Insights on the Making of a Great Recognition Strategy and Plan

Having facilitated many recognition strategies and plans for organizations around the world, I have gained a lot of insight into what makes them work well. 

I will share with you four things that must be in place to be successful in creating a written recognition strategy and plan. While many other factors may be needed for you, when these foundational steps are in place, everything works out wonderfully. And when they are not, it is like pulling teeth to get a recognition strategy done right.

Let’s begin.

#1. Leadership Support 

It’s essential to have an executive sponsor. This senior leader must be your executive champion. They will advocate for employee recognition at the executive leadership team table. 

And it’s likely because of their efforts in the C-suite that you can proceed with a recognition strategy and plan development. They will be the ones making it happen. They will also know the right timing to present the decision and get the funding to invest in recognition. 

The most successful recognition strategies will have some participation from their senior leader in the strategy development. Sometimes you might get their participation for the entire process. More often than not, they will introduce the exercise on the first day or session, and then return at the end to see the finished product. Certainly, they will review the ultimate strategy and plan and make editing recommendations before submitted to the executive leadership team.

You also needed leadership with a trained facilitator to guide the process in crafting a recognition purpose and philosophy statement, along with creating an action plan.

#2. Gap Analysis or Assessment 

You must conduct a recognition gap analysis to compare the current state of recognition practices and programs with where you ideally want to be. This may require conducting a recognition assessment to determine the strengths and weakness of your existing recognition practices and programs. Are your recognition practices and programs meeting desired objectives? What steps should you take to meet them? 

All participants involved need this information when brainstorming strategy and plans for improving employee recognition. From this assessment and their own experience, they can suggest where the organization needs to focus energies for improving recognition. 

#3. Personal Commitment 

Next comes the personal commitment of assigned or requested volunteer individuals to take part in the facilitation exercises.

For a small organization, I have seen the number of participants involved be as low as a dozen. When it is a larger organization, I have seen up to 32 people.

Participants need to be open-minded and willing to be creative as they brainstorm recommendations. They will have summarized the results of the recognition assessment. That way, they will know the strengths and weaknesses of recognition throughout their organization. 

When the facilitation process is in person, it is usually a one-day session for everyone to be present at. I have conducted strategy sessions over two back-to-back days by breaking it up into half-day sessions to accommodate work schedules and availability.

In addition, since the pandemic has happened, I have also conducted this virtually over four 2-hour sessions to get the process completed. One organization had everyone present for all four sessions, with just one or two people who had to bow out at different times. For another organization, we had the same people for half of the facilitation exercise and a unique set of people for the second half of the recognition strategy and plan.

It is good to get departmental and divisional representation of leaders and managers. They must be active and positive participants in this exercise. 

#4. Communications Support 

The strategic thinking of your executive senior leader will help finesse what you end up creating. They can tell you and your communications team if there are expectations from the executive leadership team that must be addressed.

Enlisting the help of your communications department will be just the ticket to make the final edits to the document you created. Your layperson creation may just need some tweaks to keep it in line with other strategic documents.

Drawing on a communications team is an enormous help when crafting a document that which will present the direction of where recognition will go in.

They will also assist with broadcasting the unveiling of the recognition strategy and plan to all levels of staff across the organization. They can also use content from the strategy and plan document in different employee communication channels. Communications will send updates out as you make progress and goal completions.


It’s important to realize what you need to make an effective recognition strategy and plan. These four areas are not all-inclusive, but they are certainly on the required list.

1. Go into creating a recognition strategy and plan, knowing there are lots of preparation required.

2. You will always need strong leadership behind a recognition strategy development no matter what processes and checklists you have made to follow.

3. Don’t create a recognition strategy and plan alone. You will need all the right help you can enlist.

Recognition Reflection: Are you fully prepared to create a 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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