Five Essential Insights On Recognition Strategies That Work

It’s one thing to write up a recognition strategy, and it’s something else to make it work. 

WorldatWork shows almost half of all their member organizations surveyed have a written recognition strategy. They even state that 94 percent of those organizations that have a strategy that is aligned with their business strategy. 

What no one follows through on is answering whether anyone actually implemented any of these written recognition strategies or not. 

1. They State Their Recognition Purpose

Successful recognition strategies lay out exactly what they plan to do with formal, informal, and everyday recognition. They also set out the reasons why recognition is important to their organization.

In their 2019 WorldatWork Trends in Recognition Survey, they discovered that most organizations have “some written programs and policies but they are not widely applied.” They also stated that, “Some managers use employee recognition to reward, engage and retain employees, but training and usage are inconsistent.” 

My recommendation is to work with your leadership team and manager representatives in answering questions to create your purpose statement. Ask questions like:

  • Why should people give recognition to one another?
  • What is our organizational purpose for recognizing one another?
  • What would our clients and customer say is our reason for recognizing employees?

After everyone has answered these questions, wordsmith people’s responses to form a purpose statement.

Remember that recognition should focus on people, principles, and practices, not just recognition programs. 

2. They Have Addressed the Differences Between Recognition and Rewards

One essential for recognition strategies that work is that the organizations have ironed out what they mean by recognition and rewards. They are separate and they are different, and they have their own purposes. When you have articulated these differences for everyone to know, you will be miles ahead on being successful.

Recognition is mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgement and valuing of an individual or team, for their positive behaviours, their personal effort or contributions they have made.

Rewards are tangible, monetary or experiential items given to a person or team, in return for reaching pre-set goals, reaching a significant achievement, or special service performed. 

I like to tell people that when you give recognition; you don’t have to give a reward. But whenever you give someone a reward, you must always accompany it with recognition. 

More succinctly: recognize behaviors; reward results. 

3. They Have a Clear End Objective To Aim For 

According to the last recognition survey from WorldatWork, the top 10 objectives of recognition programs addressed both the employee experience and business results. 

Look at these objectives in the rank order most selected. These were survey options to choose from rather than an open-ended response. 

1. Support a culture of change

2. Provide line of sight to company goals

3. Encourage safe practices

4. Improve employee relationships

5. Encourage loyalty

6. Support becoming/remaining an employer of choice

7. Enhance the employee experience

8. Improve organizational culture

9. Emphasize organizational values

10. Increase morale 

Do any of these deal with the theme of your organization’s recognition needs? Then use them to craft your specific goal. 

If not, then brainstorm a more open-ended expression of what your objective for the next year should be. 

Below are examples from some organizations I have worked with. They originate from examining a current gap analysis of what exists and what is missing with recognition practices and programs. I have adapted some of these statements to protect the organization’s identities. These are their one-year objectives that they want to achieve. 

  • To create a sustainable, renewable, measurable, and cultural commitment to recognition.
  • To define recognition and show how to give it the right way and to drive recognition by living our cultural values. 
  • To develop principles and procedures to make our recognition practices and programs more meaningful.
  • To effectively communicate our recognition strategy, processes, and practices throughout the company and develop a strong recognition culture. 

The key is collaborating with the best stakeholders and facilitating a goal statement. Do this after you have done an assessment to learn your strengths and weaknesses with recognition practices and programs. Then you will know where you need to focus your energies. 

4. They Have A Laid-Out Plan of Action

In positioning recognition strategically, you also have to imbed your recognition strategy with a well-articulated plan of action. Prioritize where you should focus your efforts to improve recognition—which means some trade-offs. Not only will you identify what you will work on, but you must also choose what not to do. 

A recognition action plan requires selecting the right areas of focus to strengthen recognition. Then your team of enthused recognition specialists must craft implementation objectives to be reached. Each objective must have specific output measures to know where you are at for any point in time. And all metrics support your end objective with your one-year goal. 

5. They’ve Got an Implementation Strategy To Make It Happen

Unfortunately, many organizations craft incredible recognition strategies that are often glitzed up by their graphic departments in colorful hues and well-designed models and diagrams. But few organizations take it to the next step. It’s implementing their recognition strategy and plan that makes a recognition strategy work. 

Think implementation and always work towards that to make your recognition strategy a success. 

Medium to large organizations should create teams for each area of focus. You will probably have specialists from departments to lead these teams. You might have team leads from communications, learning and development, organizational development, and other areas. Seek employee volunteers from those individuals who took part in the recognition strategy development.

Once you have assembled your teams, set expectations of 90-day action plans for each focus area. The teams create bite-sized goals for moving toward the implementation objective that was set for them. Take 30-day attempts at moving forward and reporting in on your progress. Do the same at the 60-day timeline marker. Once teams have reached the 90-day time frame, the team lead gives the recognition program owner a detailed written report.

Repeat this for another three calendar quarters with new goals set at the end of each quarter period. In this way, they guarantee you to be much closer to the implementation objective set. If time constraints and regular workloads get in the way for people, you are at least much closer to success than when everyone started.

Smaller organizations, or one-person recognition practitioners, may have to take on one focus area at a time. Prioritize your list of focus areas and work away as best you can with, or with no additional support. It could take longer than a year, but at least you have a rational plan to follow.

Recognition Reflection: What have you found essential to making your recognition strategy work?

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.