How to Put a New Spin on Your Recognition Strategy

Michael Porter, the well-known strategist, and professor at Harvard Business School states, “the essence of strategy is in the activities–choosing to perform activities differently or to perform different activities than rivals.”

As I think on the final output generated from the process I used to help company leaders create their own written recognition strategies, each one is unique to their particular company. They have their crafted version of a recognition purpose and philosophy statement. Every company has a different overriding short-term goal. Their focus points reflect the needs and gaps for their organization. And the plans developed provide concrete goals and actions that will lead to better and more effective employee recognition for their company.

Porter also said, “The more benchmarking companies do, the more they look alike.”

Therein lies the dilemma for many companies. So often they want to know everything about what other companies are doing for employee recognition best practices and programs. Essentially, they want to duplicate what successful companies are doing and implement their ideas right away.

I will draw upon the thinking of INSEAD professors W. Chan Kim and RenéeMauborgne, who specialize in strategy and, specifically, Blue Ocean Strategy, to put a different spin on developing a recognition strategy.

Dipping Your Toes Into the Blue Ocean

W. Chan Kim and RenéeMauborgne are the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, which is recognized as one of the most iconic and impactful strategy books ever written. Blue Ocean Strategy has sold over 3.6 million copies, has been published in 44 languages, and is a bestseller across five continents.

Blue ocean strategies differentiate from the bloody competition of red ocean strategies. They are all about doing new things in different ways from their competition that bring added value to the end users in both benefits and cost. Value innovation exists as the cornerstone of blue ocean strategy with being the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost. They also advocate building execution into your strategy.

From a strictly business strategy perspective, the authors outline the following components:

  • Create uncontested market space.
  • Make the competition irrelevant
  • Create and capture new demand
  • Break the value/cost trade-off
  • Align the whole system of a company’s activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost

I will leave those principles with you to be self-explanatory so you can examine how to use them with revising and revitalizing your recognition strategy.

Wash Your Recognition Strategy in the Blue Ocean

Here’s my Blue Ocean-side view of how Kim and Mauborgne’s work can best impact your written recognition strategy.

FOCUS: On the employee side, I think it’s all about how leaders can create recognition experiences of greater value that no one has ever offered before, or by delivering recognition in more innovative ways.

Don’t just copy the recognition “best practices” of other leading companies. Those are now out of date, to begin with, and someone created them based on specific company needs. You don’t want to emulate something that is already two or three years old and doesn’t fit your organization. Your strategy must be about your company and your people. It has to be new and full of vitality.

Better Valued Recognition Experiences

I don’t think we place a high enough economic and psychological value on employee recognition. But for employees, at various points in their working lives, meaningful recognition given to them the right way, at the right time, can mean the world– and the value of it is priceless. Real recognition triggers greater loyalty, employee engagement, and better relational and emotional connections, as just a few of the benefits.

How can your leaders create recognition experiences of greater value than you’ve previously done? Are there new ways of giving recognition you’ve not offered before?

One of Kim and Mauborgne’s mantras is to focus on the big picture, not the numbers. What could you do to add recognition experiences of greater value? That doesn’t mean more recognition experiences, per se. You don’t have to hound managers to give more social recognition posts, send more recognition eCards, or submit more recognition award nominations. No, it’s all about getting everything you can out of every recognition experience you give.

Consider implementing:

  • A recognition platform and awareness campaign that allows customers, clients, or patients, to recognize your employees.
  • Evaluation tools to assess managers’ abilities in giving quality recognition.
  • Online eLearning to educate managers and employees on how they can give more effective and meaningful recognition.
  • Quick employee feedback system of recognition received (e.g. good, better, best or smiley emoticons) to give instant feedback to recognition givers.
  • Option for employees to share recognition preferences to assist recognition-givers to give more personalized recognition.
  • Easy click on options or open-ended fill-in boxes to let recognition-givers know an employee’s ideas for exciting recognition ideas they would like.
  • A recognition referral widget for employees to give managers input on, “Who do you know who needs recognition?”

Innovative Recognition Delivery

I love Sally Hogshead’s famous strategy line that says, “Different is better than better.” Remember, your strategy should copy no one else. This is not about beating your competitors. No one-up-man-ship. Do not feel you have to replicate what others are doing with recognition. Look for opportunities for giving recognition that does not exist today. What recognition experiences are unfulfilled? And how can you deliver recognition in more innovative ways?

Develop the technology yourself or work with your recognition vendor to deliver recognition differently by suggesting:

  • Providing audio-recorded and video-recorded delivery of recognition expressions.
  • Automating award nomination submission processes to allow tracking and make the nomination review process easier to adjudicate.
  • Provide ability to upload photos to accompany online recognition messages being sent.
  • Cue recognition-givers of the progressive types of recognition available to them that require little or no effort to give, such as social badges, to those that need more effort and time to give, such as eCards and nominating awards or giving staff rewards.
  • Progress to more interactive and natural kinds of recognition delivery such as audio and video messaging.
  • Design interface of your recognition programs that allow the written text to work with grammar correcting tools like Grammarly to suggest better-worded expressions.

Using the Blue Ocean approach to your recognition strategy gives you the freedom to create enhanced recognition value at a reasonable cost. You will also be able to motivate people by giving recognition of higher perceived value because it is different, and that makes it better.

Recognition Reflection: How are you revitalizing your company’s recognition strategy to give recognition experiences of greater value than offered before?

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