How Well Are You Aligned With Your Leaders About Recognition?

If there is one major thing that will help propel recognition forward, it’s having your senior leaders aligned with your recognition strategy.

As a manager and leader of recognition in your organization, your role is to help get your executive sponsor to agree to your recognition strategy and plans, and then assist you with how best to execute it.

These are some thoughts and practical steps you can take to get your recognition champion aligned on recognition. 

Results from The Leadership Quarterly found that, when employees perceive their leaders across the organization as united and supporting a new strategy, they are more likely to help implement the strategy. 

That’s a big reason for synchronizing the thinking for your recognition plans.

And in order to get the alignment you want with your recognition strategy you are going to need to communicate effectively. A study by McKinsey found that consistent communication ranked highly as a priority for alignment in 37 organizations. However, only 40 percent of these teams reported practicing good communication. 

The authors stated, “When leadership teams have a shared, meaningful, and engaging vision, the company is nearly two times more likely to achieve above-median financial performance.” Likewise, when your leaders have a shared, meaningful, and engaging vision for employee recognition, you’ll more likely achieve your recognition objectives. 

You, and the leader you report to on employee recognition, need to agree on what your organization does about recognition and why you do it. 

I saw this when an organization recently developed a well thought out recognition purpose and philosophy statement. They submitted it for initial endorsement from their CHRO. The HR leader loved it, and they also added an essential positioning statement on the tail end. 

Their leader understood the intent and reasoning behind what the recognition team had created. They also added a critical piece that they felt would get the approval of the entire executive leadership team. Alignment in action. 

What If You Lack Leadership Alignment With Recognition? 

Reasons I have seen for a lack of leadership alignment with recognition is the lack of regular reviews of current recognition practices and programs by senior leaders. Set up a schedule, even at a minimum frequency or two or four times a year, to meet and discuss progress, plans and ways to improve recognition. You may have to start this and get yourself into their planner through their executive assistant. 

Not having a recognition strategy is another reason. When there is no recognition strategy and accompanying plan, you fall into the trap of no leadership accountability. If they don’t know what strategy exists to align recognition with the organization’s culture and business strategy, then recognition will have no urgency to them. 

Having a recognition strategy helps them to see the connection of recognition with all aspects of the organization and how to integrate recognition into the functional operations. And this is when they can see how to hold others accountable for daily recognition practices and the use of the recognition programs.

One of your roles is to help educate your leaders on the latest research on recognition practices and the use of recognition programs. Keep them informed so they better understand the importance and impact of recognition. Once they know how recognition is a driver of employee engagement and employee experience, they will better support your efforts.

Ways to Maintain A Leader’s Alignment with Recognition 

To keep a leader aligned with all recognition initiatives will require you knowing your leader better. You might create a persona or profile of your leader. What makes them tick? Understand what their objections to recognition might be.

Determine if they are a bottom-line or above-the-line thinker. Are they results oriented and money driven? Or are the more relational and people focused? Knowing their focus will help steer the direction you must take with them. What is your senior leader’s focus right now?

When making presentations to this leader, will you require more social science data and research findings? Do you need to capture actual stories from employees to show your leader a truth to influence their feelings and change their beliefs? You may need to show past evidence and future projections for what you see as the Benefit-Cost Ratio or what the ROI will be on your recognition programs.

You had better learn when is the right time to present to your executive sponsor. Timing is everything. Find out from their executive assistant what is on the leader’s plate right now. Judge with them whether you should present sooner, or later, to get their approval or decision on things.


Gaining the personal commitment of your executive leader responsible for employee recognition requires that you have a recognition strategy and plan clearly aligned with the organizational culture and business strategy.

Ways that you can achieve this alignment include:

1. Having a vision and purpose for the organization’s recognition practices and programs and how they will drive employee engagement.

2. Regularly meet with your senior leader to help them understand current recognition initiatives and the impact they make on people and performance.

3. Consistently give the leader updates on any recognition research you find out and any best practices, so that they are current and informed.

4. Educate and coach them on meaningful and effective recognition practices so they become well regarded as an exemplary giver of employee recognition.

Recognition Reflection: How well aligned are your senior leaders with your recognition strategy and plan?

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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