7 Deadly Warning Signs Your Recognition Program Is Failing

You’ve been questioning it for a while now. There have been signs something was not right.

You may ask: Is our company’s recognition program producing anticipated results? Is recognition aligned with our business goals? Has anyone seen success lately from our recognition initiatives? And now they want you to send proof of your recognition program’s ROI up to the C-suite offices!

To prevent your recognition and rewards programs from going down the proverbial drain, check out these 7 deadly warning signs and identify whether your programs are on their last legs or need immediate CPR.

  1. Duh! No one is using the program. When you own or manage a program you can’t help but see when program participation starts declining. For some reason less employees and managers are logging on, making nominations, sending out awards or points, and just plain stop using whatever features your recognition program is designed to do. This is a big red flag. You had better question this by going straight to the source – the users of the program. Find out what they think first, and why they’re not using the programs, and then dig deeper. Take action steps right away.
  2. Employees say “I don’t feel appreciated for my contributions.” Another failing indicator is the results from the annual employee engagement, climate or satisfaction, or whatever-they-call-it, survey. This is the grand voice of the people. It is the dripping proof all over the front of your employees’ T-shirts that shouts out whether your programs are working or not. Do your employees really feel recognized? Has it been authentic, meaningful and real recognition? Remember, don’t let a single survey’s results be made public a single month without taking corrective action for any decline in the recognition specific scores.
  3. Points received by employees stop being redeemed. This one is a freebie indicator that something is very wrong. You have a points-based recognition system so managers and peers can reward people for various performance targets or achievements. Employees bank the points and save them up for something pretty cool from the online catalog. But what if employees stop cashing in their points? Hmmm!! That’s not right. You’ve rewarded them and they’re not spending? Better ask your employees. Check out the redemption process for any problems. Examine the catalog for current trends on items listed versus those desired. Are award item’s perceived value a fair match with the redeemed point value? Find out and don’t give up until you have your answer.
  4. Negative buzz around the water cooler. If you really want to learn things first hand on a potential failing program go where your employees congregate – the water cooler, cafeteria, and vending machines – and LISTEN! You can hear the latest negative gossip on leaders, managers, practices and programs. If your glitzy, branded, new-fangled recognition program elicits snickers with a mere mention of its name, you’ve definitely got a problem. Get some focus groups going and capture employees’ perceptions. And don’t forget to ask them for ideas and suggestion on how they would improve the programs too.
  5. Exiting employees give lack of recognition as a frequent reason. Nearly 1 in 5 employees leave an organization because of insufficient recognition. Sad story. You can see the beginnings of this with increased absenteeism – an easy sign to read that it’s more rewarding to be at home than at work. Instead of waiting for someone to leave and conducting exit interviews, start conducting “stay interviews” and find out what motivates people to stick around. Now go and recognize managers and all employees involved who made that employee feel like staying with your company. Foster and reinforce these same morale-boosting activities everywhere across the company.
  6. Sudden push from marketing and communications to use the program. Wait a minute: Why are we suddenly being bombarded with messages on how to use the recognition program? Did you see the tent cards in the cafeteria proclaiming the merits of the program? Now the flat screen TV’s around the company display winners and reminders for sending nominations. You smell a problem because nothing has been communicated since the program was launched 2 years ago. Communication for supporting recognition programs should be well branded, carefully thought out and planned for distribution throughout the year, every month, and not just when there’s a problem or when first launched.
  7. Employees start hiding won awards for fear of ridicule or embarrassment. It’s true – I’ve heard it recently and many times before. A major corporate awards program has a symbolic trophy or award for the best-of-the-best employees. A well deserved, winning employee feels they need to bury the award in their drawer so other employees don’t comment about it. Yikes! We have a problem Houston!! Talk to employees, and especially past award recipients, to learn why the negative perceptions. Is it a lack of fairness? A sense of favoritism with winner selection? Competing with other programs? Whatever the reason find out quick and change things or remove the program – an award should be a positive aspiration and never an embarrassment!

These won’t be the only warning signs to look out for with a failing recognition and rewards program. But don’t let even ONE of these 7 deadly warning signs go by you before you stop and save your program from failing your employees with receiving the recognition they expect and deserve.

Question: How have you discerned when a recognition program is failing on you?

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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