You’ve got your recognition strategy and plan written up and ready. The budget is prepared and your finance people have reviewed it. Primary stakeholders were consulted on their specific needs. Any relevant concerns have been addressed. You have the support of most of your leaders.
You present everything to your file leader. Zapp!
No go! Not approved!!
He or she doesn’t see the value of spending money on employee recognition. They view recognition as an expense along with compensation and benefits. There’s no urgency in their mind to invest in recognition.
Those of you responsible for employee recognition will likely have to deal with such a leader at some point in time. They just don’t “get it” as far as recognition is concerned. Yet, you know that wise leaders always invest in growing and developing people.
What can you do to prepare yourself for such a leader? How do you anticipate any potential rejection points towards recognition initiatives?
Follow the points below. Think through yourself, or ask others, the following questions to help you deal with a reluctant leader.
1. Know your leader’s strengths and weaknesses.
Write up a profile or persona of your leader. Having this written down allows you to add or subtract character descriptions and perceptions of them. If you were in their shoes, why would you invest in employee recognition? Why not? Prepare yourself ahead of time to know the pros and cons they have in their mind.
- What things about the company keep them awake at night?
- Have they stated clearly to everyone the purpose of the company?
- Do you feel they consistently live by the corporate values?
- Are they good at expressing recognition to people?
- How do they show that they value the contributions staff make?
2. Work with primary stakeholders ahead of time.
Ask your primary stakeholders for their advice on presenting this recognition proposal to your leader. You’re not expected to know everything about a person. However, these leaders have likely dealt with them before and can speak from experience.
- Have you collaborated with the right stakeholders on the project?
- Have you addressed the pros and cons of the recognition initiative?
- What recommendations have other leaders given you?
- How feasible and cost-effective are their suggestions?
- Do you have their support for going ahead with the project?
3. Understand the business needs of the organization.
Recognition is rarely seen as a strategic leveraging tool. Become well versed in the latest strategic plan. Know what the objectives and key results are. Be prepared to articulate how the various recognition programs can be leveraged to achieve the strategic goals.
- Are you up to date with the company’s current business strategy?
- What outcomes do you anticipate the recognition initiatives achieving?
- Can you demonstrate how recognition impacts performance results and people metrics?
- Have you calculated an estimation analysis for the projected business impact of your recognition strategy?
- Could finance personnel help you monetize potential cost savings, improvement gains, and ROI from recognition?
4. Know everything about your proposed recognition program.
Go beyond your wishlist and know every aspect of your recognition program’s needs. Know the general requirements for the design and development of a program. Get input from communications, IT, administration, and customer service, for improvement suggestions and recommendations. Create a launch plan ahead of time.
- Do you have a project management flow chart of what is needed?
- Have you asked the various departmental leaders involved to prepare a one-page summary of what they need to do and what else they need from you and others?
- What is a typical area of concern that you know your leader is most likely going to ask for information about?
- Do you have alphabetized digital folders or a binder with all the information your leader needs available at your fingertips?
- Have you rehearsed answers and finding sources of information to potential questions your leader could ask?
5. Present the overall benefits of the recognition initiative.
Selling the concept of a recognition program to a cautious leader is showing them how recognition can help achieve their goals. Any statistics or data you plan to present should be verified as to their authenticity. Have as much data available to address the variety of questions your leader will have.
- What HR, consultancy, and social science data can you assemble to prove recognition’s impact on engagement, retention, and productivity?
- How do you plan to show them that recognition has improved specific results following implementation?
- Whose help do you need to provide the human resource information data you will need?
- Have you been able to align employee recognition to impact your leader’s major pain point?
- Is there anyone else whose assistance you are going to need to prove recognition’s effectiveness
6. Develop a project plan for implementation.
If you have a problem, make it a process and it won’t be a problem anymore. Create a project plan with a vision, mission, and solid objectives. Ensure there is organizational alignment with this recognition initiative. Determine how you are going to measure success.
- Do you have a project manager available to you or must you manage this initiative yourself?
- What are the timelines for the various program development stages?
- Have you set up a planning meeting with the key stakeholders?
- How can your recognition project be different from other initiatives?
- Who are the right players you need on your team to help launch this?
7. Create an accountability process for ROI and business impact.
Your leader needs you to mitigate all risk for this project. Develop activity lists for all aspects of the project. Estimate budgets with reasonable buffer zones. Make sure everything is scheduled and meetings are held to keep everyone on track.
- How will you alleviate your leader’s concerns?
- What is their preferred method for receiving project updates?
- How frequently would they like to receive information and reports?
- Are you ready to analyze recognition program data to provide business impact results?
- When will you be able to produce any degree of ROI?
This is not a complete list of the different steps you will need to prepare for dealing with a hesitant leader. Gaining their support may be a little harder than most leaders. However, if you get everything ready, as identified above, you will gain your leader’s respect and have a fighting chance of succeeding.
Recognition investment may only be a matter of time.
Recognition Reflection: What’s the biggest stumbling block your leader has for not investing in employee recognition?
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.