How To Craft a Clear Purpose for Recognition

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.

Are you ready?

Shaping Your Recognition Purpose

Creating a recognition purpose statement is an exercise enlisting the support of your executive champion for recognition, along with vice presidents and directors, or managers from as many representative departments as possible.

A Recognition Purpose is a grand statement answering “why” recognition should exist at your organization. Crafting this statement requires some serious brainstorming with your leaders and careful wordsmithing.

You work together with the leaders in the room to answer these types of questions:

  • What is our purpose for giving recognition?
  • Why are we giving recognition for our employees?
  • Why are we doing recognition for the company?

Once you dialogue around the answers to these questions, you work together at formulating a succinct phrase or short sentence that collectively answers these questions. Remember to keep this short and sweet.

I also advocate creating a short sentence that outlines the philosophy or beliefs that everyone feels the organization should have about employee recognition.

Questions to address for this part are one’s like:

  • What are our beliefs about employee recognition?
  • Why is recognition so important to us?
  • How will our recognition initiatives contribute to our business and to society?

Let me show you what this can look like. For one senior care organization their Recognition Purpose statement looked like this:

  • “We believe our team is the heart of XYZ Organization and so we encourage and celebrate the contributions of employees and volunteers.”

Then they looked at the beliefs and philosophy they wanted for recognition practices and programs and came up with:

  • “By doing this we will honour the [target customers] through building communities that value seniors.”

Creating these two sentences takes a half-day facilitated session, of blood-sweat, and tears. But once done it is uniquely an organization’s very own recognition purpose statement. After they do this, they combine the two sentences or phrases together in one paragraph to become their recognition purpose and philosophy statements.

Is Purpose at the Core of Your Recognition Strategy?

The authors of the HBR article asked five poignant questions. In fact, they went so far as to say that unless you answered, “yes”, to all five questions, your sense of purpose was not really core to your business strategy.

Here are the authors’ original questions:

1.   Does purpose contribute to increasing your company’s growth and profitability today?

2.   Does purpose significantly influence your strategic decisions and investment choices?

3.   Does purpose shape your core value proposition?

4.   Does purpose affect how you build and manage your organizational capabilities?

5.   Is purpose on the agenda of your leadership team every time you meet?

So taking liberty to adapt these questions and apply them to the cause of employee recognition, here’s how they might look.

1.   Does your recognition purpose contribute to increasing the company’s growth and improve people and performance today?

2.   Does your recognition purpose significantly influence your strategic recognition decisions and recognition program investments?

3.   Does your recognition purpose shape your values and organizational culture?

4.   Does your recognition purpose affect how you build up people and your organizational capabilities and talent management?

5.   Is your recognition purpose on the agenda of your recognition team meetings or for your stewardship meetings with your executive sponsor every time you meet?

This makes your overall recognition strategy with its recognition plan and focus points, implementation objectives, output measures, and short-term goal, much more of a purpose-driven strategy.

Imagine how your meetings will go and what you will achieve by asking how aligned the outcomes and decisions are with your recognition purpose. Think about the alignment of recognition practices and programs with the overall organizational strategic initiatives.

If you don’t yet have your organization’s “why” for recognition, make a personal commitment today to schedule a development session to create your recognition purpose to drive your recognition strategy.

Recognition Reflection: How core to your recognition strategy is your recognition purpose?

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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