How To Improve Your Recognition Programs

Ben Feldman was a successful insurance salesperson back in the 1940s. When asked how he achieved his repeated multimillion-dollar sales year after year, he said, “If you’ve got a problem, make it a procedure and it won’t be a problem anymore.”

It is the same with improving your recognition programs. You first have to put some procedures in place, then you won’t have any more problems with your recognition and reward programs. 

The key to consistently improving your recognition programs is to follow a quality improvement process, like the following. 

Six Steps To Quality Improvement of Your Programs 

Step #1: Identify a Project (or program problem)

To nominate a project, you’ll use typical brainstorming methods for people to submit ideas to you. Or perhaps methods like mind mapping or using flow diagrams will show the tangents and process flows that help identify where problems arise. 

Team members may bring up how to automate the award nomination process or refine the award criteria for improving fairness of award selections. You can put these kinds of problems in the hopper for consideration.

Then you have to evaluate the projects and see the degree of impact it could have and select your choice based on time, resources, and costs associated with such a project. The goal is to prioritize which project to work on first and put through a quality improvement process.

Thoughtful Question: What are the biggest challenges or problems you struggle with for any of your employee recognition programs?

Step #2: Establish the Project

You have identified a worthy project. Using the quality improvement process you formalize the process by developing a purpose or mission statement for the project you will be undertaking.

Select a team of the right employees whose skills, knowledge and talents best fit this particular project. Having a purpose statement allows the invited individual to align themselves with the quality improvement exercise. Can they support it and make a contribution, or not?

Get each person’s input on the project purpose and verify if their understanding meshes with the mission you originally presented to them. Change the purpose as needed and get consensus before proceeding.

Thoughtful Question: What factors impede quality improvement on employee recognition programs?

Step #3: Diagnose the Cause

The fun or quality improvement initiatives is playing detective or acting like a physician to analyze the program problem symptoms. Looking at the data and information gives you more objectivity for improving recognition programs. It also helps to overcome personal bias and opinions and deals with facts.

You might use a Cause Effect Diagram to generate ideas and theories that need validating. Then you test out those theories with data collection and analysis. 

Sometimes this can change the original mission to better align with what you have discovered. Otherwise, once the mission confirmed, it’s a matter of identifying the root causes of the problems being experienced.

Thoughtful Question: Why should you draw upon a formal process for improving recognition programs? 

Step #4: Remedy the Cause 

Creating solutions to your recognition program problems are exciting. It is about innovation and correcting simple processes and procedures.  

With all the ideas and solutions proposed, your quality improvement team must test all the options suggested. Coming up with solutions and improvements becomes easier with data, and the various Quality Improvement tools available give a structure for creating solutions. 

Use of flow diagrams or a planning matrix may help you see all the players involved, and the required steps needed to prevent a problem. You are designing the remedy to your problem, which requires controls and checklists to implement the solution effectively.

Naturally, you must trial the recommended remedy to prove its effectiveness before fully implementing it across the organization.

Thoughtful Question: What do you think is the best way to improve recognition programs where you work? 

Step #5: Hold the Gains 

As alluded to in remedying the cause, you need to design effective quality controls to keep the solution in check for addressing the identified recognition program problem. 

Your goal should be to remove yourself from the program by designing controls and processes to replicate improvements and success over the long term. This requires creating control charts and checklists that make the remedy foolproof in implementing.

Then it is just a matter of setting up periodic control audits by team members to ensure you are maintaining the improvements desired. 

Thoughtful Question: What do you think working “on” the program means versus “in” it? 

Step #6: Replicate the Results 

Finally, you need to replicate the new project results from now on.

Now, you need to ask yourselves, what do we work on next? There are always other recognition program problems that come up. Things like better utilization of your programs, for example.

If you use a Pareto Diagram which draws upon the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, you will identify the “vital few” items that are causing the greatest problem. You just worked on the highest-ranked item. All you have to do now is move on to number two. 

This is a simple way to nominate new projects and continue the quality improvement process with your recognition and reward programs.

Thoughtful Question: How will you keep improving your recognition programs where you work?

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