So You Have A Recognition Strategy. Now What?

People are getting pretty excited and energetic lately about creating recognition strategies. And for that I am grateful.

Slowly, but surely, more and more business leaders are creating written recognition strategy documents that outline their ideal recognition practices, the recognition programs they feel they need, and an outline of their purpose for recognition, along with any philosophy and principles to guide everyone on giving effective and meaningful recognition.

What follows, of course, is the need for setting short-term and long-term objectives, and creating a plan to address strengths and areas requiring improvement with both recognition practices and recognition programs.

No company I have worked with so far, or had the pleasure of viewing their identified recognition best practices, is perfect at recognition. Every organization can stand to improve recognition in some way or another.

So we are going from the premise that you’ve already written up a recognition strategy document.

Now, what do you do first?

1. Organize yourselves dependent on organization size.

For large companies I highly recommend a 4-tiered approach for structuring the leadership and organization of recognition in an organization, namely.

  • Recognition Steering or Strategy Committee
  • Recognition Manager and/or Administrators
  • Recognition Implementation Teams
  • Recognition Ambassadors

Small to mid-sized companies are more likely to be a one-person-show. They won’t always have the luxury of having staff or availability of people from other departments to assist them. A harsh reality but there are ways of dealing with this situation.

2. Leadership needs to be on board and driving the ship.

You will need a senior leader who is the executive sponsor of recognition.

Larger companies also start with a Recognition Steering or Strategy Committee.

Senior leaders may only attend a few of the meetings during the year but you certainly need their presence and support.

Ideally your committee will meet monthly or quarterly and allow one annual meeting to be a strategic plan review of recognition progress and future plans.

Other players at the table should include, wherever possible, chief human resources officer (or people and culture officer), and leaders representing strategy, finance and/or compensation and benefits, communications, and organizational development (or learning and development). Business unit leaders who are already great at demonstrating positive recognition should also be invited to attend.

If you are in a small to medium sized company you should at least ensure you have your boss’ or company owner’s support for elevating recognition. Without it you’ll go nowhere.

Should you be lucky enough to get a few other managers who are interested to assist you then the better off you will be. Recognition owners may have to meet individually and infrequently with whoever is responsible for strategy, leadership, finances, and training and development.

A bare minimum would be to provide an annual status report. If you can give a semi-annual written report along with quarterly emailed updates along the way, you’ll at least keep recognition top of mind.

3. Align recognition with the various company strategies.

One reason company leaders do not invest well in employee recognition is because it has been seen solely as a “feel good” activity. Often recognition has not been properly aligned with the business and people strategies.

  • Recognition aligned with the business strategy allows you to look at how and where leaders and managers can utilize recognition to lift performance results.
  • Recognition aligned with talent acquisition strategy allows a company to see how well they are really doing with valuing people’s contribution. You need to know if the company is an attractive organization to come and work for.
  • Recognition and the overall people strategy gives opportunity to provide a caring organization that truly appreciates their people and helps engage them in meaningful work and retain them as loyal employees.

4. Consistently set clear focused goals and implement actions plans.

Too many companies rest on their laurels after establishing some recognition programs or adopting specific recognition practices.

No matter the size of the organization, leaders and owners of recognition will need to identify through gap analysis the areas that need to be enhanced or improved upon.

Larger organizations will likely have the benefit of organizing Recognition Implementation Teams.

These are teams made up of people representing different business units and those with specific subject matter expertise. At the same time you should always consider diversity and inclusion of non-experts to get cross-pollination of experience and new ideas.

These teams might address goals and topics like improving communications of recognition, education and learning of recognition practices and program usage, developing recognition resources, or how to improve existing informal and formal recognition programs.

Recognition Implementations Teams can be held to a higher accountability because they are just a few people working on one task.

I always recommend creating 90-day Action Plans where teams work as individuals or together during each 30-day period. They can email progress reports to each other every 30 days and recalibrate their goal if need be. At the end of the 90-days they are accountable to give a short progress report to the recognition manager or Recognition Steering or Strategy Committee.

When only a sole-owner of recognition in a smaller company, such as an HR manager, they will have to look at the needed goals to work on or the areas of focus and consider them as their priority list.

And a priority means simply one thing. So select the most important goal or task on your list and work on that until it is done. You will then have completed the most important goal on your list no matter how long it takes.

Enlisting the support of other managers and employees should always be the goal (or wish!) for recognition owners in small companies, but I realize this is not always possible.

5. Get everyone involved and owning responsibility for recognition.

No matter the size of the organization, everyone is responsible for taking responsibility to express recognition and communicate appreciation for caring concern on the job and acknowledging positive workplace contributions.

One way to ease the burden for making recognition happen is by having Recognition Ambassadors on board.

There are always great role models for giving recognition in any company who are willing to be goodwill ambassadors for the cause of recognizing one another.

Have them be the encouragers to managers and peers alike for giving more frequent and meaningful recognition in their department or business area.

Provide them with resources, materials, and education and training. Then they can teach managers, supervisors and fellow employees how to give recognition the right way wherever their colleagues work.

They also become a liaison between frontline staff and whoever is responsible for recognition in the company. They can share how recognition is really perceived by employees and what needs to be improved upon.

Recognition Ambassadors can be brought into meetings give informal reports on recognition to Recognition Steering or Strategy Committees in large organization or be a sounding board for smaller companies.

Having a written recognition strategy in place is a major accomplishment. Implementing a recognition strategy is a whole new experience.

Strive to create the best recognition structure for your size organization. Enlist your leader’s support and encouragement for recognition. Embed recognition into everything so it is aligned with all your strategies. Set goals and put them into action. And finally, get everyone on board to help you make recognition happen.

Question: What do you need to focus on first to start implementing your recognition strategy?

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