How to Create a Recognition Strategy – Part 3 of 4

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Once an organization completes its purpose and philosophy statements, it should develop a clear, simple and effective Recognition Plan that spells out what will improve and what will happen with recognition this year and over the long-term with specific objectives. By doing so, recognition goes beyond stated purpose and beliefs and becomes a powerful tool in achieving business objectives.

A plan to support the developed recognition philosophy and purpose statements is best created following a full recognition assessment in order to review all existing recognition policies and procedures, as well as current practices and programs. Of particular interest is evaluating existing recognition practices and programs against industry best practices, which will provide a snapshot of what is going on internally; how the various elements of the practices and programs stack up against each other and across business units; and where improvements are required.

To determine any strengths as well as gaps that need to be addressed, organizations should assemble various metrics using quantitative measures of recognition usage: such as program usage; peer versus manager generated recognition; employee participation rates; points/ rewards issuance and redemption, etc. In addition, qualitative measures complete the picture with measures of effectiveness such as: employee engagement and satisfaction; customer satisfaction; manager recognition effectiveness; employee perceptions of being recognized; and level of employee impact.

Finally, recognition measures should always be aligned with the business strategy and the core objectives to be obtained. Is recognition being used as an effective tool and lever in helping organizations achieve their desired results? It should be, and this needs to be determined so resources can be properly allocated to assist in this endeavor. Recognition should also be driven by, and reinforce, the organizational culture so it can be a catalyst for driving values-based behaviors.

To determine the best recognition measures, organizations should be very careful to measure what is important – such as desired behaviors for example – versus just recognition transaction outputs. Companies can become enamored with the high output and frequency of managers and peers using web-based recognition and reward programs without seeing significant change in frontline employee performance. A reward paradigm mindset can create an “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” attitude of rewarding one another for no real performance or behavioral reason.

One organization was giving rewards for submitting monthly reports of accident free status versus exemplary safe practices, only to learn that minor incidents were being covered up in order to play the system and still receive the rewards. They were rewarding positive monthly reports and not safe practices.

Identifying the target behaviors desired from frontline employees gives employees a line of sight to the broader organizational objectives. Then one must create the right measuring stick for those behaviors using both quantitative and qualitative metrics – leaders will know it when they see it.

When you know the desired behaviors that are aligned with the business and people strategy goals you will know what to reward and/or recognize.

With alignment of frontline behaviors with core business objectives the next task is to encourage management and peers in practicing effective social reinforcement skills to recognize day-to-day behaviors and achievements, and to reward those outcomes and results that go above and beyond and merit more tangible rewards or awards.

Companies must also ensure their recognition strategy and plan is aligned with the organizational culture. Organizational culture – the shared beliefs, philosophy, “the way we do things here” and common behaviors of an organization – all form the underlying foundation for any interpersonal relationship skills in the workplace. In this way, organizational values such as respect, courtesy, integrity, and the importance of relationships, are essential foundations for any recognition strategy and plan to be successful. Values and culture will help drive recognition practices and programs and recognition can help reinforce living the corporate culture of an organization.

Fine-Tuning an Effective Recognition Plan

With the philosophy and purpose identified and knowing the business goals and behaviors to be recognized, a plan to integrate recognition into management practices and in designing recognition programs is the next activity to address. What is helpful in creating a recognition plan that works and is easy to implement is articulating an overall short-term objective (or long-term objective, when setting up long-term plans) right from the get-go. This becomes the overall target that everything is aimed at.

These short- and long-term objectives will become evident from the gap analysis following a recognition assessment of strengths and weakness of recognition programs and practices. Resources – human and financial – as well as current business and people strategy needs will help determine and prioritize what an organization’s recognition objectives should be. For example, in one organization it became evident managers did not understand the difference between rewards and recognition or how to use either of them. Their short-term objective was to correct this and to help managers understand what recognition is and how to do it the right way.

Then, like a balanced scorecard approach, an effective recognition plan should feature only a handful of core areas that can be effectively focused on and measured. Based on the gap analysis from the recognition assessment, one can determine the specific focus points for the short-term plan of the current year and the focus points for the long term, such as the next two or three years.

From here one can develop some very clear implementation objectives so the senior leadership and management teams know the specific goals they are accountable for implementing. These can be put in actionable, behavioral terms so people know exactly what needs to be done to make a certain recognition improvement happen. For example, with the organization where managers did not differentiate or use rewards and recognition well the implementation objectives were to develop an in-class training session for managers and an on-line learning program for new supervisors and managers. In addition, they wanted some training effectiveness measures developed to show pre- and post-session learning status versus just attendance numbers.

Then it is a matter of creating some definitive outputs — metrics that clearly show the implementation objectives have been completed. In our example above, for the manager education and learning implementation objective, the corresponding measure was the completion of a leader’s guide for a recognition education session with accompanying PowerPoint® slides; an online webinar of the recognition strategy, plan and basic tips and tools; and the development of pre- and post-assessment survey of all learners to measure effectiveness of the education and the level of knowledge and confidence for giving recognition before and after the sessions.

In this way, the focus points generated from the priority needs ascertained from an assessment, lead to the implementation objectives and outputs for the plan of action and funnel right down to a single, overriding short-term objective.

Looks like you have a great Recognition Plan to achieve your recognition goals. The key, now, is how to make it all happen. And that’s where the final post in this series will help you.

Next week: Part 4 – Implementing the Recognition Plan for Successful Impact

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.

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