How To Grow Healthy Decentralized Recognition Programs

Recently I was asked, how do you create an effective rewards [and recognition] program in a decentralized organization?

I am going to share my thoughts on what it takes to grow healthy decentralized recognition programs.

Think of your recognition platform as a magnificent oak tree that will likely grow eighty feet tall and spread out over eighty feet as well. Your recognition platform should cover your entire organization.

Centralized recognition programs are like the central trunk of your oak tree and the branches can represent your more decentralized recognition programs.

Whether different business units or separate companies, any non-centralized recognition programs must grow out of the same trunk.

Tapping Your Recognition Roots

Successful decentralized recognition programs depend on good roots.

The roots of your tree are akin to having a firm recognition strategy foundation. A well articulated recognition strategy helps recognition grow deep and wide throughout the organization.

Your strategy is the beliefs about recognition, your plans and goals, where to focus and your overall short-term (and possibly long-term) objective, all aligned with your organizational strategy and culture.

Decentralized programs must draw upon core beliefs and strategies associated with centralized corporate direction. All programs must help leaders to achieve the strategic directions of their specific business unit. And they must always be driven by the values and purpose of the central corporate organization.

Pruning for Efficient Growth

Larger business units or companies will often have bigger programs, like tree boughs, than smaller department or divisions. You often have to let these grow because their size shows they were already aligned with corporate direction.

However, I have seen it when organizations finally reach out to do an inventory of existing recognition programs, they find there are tens of programs going on that no one even knew about beforehand.

Furthermore, these programs are often funded through different accounting lines and no one wants to give them up.

But the good news is you can help everyone out.

You may well have to prune out some of these rogue programs going on and provide them with a program based on a centralized one that does the job better.

Some programs are more like practices, or just the way things are done there, and you may have to let them run because they are so positively received and do make a difference.

While the leaves and appearance of these decentralized programs look different than the one at head office, they can still produce the same outcome and desired positive results.

Common Growth Enhancers

Try out these three growth enhancers to keep your decentralized recognition programs producing the recognition and performance results you want them to.

#1. Strategy and Purpose: All programs must be grounded in the common roots of a clearly written, organization-wide, recognition strategy.

The strategy must include your program focus areas and measurable objectives to generate specific business outcomes in the decentralized business areas.

#2. Known Budget: List a recognition budget line on the books to proove recognition is a priority and not something to be hidden and ashamed of. It also creates equity across all of the programs.

Know what the administrative financial spend is for recognition. Determine costs of resources and tangible recognition items. This allows for a common direction on average percentage of spend on recognition per base salary (or dollar amount per full time equivalent).

#3. Measurement: Measuring what’s going on helps you know the height and depth of recognition growth across all units. It helps you know if your programs are bearing fruit.

Tracking the give and take of recognition experiences is important to know in developing managers to give recognition better, educating employees on what they can do, and making program improvements.

You need to know who is giving and who is receiving recognition messages. How many non-monetary nominations, monetary or points based rewards, number of award nominations and final recipients. And what were the reasons for the recognition and rewards?

Metrics allow you to compare, create best practices, and share information across all decentralized program owners.

Don’t forget to collect employee perception of recognition effectiveness as the real measure of success.

Measurement gives you the opportunity to hold everyone accountable for recognition giving.


No, it is not easy overseeing decentralized recognition programs. Hopefully you will have program owners in each location who can support you.

And you can assist these program administrators get recognition right wherever their programs are located.

 Question: What advice would you give for managing decentralized recognition program?

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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