How to Increase the Impact of Your Formal Award Programs

What impact are your formal recognition programs having on your people and their performance? Are you designing your best-of-the-best and above-and-beyond award programs to make a difference?

According to the World at Work 2017 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey, 77% of organizations have above-and-beyond performance programs, and only 17% of them have what they termed as formal programs. They did not delineate or define well what they meant by formal recognition.

The Conference Board of Canada in their 2017 report on recognition found that 50% of corporations have formal company-wide recognition programs in place. Organizations that have these programs recognize outstanding individual achievement as their main purpose and organize large-scale celebration events to accompany these awards.

But neither study pursued whether these formal award programs had achieved their objectives or if they considered the award programs effective or not.

Look at the following seven ideas for building greater impact into your existing formal award programs.

To have a greater impact with your award programs consider implementing one or more of the following suggestions.

1. Increase the Number of Employees Nominated.

Few of your total employee count will ever win these elite formal awards. Therefore, your goal should be to increase the number of employees nominated.

Consider giving employees a career development or project implementation sabbaticals to achieve something significant and worthwhile nominating. Or arrange for managers in their performance development meetings with employees to plan in and schedule project breaks where they can block out time to work on innovative ideas. Think about reinforcing the organizational values and strategic goals at your regular meetings and capture examples of people who are excelling. 

Seeding nominations comes from setting expectations for how many each manager intends to submit each year, and even by the quarter. Ask employees which project or goal they think might merit receiving a nomination. Consider polling employee teams for projects they should consider for a nomination. Keep this top of mind in your regular staff meetings.

2. Increase the Number of Awards

Often there isn’t an award category that fits some exceptional work and performance of your employees. Why not suggest a new award category aligned with the work being done?

Look carefully at your strategic objectives, your organizational values, and important areas of focus. Could any of these areas lend themselves to a new award category? If you don’t ask you won’t get.

3. Increase the Number of Nomination Opportunities 

Like the Oscar Awards where academy members nominate one movie for the Best Picture, along with Best Actor, and Best Director Awards, etc., perhaps a nominee’s work contribution, project, or accomplishment, merits consideration across one or two other corporate awards or categories.

Think about self-nominated nominations where employees can write up and submit their own award nomination. Saves a lot of work for managers and supervisors.  It could also stimulate more nominations from a diverse group of employees who might otherwise be overlooked.

Remember, to promote nominations year round. Have quarterly requests at manager meetings and publicize requests for nominations on your internal TV channels, newsletters, and cascading email blasts to all employees.

4. Make Being Nominated a Big Deal

However simple or glamorous you make the awards event it is important to make all nominees feel special too. Being nominated is an act of validation by whoever submits the nomination––manager, peers, or self. 

I will suggest you create an alumnus of award winners for each award category. Let them meet quarterly to discuss their original projects and ongoing developments or implementation updates. It could be a lunch and learn format to minimize costs and one winner presenting their reason for being nominated. Meeting together may spark new ideas for future projects and accomplishments worthy of a future award nomination.

5. Honor All Nominees

Make sure you create a nominees list and honor everyone on the list whether they are the ultimate award winners or not. They are all winners by taking part. Celebrate them wherever and however you can. Whether it is a simple scroll down of names and award category on a projected screen at the event or rotating page on the company TV channel. And if space permits you could print the nominees’ names listed on event programs.

6. Celebrate the Best Way You Can

Larger and more profitable industries and organizations can provide a more lavish awards celebration. Don’t let that discourage you if you don’t have the means to replicate what the “big guys” do.

The key is planning and managing what it is you want to achieve from your awards event. Set clear objectives so you can measure yourself against these expectations afterward. Determine the recognition experience you want all nominees and winners to have before the event, during the actual celebration event, and even after the event. Let this time structure creatively guide you in planning what needs to happen at each stage.

Whatever the budget is, it’s what it is. You can still make your award event a special experience for your employees. Remember to focus on making this a celebration and not just a presentation. Consider inviting family members to be present or not, depending on the recipient’s wishes. You might even have past award winners presenting the awards. Capture memories of the ceremony through photos and video to give people access to after. 

7. Sharing Award Recipient’s Stories

You should highlight each award winner in whatever way possible throughout the year on your recognition communication calendar. Interview the winners and ask what inspired them to their achievement or project completion. Ask them how it felt to be an award winner. Video-record some of these interviews and use them to promote future award candidates and nominations.

Always think how nothing inspires success with formal awards like a successful and well-deserved award winner.

Recognition Reflection: How will you improve the impact of your existing formal award programs?

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