Build Your Recognition Programs From the Bottom Up

Designing and developing recognition programs take a lot of thought, planning, and creativity.

The best way I can recommend beginning is to consider the distinct programs falling under a pyramid. And like building most structures, the foundation is critical because it holds everything built on top of it.

That’s why you build your recognition programs from the bottom up. 

Everyday Recognition 

The foundation of all recognition programs in the design and development stage should be your Everyday Recognition programs. Everyday recognition programs have the potential of affecting 80% to 100% of your employees on a daily or weekly basis. It is mostly a person-to-person experience, although one person can acknowledge a team. 

You should already have established the expectation and presence of everyday recognition practices.  Recognition practices are the frequent personal, and habitual behaviors people do to express appreciation and recognition to others. Recognition practices also include the cultural and customary ways an organization has of showing people that you value them and their contributions. 

Recognition programs are a tool for employees and leaders to help practice recognition in ways they can’t always do in a one-on-one setting. This especially the case when people work remotely, or the nature of the work makes the viability of in-person recognition less likely to happen. 

Everyday Recognition is all about acknowledging the observed positive behaviors and the personal growth people make on the job. It’s about recognizing and valuing people and their contributions. 

You might have a goal to get more peer-to-peer recognition happening. Perhaps a social recognition program is something that would help with this. It would allow all employees with online access to acknowledge one another and have each other’s peers make comments and liking comments. The social newsfeed of these positive interactions builds morale and camaraderie and makes recognition more visible. 

Perhaps another vehicle for communicating care, appreciation, and concern for all staff is the use of customized e-cards. Design e-cards for congratulatory messages, expressing thanks for help rendered, showing sympathy at a time of loss, and multiple other reasons.  

The bottom-line of Everyday Recognition is appreciating people for who they are and recognizing them for what they do. 

Everyday Recognition programs will include:

  • Peer-to-peer programs.
  • Social recognition programs with a recognition newsfeed for comments and likes.
  • E-cards for various recognition moments.
  • Social badges for display on a person’s online profile. 

Informal Recognition 

A lot of organizations lump Everyday Recognition into the broad category of Informal Recognition. However, I think it is important to separate them out because the nature of the programs changes a little. 

You build Informal Recognition programs upon the foundation of Everyday Recognition programs because if you don’t have those programs working well, then no amount of Informal Recognition will make a meaningful difference.

This is because Informal Recognition programs impacts fewer employees and happens less frequently. They estimate that Informal Recognition programs probably affect about 30% to 50% of employees in any organization and on a monthly or quarterly basis.

The focus of Informal Recognition is more departmental or team-based in nature. It’s about acknowledging finished projects or the accomplishment of goals. Think about monthly or quarterly targets reached. 

You can design programs for employees and leaders to nominate an employee for exemplary customer service, helping peers, or for innovative ideas. Create specific e-cards for various departmental or strategic award programs. 

Rewards and incentives can also come into play here, making your programs become recognition and reward programs. As you have heard me say before, when you give a person recognition you don’t have to give them a reward, but whenever you give a person a reward, you must always accompany it with recognition. Informal Recognition programs allow you to do both actions well. 

Informal Recognition programs give you the opportunity to recognize behaviors and reward results.  

Informal Recognition Programs can comprise:

  • Nomination for monthly or quarterly awards for various achievements or meeting of targets and objectives.
  • Social celebrations of birthdays and other life events.
  • Recognition accompanied by rewards such as points, gift cards, or other incentives for pre-set goals.
  • Presenting of certificates, plaques or traveling award for specific achievements.
  • Safety award program done quarterly. 
  • May include Length of Service awards if done departmentally.

Formal Recognition 

Your Formal Recognition programs are the pinnacle or apex of your pyramid. 

As you visualize your recognition pyramid, you can see how each section becomes narrower and smaller. That’s the concern and opportunity for formal award programs. 

Formal Recognition programs are really about recognizing the best-of-the best in the organization—those that have gone above and beyond. In view of those criteria, Formal Recognition only affects between 1% and 10% of the employees, and most often only between 1% and 3%. And the frequency of these more stringent recognition programs is annually. 

You will often think of Formal Recognition programs as your Award programs and they are more organizationally driven. 

Formal Recognition programs can be made up of your career milestone or length of service awards. As mentioned, they can include some best-of-the best achievement award such as sales or other metric based determination.  

Award programs can also be nomination-based where individual submit nominations for individuals or teams vying for awards of various descriptions, that are adjudicated based on pre-determine criteria.  

Formal Recognition programs can be made up of:

  • Length of Service Awards.
  • Retirement program.
  • Top sales award.
  • President’s award or some pinnacle-named award for strategic purposes such as customer service, innovation, or leadership. 

Why Build From the Bottom Up? 

Why should you start with Everyday Recognition? When you don’t recognize most of your employees on a weekly basis, the Everyday Recognition, then Informal or Formal Recognition are viewed negatively by employees. 

Compare that with having most of your employees recognized through your Everyday Recognition and then they’ll perceive winners of your Formal Recognition awards as fair and well-deserved. 

Ironically, most organization spend the most amount of money, time, and resources on Formal Recognition. Yet, these programs impact so few employees. By investing and starting with Everyday Recognition you will affect the majority of your employees in the most cost-effective way possible.

Recognition Reflection: How healthy is the recognition pyramid in your organization?

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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