The recognition and reward industry are a mix of similar goods, technology, and services, in contrast with newer players who tend to provide more of a “plug-and-play” program offering.
Plug-and-play recognition and reward programs tend to focus more on the offering of rewards than they do recognition. And with this software as a service, stand-alone programs, clients typically manage their own programs.
The question you have to ask yourself is whether you want a “quick-and-ready” approach. If you want to lead out with recognition and use rewards wisely you might want to think about creating a strategically designed recognition approach instead.
If you are going to compare you have to compare all the way. Is the vendor simply a provider or are they willing to be a reputable partner dedicated to maximizing the employee experience?
Larger organizations, and smart, small to medium sized organizations, will want to move beyond having full control of the online software as a service platform available. These plug-and-play programs are well promoted as simple and easy to use, which they are. But not all companies have dedicated individuals who can go online and manage all of that.
Yes, it is true that typical vendor programs, as well as easy set up programs, have simple wizards to send recognition communications and give rewards. But there is so much more that a complete strategic recognition and reward vendor can provide you with.
Here are four ways that make strategically designed recognition programs so amazing.
Reason #1: Going beyond a transactional experience for recognition and rewards.
It’s not about rewarding recognition but about giving meaningful and effective recognition. There needs to be a clear separation and defining of what recognition really is and what rewards are. Defining recognition and rewards allows everyone to use each method the right way. This is one benefit of a strategically designed program. There is a core purpose and philosophy for recognition that is unique to each organization. This is reflected in the design and layout of the recognition program.
A recognition strategy allows you to find out first how people think about recognition and how you plan to improve recognition. Crafting your organization’s recognition strategy helps you determine what employee expectations are for recognition. Furthermore, it helps you to set up fair and equitable practices for using the right kind of rewards to for the right reasons. You will address when rewards should be used so they don’t become a transactional entitlement.
Consistent use of rewards requires designing the business rules for the value of rewards given for different performance outcomes. It’s not just about selecting rewards they can redeem their points for. It’s also ensuring that when rewards are given to people that appropriate recognition accompanies it. People should know why they are being rewarded and that their work is valued and appreciated.
Reason #2: What you see affects people’s perceptions of recognition.
What you get with an automatic, do-it-yourself program, is a basic recognition program that is exactly the same for all clients. They may select different programs with associated modules and what you have to do is skin them to your company’s branding colors and insert logos. And you are left alone unless you contract additional services.
Strategically designed recognition programs go way beyond these basics. You’ll find some companies call their programs reward and recognition programs versus recognition and reward programs. Then they wonder why they end up with abuse and entitlement mentality around these rewards. That’s why they should always be recognition and rewards and not the other way around.
Then there is the name of your recognition program that best fits your organization. There is both denotative and connotative meaning behind what you name things. Yes, this means there are implications behind the name you give your program. Working with a vendor they can craft a logo that supports your expectations, and communicate so much more than your company logo alone.
Plug and play programs literally are just that. You plug them in, and hope people will play with them. Truth is, nothing happens with recognition programs until you effectively launch your programs with pre-launch communications and post-launch reinforcement to gain full utilization.
That’s why vendors with strategically designed recognition programs will help you with designing a communication strategy and plan. They can assist you with calendaring of recognition messaging, email templates and reminder content, printed and digital posters, inspirational and motivational signage for LCD screens, manager and employee resources such as articles, video tutorials, and job aids. All of this to promote and encourage usage of your programs.
Reason #3: Strategic recognition program providers have strategic thought leadership.
A recognition program is a just a tool to use. To use it properly you need a foundation of recognition practices and principles. Strategic recognition program providers can assist you with their in-house experts and thought leaders to give you helpful content based on current research.
Too often clients get sidetracked by vernacular like best practices and benchmarking only to realize that what one company claims is a best practice took them years to get there. And now if you tried copying it would be out of date by the time you implemented it. Experts can steer clients with the right “next” practice versus being enamoured by best practices.
They can also provide you with scientific and practical insights from their experience on how to link recognition output and perception data with pertinent performance and people metrics. This gives you the return on investment you need to validate your programs. And research scientists can assist with developing predictive analytic studies to show risk factors and strengths of your leaders and employees with recognition giving.
Having this connection with thought leaders gives you both inspiration and direction to help your programs succeed.
Reason #4: Working a strategic recognition plan and not just a program.
When you buy a new car, you don’t just use it all the time without refuelling, oil changing, and tuning it up along the way. And when you get in the car to drive off, you need to know where you are going.
Likewise, with your recognition programs, you can’t just turn it on and expect it to work all by itself at recognizing employees. You have to orient people to your programs on a regular basis with ongoing communications, reminders, and latest updates. You disseminate and share how-to tutorials along with your vendor, deliver informative webinars from experts, and set performance expectations for using the programs.
Set strategic objectives with your leaders on what they want to achieve through your recognition programs. Ensure your programs are aligned with the organizational values and culture and that they support and drive the business strategy.
For strategically designed recognition programs you must determine what your overall focus of recognition will be for any given year. What improvements need to be made? Are there things that need a refresh? And, it’s also about incorporating as many human recognition practices as you can into your programs. After all, recognition programs are just a tool to help you practice giving recognition every day.
When you create strategically designed recognition programs you guarantee appreciating a majority of your employees for who they are and recognizing them for what they do.
Recognition Reflection: Do you use strategically designed recognition programs to achieve your recognition goals?
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.