A Recognition Strategy Is Not A Complete Solution

Creating a recognition strategy does not need to be a hard thing to do when you have the proper structure and guidance to follow.

My experience to date has been that companies are quite willing to invest time, money and resources to get the best people in the room and draft a written recognition strategy document.

And within a developed recognition strategy there should be a one-year plan of action to make the whole strategy come to fruition.

A typical recognition plan has various goals and objectives to be worked on and achieved by the end of a specified one-year period.

But I am finding there is something that happens between the crafting of a formal recognition strategy in a facilitated session and then trying to make the recognition plan component actually happen.

And that’s why it is important to remember that just because you have a written recognition strategy, it does not mean you have solved all your employee recognition needs.

Too many written recognition strategies stop right there on paper and do not become a living process tool.

What is it that stops a strategy from becoming a living document that is executed?

Factors That Stop A Recognition Strategy

I’ve talked before on the importance of moving from draft recognition strategy to implementation or execution.

Certainly the strategy document might need some incubation time for sure. The written recognition strategy needs to be vetted by senior leader to make sure it is aligned with existing business strategies and will be driven by the organizations’ culture.

There are certainly several things that can get in the way.

1. Competing Interests

This is the most common issue.

Those who are passionate about recognition often have functional job responsibilities such as managing the day-to-day tasks of their recognition programs or other HR related tasks. Getting strategic and tactical about integrating recognition into every facet of the organization and making improvements is not always familiar territory.

This means implementing the chosen focus areas and introducing new ways of doing things will likely have to be be on top of their existing role responsibilities.

Recognition is often dumped upon HR or whichever department, like compensation and benefits. Leadership needs to remember that recognition is a shared accountability

However, people like to pigeonhole recognition to some singular department or individual. This is when the poor folks tasked with making the recognition strategy happen end up with a “not my job” mindset and want it to be on somebody else’s desk.

2. Not Knowing Where To Begin

Often the leaders in the room who created the recognition strategy think recognition program owners are the only ones to implement it.

Let’s face it, having a written recognition strategy is a relatively new deliverable for most organizations. Consider the WorldatWork 2015 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey found only 53 percent of their member companies surveyed had written recognition strategies in place.

Its one thing to create a recognition strategy and it’s another thing to implement it. Few people have guided others on this journey before. It is technically an unknown task across the recognition industry.

Organizational leaders and recognition program owners are left to their own devices in knowing where to start and how to execute the recognition plan effectively.

That’s why I continue to provide you with steps to make recognition plans happen.

3. Unexpected Fear

If you are responsible for your recognition strategy you need to dispel the fear you might have of no one ever doing this before in your organization.

Doing small incremental steps to achieving your objectives under the areas of chosen focus will help breed confidence for you.

You will simply learn by doing and if you make mistakes you will still be learning. The key is striving to make a difference and making things happen.

Start small and you’ll end big. Start big and you’ll end small. Face your fear and do something to move your recognition strategy forward.

4. Lack of Momentum

I won’t pretend I did well at physics at high school but if there is one law or principle I still remember that would be the law of motion.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.

The most important factor involved in sustaining and moving things forward is your personal commitment to start and make things happen.

After that you need strong leadership support. Someone needs to be at the helm who owns responsibility and who expects results from whoever is implementing.

Set realistic expectations and create 90-day action plans that move your recognition plan on a monthly basis and are reported on quarterly.

Start doing anything you can in structured and orderly way. Momentum of actions builds further momentum.

5. No Accountability

Someone needs to be responsible for implementing the recognition strategy and plan and not having such accountability often stops strategies from being executed.

Determine during the Recognition Strategy development session who will be responsible for the overall recognition strategy, and where possible, assign owners to the respective focus area teams too.

An executive sponsor assigned is critical for the overall strategy team to report to.

I love a quote from Thomas S. Monson who said, “When performance is measured performance improves. When performance is measured and reported the rate of improvement accelerates.” That is why you need a leader to report to.

By having a leader to report back to on outcomes reached you will see more progress occur.

6. Poor Leadership

Implementing a recognition strategy is no different than making the business strategy happen. It is everyone’s responsibility.

As mentioned under lack of accountability, strategies are rarely assigned ownership responsibility when they are created. Make sure that happens in the development meeting whenever possible.

Having your executive sponsor and any business leaders in attendance at your strategy development session is a wonderful bonus. At least invite them and plan well ahead of time to see if you can work your session into as many leaders’ schedules as possible.

At a minimum have an annual review with your executive leader of the recognition strategy and plan. If you can meet quarterly that is a ideal. Make sure you send them quarterly (or monthly) written reports.

Getting the key leader’s personal commitment is key for making recognition successful. They help transform your strategy into action by providing time, money and resources to execute your recognition strategy and plan.

Other employees who were summoned to be part of the strategy session may be passionate enough about recognition to either lead or be a member of a small team to start working on the focus area goals.

The ideal is to have several teams working on their respective focus area. The least, worst set up is to make the focus areas a priority order list where a leader of or small team takes one focus area at a time to work on.


Talking is not the same as doing. Creating a written document is not the same as doing. Only doing will implement a recognition strategy.

  1. Competing interests will always be problematic in companies so strive to lighten the load and delegate focus areas to people with strengths and skills to make a difference there.
  2. Knowing where to begin does not have to be scientifically or heuristically determined. Better to start somewhere than letting things sit.
  3. Get rid of your fears of executing your plan by simply doing. The only thing to fear is fear itself.
  4. Momentum just starts with a push and starting the ball rolling. When you have a problem make the solution a procedure and it won’t be a problem anymore.
  5. Accountability needs to be built in and you can’t help but succeed with making things happen.
  6. Leaders make things happen so get the ear, presence and support of as many leaders as possible.

Question: What’s the best way you have seen for making your recognition strategy a living process tool?

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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