The Most Common Problems With Creating a Recognition Strategy

You all know the importance and wisdom of creating a written recognition strategy. WorldatWork states 55% of companies have a recognition strategy as of 2017. Of those with a written recognition strategy, 95% of them are aligned with the organizational strategy.

Many things hold companies back from producing such a working document.

Here’s what I have observed as the most common problems. And I will share some ideas with how to solve them.

Problem #1: Minimal number of participants. In larger, enterprise-wide, organizations I work with about 20 to 30 participants. Larger groups permit greater representation from different departments, divisions, and business unit leaders. The key is full involvement.

The process of developing a recognition strategy entails a lot of brainstorming. There’s great benefit from the diverse input with drafting a purpose and philosophy statements for recognition. At least two or more groups of employees provide better creativity and a variety of ideas.

Small to medium-sized business will have fewer people available. Some organizations have limited leadership support. But they will want you to go ahead with developing a strategic recognition approach.

Writing a recognition strategy and plan can be done with a smaller group of leaders and managers. Yet, if people are not used to idea generation and drafting written content this can be tough. Generating this kind of input with an inexperienced team can be frustrating even for a trained facilitator.

Solutions if you only have a small number of people available.

1. Get your senior leaders to champion the initiative. Meet with them to set the expectation of what you will deliver. Request needed resources and accountability for implementing and developing the plan. Schedule semi-annual or at least annual reviews with the leader. If they cannot be present at the strategy session, ask if they want anyone, in particular, to attend for them.

2. Do a reality check on what you can do. Implementation of the strategy is great for larger organizations. You can enlist representation from various department specialists to delegate tasks to. You could have communications, organizational development, learning experts, etc., all helping you. Smaller organizations don’t have this luxury. I recommend prioritizing the goals you make and take them on one at a time until they’re completed. This is especially so if you are “it” as a one-person operation.

3. Give your small team advanced preparation. Don’t jump into strategizing until everyone is clear about recognition. Help them understand what employee recognition is all about. Provide advanced reading material to your participants. Meet ahead of time to give them your vision and rationale. Allow at least a month of readiness so you can have everyone on the same page.

Problem #2: Lack of leadership ownership or participation. Proceeding with anything strategic is never easy without leaders present. When you don’t have their endorsement either you’ve got some work cut out for you. Session Participants will question leadership commitment for recognition if they aren’t attending. I’ve seen this happen a few times and I always ache for the program owners.

Not having leader commitment often leaves the draft recognition strategy in jeopardy.

Some solutions to think about when you have a leadership dilemma.

1. Can you at least get the commitment of a few middle managers? When recognition must be improved, then lobby for a few allies on the management team. If they can have your back for proceeding and participating you have a head start. Some leaders are reluctant to make decisions as I have written about recently. You need people who understand the power of recognition and are leaders in their own right. They will help pave the way for you.

2. Begin a drip feed campaign of education and communication. I am a big believer in doing research. Review scientific papers, and industry best practices. Provide other findings with the intent to prove the validity of employee recognition. Send small pieces of news with links by email to your leader. Stop them in the hallway and give a program update. Support them with coaching on how to present an award.

3. Ask for approval in principle to proceed. Sometimes when you importune someone enough times they give in. This is when you have to prove yourself to this leader. Show them the progress made with the strategy creation. Provide them with the finalized plan for improving recognition. Show them how what you are doing will improve business and people strategy results.

Problem #3: Too much of a Human Resources focus. Often a Human Resources director/manager owns the responsibility for employee recognition. This is the case even if someone else administers the programs. Or it could be Compensation and Benefits or Organizational Development. This often produces too much groupthink and similar ways of seeing things. By not having cross-department representation you will end up with poor support. And the final outcome may not be as rich as it could be.

This produces low commitment and a lack of resources to make the strategy. You won’t be able to put in place the created recognition strategy with its goals and plans. Then the strategy becomes an HR priority list versus an organization-wide strategic tool.

My recommended suggestions for the singular department run strategy are:

1. When you have no other choice – go with it. I have conducted a few of these sessions and at least we end up with a working document to run by their leadership. Often the HR director/manager has the ear of the senior leaders. They can often leverage the resources to make things happen.

2. Be prepared to do a promotion and communication plan. You may have to be the public relations and communications person as well. But that’s what it sometimes takes. Share the strategy with other managers and ask for their input and feedback on the end product. Hopefully, you’ll get some positive responses and practical suggestions you could not have thought about.

3. Reach out for employee involvement as well. Conduct a lunch-and-learn session to show employees what’s been developed. Ask for their opinions since the final product affects them the most. Request employee suggestions after sharing the draft document in staff meetings.

As the recognition program owner and/or manager, you must personally be committed if you plan to move ahead. Creating a written recognition strategy will make your life easier in the long run.

The benefits are many:

  • A corporate purpose or “why” for employee recognition
  • An overriding short-term goal for employee recognition for your company
  • Everyone on the same page about what is happening with recognition
  • An improvement plan addressing the weakness with recognition practices and programs within the organization
  • Clear goals and outcome objectives to steer recognition initiatives.
  • A template to be held accountable to.
  • A priority list of what to do first if you are a sole practitioner in your organization

Hope this gives you some ideas to work with. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need my help.

Reflective Question: What challenges have you experienced with creating a written recognition strategy?

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