2 Ways To Use Your Recognition Programs More Effectively

Everyone wants to improve recognition program usage.

Recognition program owners often want their recognition programs to increase from a quantitative perspective. Why? Because to them these numbers validate their programs’ and their job’s existence.

Areas they want improved are number of people using the program, number of recognition recipients, e-cards sent, social comments made, number of nominations or points given.

Rarely do recognition managers look at the effectiveness of their programs

And that’s what I want to address and where I am going to give you some ideas to think about.

Keeping Effectiveness Simple

The whole process for using your recognition programs more effectively should be quite easy.

Typically, when trying to improve the use of something that is programmatic, it is good to examine the data first. Things like:

  • Usage reports of all kinds
  • # of givers of recognition
  • # of recipients of recognition
  • Reason for recognition, etc.

However, these are called lagging indicators because the metrics lag after the occurrence of some initial behavior or action.

These measures are typically “output” oriented – someone sends an e-card on your program and generates another unit of measure for “senders of e-cards.”

The lagging indicator of senders of e-cards is super easy to measure but quite hard to improve upon or influence.

Lagging and Leading Indicators

To improve the effectiveness of recognition programs a common practice is to plan and implement a communication campaign. Recognition messaging using all forms of communication vehicles is sent out and training is initiated on how to use the programs more.

These initiatives often make a short-term blip increase in the numbers but rarely last for the long-term.

To use your programs more effectively I recommend doing two things. It is always less daunting when all you have to do is a small number of actions.

Action 1: Look for and drill down until you find a meaningful leading indicator of effective recognition program usage.

Action 2: Focus on encouraging people to do just one or two things that typically happen before the lagging indicator measure occurs.

Drilling Down For Leading Indicators

Start looking for leading indicators and not lagging indicators. Look for and drill down until you find a meaningful leading indicator of effective recognition program usage.

A leading indicator asks you to think about what happens earlier in the process that allows you to predict the lagging indicator.

Remember, leading indicators are input oriented and so we need to look at what we can do rather than wait for something to be done.

They can be hard to measure but they should be easy to influence.

Let’s take a simple example with our e-card usage.

What must happen before you write and send an e-card to a peer or employee?

What happens first?

You would have to know that an employee did something that merits being recognized. Perhaps you observed the action. Or someone else might tell you of an employee’s positive actions – in person, on the phone or by email.

What would need to happen first that you have control over? How can you know about your employee’s positive behaviors on the job?

You can’t control others telling you things about your employees but you can act on finding out directly from your employees the efforts and contributions they’re making on the job.

This necessitates meeting with employees to learn about their work and what they’re doing. These one-on-one meetings will most likely lead to discovering things to praise and acknowledge.

So you need some baseline data.

I would survey your managers and ask them now, “How many one-on-one interactions and communication do you experience with your employees on a weekly, monthly basis?”

You may have to get your managers to complete a log sheet for a week to self-report the number of one-on-one interactions they have, with who, and summarize the nature of those meetings.

Then record the number of interactions they have, and the number of employees they meet with, compared with their total number of direct reports.

Moving Towards Your Programs

You will know more of what needs to be recognized if you interact more frequently with your employees.

But that might lead to more face-to-face expression of appreciation, which is good, just not an increased use of your programs.

What precedes you using your recognition programs?

There are so many work demands both in and away from the office, on the plant floor, or out in the field. What needs to happen for you to go onto your recognition program portal?

Perhaps one leading indicator of using the recognition program more effectively is time spent actually on the program.

You could do a comparative study by asking managers to estimate how much time they think they spend each day on your recognition program. Then you could get information technology folks to look at the actual login time spent on the program.

It would be interesting to compare the results.

Maybe managers need an email invitation to cue them to visit your recognition portal at the frequency they personally choose. This could provide a tip for giving better recognition and show them the last time they were on the program.

An invitation. Helpful tip. Reality check.

So here are the two steps I recommend for you to consider.

Step 1: Look for and drill down until you find a meaningful leading indicator of effective recognition program usage.

Step 2: Focus on encouraging people to do just one or two things that typically happen before the lagging indicator measure occurs.

In our e-card case above, the suggestions of what to do might be something like:

  1. To increase the knowledge of what to recognize: Measure the number of 1:1 meetings held with each employee for at least 15 minutes each week for those managers with 6 or less employees (at least monthly if more than 6 direct reports.)
  2. To increase the occurrence of using the programs: Measure the amount of time managers spend on the recognition program portal following their selection of an email reminder at their choice of frequency.

Question: What leading indicators can you see would be helpful with improving your recognition program effectiveness?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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