How to Make Your Recognition Programs Last

Push button. Launch. Blast off!!

Your recognition program has just gone live. But for how long will it last?

How do you make recognition programs last? Making recognition and reward programs last over the long term requires an open-mindedness to the ongoing transformation of your programs.

It’s about looking for ongoing change and constant quality improvement. Maybe breaking things even when they’re not even broken.

But foremost, it’s about creating the future and meeting the ongoing demands of managers and employees and evolving the recognition experience.

Steps to Evolving Your Recognition Program

There are three typical stages in the life of recognition programs, and a possible two others that you hope to avoid, i.e.

  1. Program is ready to go Live
  2. Program is being work on and prepared to Strive.
  3. Goal of moving your program along to Thrive.

And there are two stages you really want to miss.

  • Watch out in case your program stops working and you Dive.
  • You then might have to work on them to Revive

You can achieve recognition program success through regular organizational reviews, typically conducted quarterly with monthly checking of progress reports. You ensure that employees have ample opportunities to submit feedback on all recognition program successes and failures. 

Conduct periodic focus groups of employees to gain their perceptions of programs, their user experience, and suggestions for improvement. Conduct full surveys and periodic pulse checks to identify any changes and modifications needed, or even a total restructuring.

Learn how to adjust your recognition programs to align with new business strategies and organizational culture shifts. So you need to enlist executive sponsors to bring recognition to the senior leadership level. Show them how your recognition programs can help drive organizational business strategies. 

Gain a continuous improvement mindset so recognition is a positive experience for employees and managers alike and a powerful tool for achieving corporate results and great ROI.

Make Positive Changes to Your Recognition Programs

There are six essential steps to a recognition program improvement process.

1.     Identify a project or program problem.

2.     Establish the improvement project.

3.     Diagnose the cause of the program problem.

4.     Remedy the cause of the program problem.

5.     Hold the gains from the initial solution made.

6.     Replicate the results over time.

Step #1: Identify a Project or Program Problem

Initially, this all about getting employees and managers nominating areas in your current recognition programs for improvement. You must evaluate each of the suggestions or projects submitted to see how much of a problem they are. Or, perhaps, how much of a benefit and positive user experience the suggestion could be.

In selecting the issue or project, you always have to ask if this is a quality improvement initiative.

A list of potential program problems could comprise:

•       Automating a nomination process

•       Adding elements not in original program design

•       Increase program participation levels

•       Ensure support staff are better recognized in the system

•       Increasing offsite location participation

•       Feedback that Quarterly Award program is stale

•       Better communications and recognition resource tools

•       Refining the award criteria for improved fairness

•       Updating the selection in the rewards catalog

•       Provide a peer-to-peer recognition program

Step #2: Establish the Improvement Project

Now things get exciting because you will address a concern or problem and find a solution.

It is good to articulate what the problem or need is. You can prepare a purpose or mission statement to be the north star for the team of employees who will work on this improvement project.

Then it is selecting the right, motivated team members willing to work on this improvement initiative. They will work hard to identify causes and come up with suggestions for making things better.

Validate with your team if the purpose and mission of your project is the right one. Collaborate as needed and refine your purpose and goal. 

Challenges of Getting an Improvement Project Going

This is all wonderful if you have support of quality improvement initiatives. However, sometimes certain hurdles get in the way, like:

•       Senior leader commitment to go beyond managing recognition programs to improving them.

•       Time and people resources to allocate towards an improvement project.

•       Lack of knowledge of quality improvement, innovation, and ideation methods.

•       Having the leadership and facilitation skills to make happen

•       Lack of project management knowledge and skills.

Step #3: Diagnose the Cause of the Program Problem

It is time to identify the reason for the recognition program problem. You are like a doctor trying to analyze the symptoms of the program problem.

As you discover more information about the recognition program problem, you may confirm, modify, or change your project goal or mission.

Naturally, everyone will have an opinion as to the origin of the problem. It’s time to at least formulate some theories or potential reasons for the problem.

After that, it is time to collect information and data to test out each of the theories posited.

Then you conduct a root cause analysis to determine what you can improve or changed to eradicate the problem or disrupt things with a new idea.

Benefits of Doing a Formal Process

You might wonder why you need to go through such a formal process to improving recognition programs.

First off, it gives more objectivity to improving recognition programs rather than guessing solutions and wasting money trying to make it happen. It helps overcome issues of personal bias and individual opinions.

Good improvement processes rely on objective data and evidence. You can draw upon quantitative and objective facts and data and subjective and qualitative metrics.

This objective approach gives you a method to provide concrete actions based on clear findings. This also provides you with stronger information and outcome to present to management and leadership teams.

Step #4: Remedy the Cause of the Recognition Program Problem.

You’re almost ready to present some solutions or innovative ideas to make your recognition program more successful and make it last.

Ideas are a dime a dozen so you must evaluate the alternatives across various criteria, such as costs, time to implement, consumption of resources, and projected impact. This influences designing the complete remedy with plans and objectives to know you’re on track.

Create process controls and checklists so other people unfamiliar with all you’ve gone through can implement the suggestions without difficulty. Consider the readiness of the organization to put these changes into practice such as organizational culture constraints. 

Prove the effectiveness of the innovation or idea for improving the recognition program. This requires an implementation plan to put everything into place.

It’s Preventing, Improving, or Innovating

What I can tell you is that coming up with solutions and improvements to your recognition program issues becomes a lot easier with data. Using various quality improvement tools gives you the right structure for creating solutions.

To keep thinks objective, it’s critical to put controls, procedures, and checklists in place, to ensure consistent program usage. There will always be some things you cannot control for. But by taking all these steps, you now have a process designed to rectify recurring recognition program problems.

Step #5: Hold the Gains Made from the Initial Solution 

It looks like the idea selected by the team is working. Now you must design effective quality controls to keep things working well over the long term.

To create a foolproof remedy, you need to create controls that can be audited. Set up checklists that anyone can follow to guarantee program success.

Work On the Program Not In It

You should not have to manage the program by constantly working in it. Instead, work on the program and you can solve problems before they happen.

Work on removing yourself from the program management. Instead, be about designing controls and processes to replicate improvements and successes you’ve identified. Build in annual audit procedures for each of your recognition programs so you identify needs and issues right away. Try to control for all human interactions that occur with your recognition programs, so you have an overall positive user experience.

Step #6: Replicate the Results Over Time.

Now the question remains whether these improvements, changes, or innovations will last.

Your key to maintaining successful program change is continually replicating the changes and improvements you have made. You can now move on to considering new projects and requests.

There are always challenges to ongoing improvement. But you can always use the previous data you have collected revealing needed improvements which were not prioritized as high.  Again, use the quality improvement tools to guide what the next priority should be to work on.

Your previous collection of information and data should make selecting the next recognition program project an easy decision to make.

Remember, to make your recognition programs last, improve your recognition programs regularly.

Recognition Reflection: How much time do you spend using quality improvement methods on your recognition programs?

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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