How To Improve Recognition With A Great Learning Curriculum

When thinking about designing great corporate learning curriculums, here’s what the late Peter Drucker once said, “Our most important education system is in the employee’s own organization.”

However, most organizations have not woken up to the fact they’re also an educational system besides whatever goods and services they produce.

Consider these factoids to give you a perspective:

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that employers with fewer than 100 employees provided only 0.8 hour––that’s only 12 minutes of manager training per six-month period. And,
  • Organizations with 100-500 employees provided only 0.9 hour (6 minutes) of training for the same time span.

Further, a survey by Progressive Business Publications found only 52% of companies trained their managers once a year or less.

Designing a learning curriculum that will teach people to give meaningful and effective recognition to everyone they work with, looks to be a daunting task. What can you do to change these poor numbers and make recognition a driving force in your organization?

1. Learning Strategy

The first thing to do is to see where employee recognition falls into your current learning or training curriculum. You may have to assist in developing a learning strategy that outlines your “why” or purpose for learning and development throughout your organization. It must have clear goals and objectives you want to achieve. These objectives must align with your overall business and people strategies. Your learning curriculum strategy must prove that the training and education you deliver produces desired results.

Obviously, the education and training around effective recognition practices, and good use of your recognition programs, is just one area of your strategy. Employee recognition will be the focus I will concentrate on in this post.

2. Learner Profile

You must know your audience and who your learners are in your organization. Are they blue collar or white color workers? What percentage of your employee base are office or administrative employees? How many are in manual labor positions or manufacturing? What about customer service related positions or sales?

Recognition given to welders on the shop floor looks a lot different from that someone gives to an accounts receivable associate.

Knowing the specific needs of your different employees will allow you to ensure content and delivery matches the specific needs of each employee role. Someone in manufacturing will not relate well to eLearning that only shows office related scenarios. You must also keep access to the right learning method in mind. Whether in-class, online, across work shifts, or limited release time to access learning, you will need to account for all these factors.

3. Learning Assessments

Look at the broader organizational needs first. What specific challenges are keeping your senior leaders awake at night? Are there performance or productivity issues? Do you have a turnover issue? What’s the engagement or morale level like right now? Look for ways in which you could leverage recognition and reward programs to assist in correcting and improving these specific organizational needs.

How are you going to evaluate the strengths and weakness of your supervisors and managers in giving meaningful and effective recognition? For example, I helped design Rideau’s Recognition Skills Assessment along with Dr. Charles Scherbaum. We use this tool to assess a manager’s recognition skills. We also use it to prescribe the microlearning content designed and developed to target teaching specific recognition behaviors the manager needs to improve in.

Use some kind of recognition skills, communication skills, and feedback assessment tool to help you gain baseline data and insights to compare against post-training scores. 

4. Learning Goals and Objectives

In your case, the overriding goal you have, is to teach people to give meaningful and effective recognition to others. Always set goals from a long-term viewpoint. You must know the baseline measure of the current reality of your goal.

For objectives, you might want managers and immediate supervisors to give recognition more consistently to deserving employees the right way on a more frequent basis. Objectives drill down to specific behaviors that will help achieve your goal. For example, one objective might be for managers to use the online recognition programs more effectively and more often. Another might be to write more meaningful recognition statements that are specific as to the action being recognized and the impact their action had on others.

You want the rest of your staff to be more comfortable in recognizing each other too. They are the ones who will more likely see the outstanding performance and positive actions their peers do before a supervisor or manager ever will. You should address specific recognition practices and behaviors based on your surveys and assessments. Target those areas so you can impact engagement survey results and the measures on your recognition specific pulse surveys.

5. Learning Methods 

What types of instructional delivery methods will work best for each of the learner profiles you identified within your organization? Which methods are most conducive to the subject of learning employee recognition skills?

Typically, you might think demonstration, group discussion, role-play, and cooperative learning might be the best methods. But time and resources might not permit learners coming together to do this.

Ensure online delivery of learning content provides accountability for implementing recognition behaviors and reporting back on successes or challenges encountered. Provide a time release of content so that learners do not “game” or take all the online courses and think they‘re finished. A passing grade is a pre-determined pass level on quizzes, setting personal goals to put the learned behavior into practice, and reporting back on the outcome of application.

6. Learning Logistics

You might have classrooms available for instructor-led training but not every staff member is geographically close to head office or the learning center. Nor will taking people out of production or special projects be the right thing to do. You will create a negative image of learning how to recognize people well if you don’t take their work reality into account.

Where will instruction happen? You will hold the course on what day of the week and time of day? Will learners have online accessibility to eLearning on computers––theirs or a designated device? Make sure technology provides the ability to listen to sound (speakers or headsets) and that the learning software is compatible with the browser and operating system. Test everything requiring technology ahead of time before learners go online.

7. Learning Effectiveness

We have learned through our eLearning delivered content that managers that learn how to give better recognition to employees achieve improved productivity and performance measures, have higher engagement levels, and create a greater loyalty in their employees.

Consider creating specific transfer of learning activities, such as things that should happen:

  • Before learning, like setting goals with your manager on what you expect to learn prior to taking the course;
  • During the training, like a personal commitment to overcome a personal challenge you face with recognition giving: and
  • After the training, such as reporting back to your manager on how you have applied the learning before you receive a certificate of completion

You will increase the accountability of both the learner and their supervisor/manager to ensure learning recognition skills is successful.

In addition, you can build in business impact analysis, where if your recognition training is strategically aligned with improving employee engagement, you can show the gains in pulse check and full engagement survey results. Correlate this data monetarily with areas like reduced turnover and measures associated with improved employee engagement like increased productivity and profitability.

My experience to date is that few organizations have a well thought out learning curriculum for teaching employee recognition skills. Become part of your learning and development team and advocate for more effecting education and training of employee recognition.

Recognition Reflection: Is learning how to give meaningful and effective employee recognition a part of your learning curriculum?

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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