Whether approaching the end of a calendar year
or a time to consider a refresh of your recognition practices and programs, it
is important to ask yourself as the recognition owner in your organization,
“Where do we most need to improve recognition?”
Often this whole question of improvement
follows the review of your annual employee engagement survey. Right off
the bat I can tell you that if the average score of your recognition related
questions on your survey is less than 65 percent, then you are dealing with
issues with your daily recognition practices of everyday recognition.
Looking at everyday recognition, you know this
should happen on a daily or weekly basis and impact between 80 and 100 percent
of your employees. This is a great opportunity to work on.
Where else can you improve recognition at your
organization? What are some practical steps you can take?
It seems there
is a massive absence of recognition in the workplace.
In fact, you can
call this absence a recognition famine because there is an extreme scarcity of
people acknowledging, praising, and appreciating one another.
Organization has long stated that 67% of employees report not being recognized
for doing good work in the last seven days.
healthcare organization I was consulting for I broke the frequency of
recognition down in finer detail.
How often we
receive recognition can be as important as how and who gives the recognition. I
asked these healthcare employees how often they received recognition or
praise from their immediate supervisor or manager for the work they do. The
statement ended with “at least” and then the time frame statements of daily,
weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or not at all.
Only 11% of
these healthcare employees stated they received recognition on a weekly basis,
so well below the Gallup average of 33%. Another 33% indicated managers
had recognized them within a month. But there was nearly another
third of the employees who said managers never recognized them at all.
This is a crime.
Let me give you
some ideas for stemming the recognition famine that might happen where you
I love reading
the latest business books and business magazines that inspire me to think about
employee recognition in a fresh new way.
For example, in the September-October Harvard Business Review (HBR) there’s a great article on Put Your Purpose at the Core of Your Strategy by Thomas W. Malnight, professor at IMD, Ivy Buche, associate director, Business Transformation Initiative at IMD, and Charles Dhanaraj, a professor at Temple University.
Now, as you
would expect from HBR, these academics are addressing purpose as it relates to
business strategies. But I instantly saw the application of the principles in
this article towards creating a recognition strategy.
When you search
out Recognition Professionals International’s (RPI) seven best practices
standards you’ll learn that their first standard is Recognition Strategy.
RPI defines a
Recognition Strategy as a written strategy statement and plan with specific
program objectives, with recognition aligned to the organization’s culture
(i.e. vision, mission and values) and the business strategy and
objectives. They use a three-dimensional recognition approach of formal,
informal and day-to-day recognition practices. This Recognition Strategy
document typically outlines the procedures and processes used and the
program delivery methods for the various types of recognition adopted.
My definition of
a recognition strategy includes a few more features that help make your
recognition strategy a working, actionable tool.
you think strategically about recognition and rewards or with trying to
implement them, do you have a logical order in how you think about them or
I have a bias in that I am foremost a recognition strategist before
thinking about rewards. But I completely understand the place for rewards and
know the value they play in both recognition and reward strategies.
I think there is a psychological and practical reason for prioritizing
recognition before rewards.
I have seen
where after a poor performance on the recognition measures of a recent employee
engagement survey that the CEO tells all the leaders and managers to go out
there and give more recognition to people.
You can probably
guess why the senior leader asked them to do that. The reason was to
improve the recognition scores on the next engagement survey.
from on high doesn’t work.
recognition to the people you work with for the sake of the numbers is not why
you want to recognize others more.
It is not about
numbers and measuring the occurrence of recognition. It is about giving
recognition more purposefully.
Effective use of
recognition programs and exemplary recognition practices are always driven by your
company’s organizational culture. Your culture must stimulate the positive
actions you want to see happening to get more people recognizing others more
frequently. Look at these Top 10 Ways to Drive Recognition Through Your Culture
to spark greater engagement.
Leaders need to own developing company culture. They are the ones who can see the big picture and the corporate vision. Leaders must not only drive organizational culture but also align it with the company business strategy, people strategy, and even your recognition strategy.
How leaders act and what they focus on determines your culture. Leaders must visibly demonstrate daily actions of recognition expressions and celebrating achievements. What employees see their leaders positively doing they will strive to emulate. It is much easier to follow good examples.
Establish a strategic recognition team/committee. Draw upon a diverse and inclusive representation of leaders and employees to steer the integration of recognition into all facets of work life practices. Have them flag any discrepancies with positively living the company culture from top to bottom.
Frame the value of recognition giving and start a movement. Encourage a small number of leaders and employees to become ambassadors of recognition giving. Commit them to passionately appreciate people for the great things being done. Show them how to effectively use your programs.
Expand recognition through company networks. There will be leaders and different departments whose people are better at recognition giving than others. Provide them the chance to share through email broadcast, printed articles, and video interviews how, and why, they are such good recognizers.
Evaluate your stated organizational values and beliefs. People leave and change and so do the way things are done. Your company values may need to be evaluated and revised to fit better. Staff must then identify whether their personal beliefs still mesh with the company’s values and direction.
Create unifying symbols of recognition for everyone. Ensure symbols of recognition are reinforced through branding and meaningful program names. Consider using social badges on your recognition website. Have branded tangible gift items available to acknowledge your employees achievements.
Set simple goals to achieve quick wins. Invite people to set realistic goals for how often they will give better and more effective recognition. Use forum pages or online social collaboration tools to share progress. Or post successes and what you’ve learned through your social recognition program.
Influence your culture through learning. Do what you can to create continuous learning opportunities to develop your culture and recognition giving skills. Get your learning development experts to utilize every available informal and formal learning method to enhance culture and recognition.
Call out the cultural expectations for recognition giving. Use all available communication channels to invite everyone to be true to your culture. Ask staff to gently remind colleagues when they’re not doing or saying things consistent with what your company believes. Recognize those who live it!
Previously published by the author in Incentive Magazine
Over the years I
have helped several large organizations in facilitating a team of their leaders
in developing a written recognition strategy. The challenge I face after they
have completed a recognition strategy session is leaving the owners of the
strategy document with instructions on how to implement it and then see them
make it happen.
recognition strategies become glorified documents that a manger or leader can
now say they have a written recognition strategy whenever someone asks.
But if you don’t
implement a strategy and plan then nothing ever changes.
Years ago when I
was leading a church congregation I invited a member to meet with me to discuss
a matter involving their publicly disciplining some of our youth. Ironically,
this individual also wanted to meet with me to discuss a different
We met that
evening, and I allowed them to start with their subject first. Afterward I
dealt with the more sensitive subject I had on my agenda. I can only tell
you it didn’t go over very well. In fact, they didn’t talk to me
for several weeks after.
However, I can
tell you I learned a very important lesson from that experience. And that
is, never mix agendas.
If someone wants
to see you about something, let that be the sole purpose for the meeting. Don’t
add something you have on your mind to the meeting.
In a similar
vein, never mix agendas with your employee recognition strategy either. Stay
focused on creating a recognition strategy all by itself and add nothing else.