-date and what they recommend the next steps should be.
  • Following this approach the sub-team leader proposes an implementation goal for the next 90-day period within their focus area.
  • One suggestion is during each 90-day period the sub-teams work on 2-week sprint goals to have something concrete and meaningful to work on and stay focused.

Where Implementation of a Recognition Strategy Has Failed

Unfortunately, I have also seen organizations not carry through well with their recognition strategies and implementing the recommended actions.

Here’s what these organizations had in common:

  • The strategy documents were created by and owned by a team from one department and not across multiple departments. When there is no representation and ownership by leaders and managers from across several departments and disciplines you won’t have the momentum you need to make the recognition strategy happen because of other priorities.
  • Lack of an executive leader’s support and participation. If you don’t have leaders involved from the beginning with whom you’re accountable to nothing happens.
  • Not integrated properly in with other strategic plans that have higher priority and C-suite ownership. You can’t let your recognition strategy and plan drop to the bottom of the list. It must be integrated into your people strategy and shown how it helps reinforce some of your business initiatives.
  • Leaders have not assigned Goals or focus areas to key specialists and subject matter experts who could drive the action needed. You cannot expect an initial enthused group of employees to do it all in implementing a recognition strategy. You always need help from others.
  • Often a recognition strategy is left in the hands of the manager of human resources with the expectation for them to implement it single-handedly.
  • There is no accountability for action and seeing goals worked on and achieved.
  • No schedule of meetings required or set up to ensure action and momentum takes place.
  • No reports and accountability to anyone.

Hopefully, these insights will help you implement your recognition strategy and plan and make recognition come alive in your organization.

Recognition Reflection: What specific factors have helped you the most with implementing recognition strategies where you work?

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