How To Get Your Leaders To Use Your Recognition Programs

When I conducted a management survey several years ago in the public sector, a response to one question asked revealed that 93 percent of all managers said senior leader involvement in recognition programs was very or extremely important. A large majority, 75 percent, said it was extremely important. 

The reality? 

These same managers said only 21 percent of leaders were very involved with their recognition programs. 

Our research shows that organizations with leaders committed to supporting award and recognition programs strategically, financially, and by example, have higher employee evaluations for feeling appreciated for their contributions on the job.

All that remains for you to do is to get your leaders using your online recognition programs. Try out some of the following suggestions.

Getting Senior Leader Participation

Helping senior leaders learn how to use and actively take part in the ongoing use of all of your online recognition programs may take some time. But the investment of your time in teaching them will pay off dividends for these leaders, and especially for all of your employees.

You get senior leaders using your recognition programs through raising the positive perception of their importance and creating an executive development plan for gaining recognition skills in practicing recognition giving and using your programs. 

Too often, recognition programs are trivialized, and this can reinforce the idea that they are not valuable or worth knowing how to use them. And then, we expect our executive leaders to know how to use the programs with no orientation and training.

Executive Development Plan for Recognition Programs 

Senior leaders must first know how to give meaningful and effective recognition to employees in person before you can ever expect them to use your recognition programs. After all, recognition programs are only a tool to help people practice recognition giving.

Consider developing an executive development curriculum that delivers core knowledge and people skills. Areas to consider including could be human motivation, emotional intelligence, employee recognition, effective feedback skills, total rewards, and effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills. 

Drill down and teach your leaders the specific recognition behaviors known to be essential for managers and leaders with giving meaningful and effective recognition to employees. 

Teaching is only as good as the application of learned skills. Have leaders pair up and put into practice one new learned behavior with recognition giving each week. Have leaders set their own goal what they will do and a frequency of just once per day. The reason for this is we want them to succeed at doing the new skill. 

Also expect them to record their observations from doing this. Each leader needs to write a simple log coverage of their daily transfer of these new skills into their daily responsibilities. They can record how successful they were in living their goal. Recommend, they write what they learned in putting this behavior into practice. 

  • What percentage out of 100% success level did they reach? 
  • What surprised them the most with doing this skill? 
  • How did they feel about the exercise? 
  • What was the reaction they observed from the recipient?

Make reviewing these notes part of their debrief as a pair of leaders, and in a large group, whether in person or in a virtual discussion. It is important to normalize that recognition giving may appear to be difficult, but that it is easier than it looks. Ensure they ask questions that remain for them. Fitting recognition into a regular executive day can be challenging. Yet, they have probably gained greater confidence in giving recognition.

Realistic Use of Recognition Programs By Leaders 

Aiding your leaders with understanding the purpose and strategy behind each recognition program will be essential to gain consistent participation. 

Familiarize them with the current objectives of each program and show them the impact programs are having on people and performance. Provide them with analytic reports showing correlation of recognition programs metrics with employee engagement and key performance indicators.  

Pull reports showing each senior leader’s recognition program experience to date. Compare their results with their direct reports and other managers to give them a picture of how well leaders are driving recognition program usage.

Suggest they use the metrics of their direct report’s usage of recognition programs in their regular performance review discussions. Ask them how they are using the recognition programs and what they think they can do better to increase the frequency of giving recognition.

Foremost is orienting them to any tutorials on learning how to use the different programs or giving them a hands-on demonstration. Suggest, they work with their executive assistants in identifying outstanding achievements and actions of employees. Then they can go online and send out specific and meaning expressions of recognition to those employees.

In each leadership and management meeting they attend, they can ask for examples of exemplary employees and record their names and positive actions. Following the meeting, the leader can commend the individual using the online recognition programs. They can do this by sending an ecard message, a comment on the social recognition newsfeed, or nominating them for a monthly or a quarterly award.

Ongoing Coaching and Assistance

You could have each leader set personal goals on improving their recognition program usage depending on the preference of each leader. This is where you as a recognition program manager may need to coach leaders on what they want to improve upon. 

For example, potential goals for helping your leader might look like the following.

Daily goal might be to, 

  • Write three thank-you notes to employees at the end of each day based on reports gleaned by an executive assistant from direct reports. Provide the leader with personalized or branded thank-you notes along with tips on how to write meaningful notes.
  • Send an ecard of thanks to employees whose actions have helped the leader or the organization. Show the leader how to access the ecard module and the variety of cards to select from.

Weekly goals, following direct report meetings,

  • Go on the social recognition platform and from notes from direct reports of positive employee actions add comments on the social recognition newsfeed. Suggest the leader also read previous comments made and simply adding to them.
  • Strive to use greater specificity in communicating recognition messages so recipients know we value them and making a difference to others. Recommend the leader read a specific article or post or take a particular eLearning module on the subject. 

Monthly goals, in keeping with award nominations,

  • Review employees who have stood out in in daily and weekly recognition reports to see who merits receiving a nomination for an award where criteria might see an employee receiving a reward. Provide a tutorial to the leadership team on how to submit nominations online.
  • Where circumstances allow, the leader may stop by a department or team meeting to personally present an award for reaching a performance milestone. Coach assistants to monitor the leader’s calendar for opportunities to give recognition from the leader on their literal or virtual travels. 

Quarterly goals, with recognition manager,

  • Receive and review a summary of recognition program usage reports and see the analytics to see the impact on people and performance. Plan quarterly reviews in the leader’s calendar to keep recognition programs top of mind.
  • Leader commends the committee members who are adjudicating the quarterly award nominations and tell them how important their role is in judging and giving feedback to nominators and nominees. We often neglect committee review members in receiving recognition for the role they play. Give leaders the names and contact information for all judging committees. 

Annual goals, that could come up,

  • To meet ahead of time with recognition managers to discuss the annual awards event that will honor excellence in the organization and to better understand expectations of them and the role needed from them. Explain the importance of a leader’s role at these award events and to keep the focus on honoring and celebrating each award recipient.
  • Prepare through prior research for the leader to give a personal comment for each award recipient. Leader can even send a note card after the event to add to the award ceremony experience. Have executive assistants prime the leader with note cards on the leader’s desk and summary notes on each person who received an award. 

Recognition Reflection: How do you help your organizational leaders use your online recognition programs frequently and consistently?

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