When talking about recognition and rewards programs the word “budget” is sure to come up. There are few owners of corporate recognition programs who have not dealt with one cut or another over their lifetime. This month I asked 10 seasoned practitioners responsible for recognition programs for their budgeting advice. Their wisdom gives you the Top 10 Powerful Ways to Save Your Recognition Budget.
- Get strategic with your recognition budgets. Look at the different types of recognition programs and initiatives available to you and budget where you will gain the greatest business impact and positive response from people. Align recognition to achieve strategic initiatives and let the culture drive recognition.
- Measure recognition program effectiveness. Consistently measure both program usage metrics as well as employee perception of recognition effectiveness to learn which employees and where are being impacted the most. Move beyond just reports to actually analyzing the data and correlating with your KPI’s.
- Create a sustainable program budget. It is critical to create the business case for your recognition program budget that is sustainable year over year by your senior leaders. With a sustainable budget you can more likely add to it to than becoming the recurring target for being cut whenever financial problems arise.
- Build in internal and external accountability. Assign recognition and rewards budgets to each departmental leader and use the program data to hold them accountable. Hold external providers accountable by checking regularly on program usage and spend to reduce costs where programs are not having an impact.
- Do a reality check on program equality and accessibility. Correct expectations and educate leaders when not all employees are getting the same benefit of recognition as others do. Programs need to be accessible to all parties even if the criterion needs to be established differently for the various business units.
- Research everything and do your homework. Keep up with the latest research findings from professional associations, conference boards, academic institutions and consultants. Mesh their data with results you are getting from your programs. Do interviews and focus groups to collect internal data and compare findings.
- Prioritize and shake things up. Money has an amazing way of adjusting your priorities. Nice to have must take second place to need to have when budgets are tight. If stuck too much to the tried and true, a revised recognition strategy may dictate a shake up to achieve more meaningful business and people goals.
- Demonstrate program impact and ROI. Leaders always want to know the results they get from the money they have invested. All recognition programs must demonstrate some form of business impact and where feasible a calculated Return on Investment. Sometimes the benefit is relational and keeping good people happy.
- Be transparent with everyone across the company. When recognition budgets are targeted for cuts it is every leader’s problem not just HR. Tell leaders the needs and brainstorm ideas. Gain everyone’s support for keeping recognition and doing it differently. Don’t work in isolation and be open to employee input as well.
- Collaborate inside and outside the organization. Ask your fellow leaders across the organizations for ways to save money and use internal resources for typically outsourced work. Shorten length of conferences or award events. Use less expensive award items. Be candid with your vendors and get their input too.
Previously published in Incentive Magazine, January 2016
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