Remember That Programs Are Just A Tool To Help People Practice Recognition

I always remind clients, and those who manage recognition programs, that these online recognition programs can only do so much. Personally, they are responsible for getting these great tools into the hands of leaders and employees and to encourage people to use them.

Recognition programs are only a tool to help people practice recognition giving. They should never replace the one-on-one, face-to-face expressions of acknowledgement. 

Check out some of the recognition programs in your organization. How do they help everyone practice amazing recognition?

Service Awards—From Programs to Practices

Look at the purpose of service awards.

Length of service awards (or milestone recognition) exist to honor and celebrate our people and their contributions to the company over a specific length of time of their employment.

No matter what is given, said, or done to acknowledge a person’s milestone, it is an act of remembering a person’s beginning with the company, which is an important marker in their lives.

They acknowledge when a person feels valued by their company leaders and for their contributions. This creates pride and positive feelings for the people they work with and towards the company.

With the busyness of everyday work, the act of stopping to celebrate a person’s life, contributions, and anniversary, speak volumes to a person. It is the opportunity for a company to leave another emotional imprint upon a person independent of the decision to hire the employee.

Sometimes service awards can go wrong.

For example, you can mess things up with what you give to recognize an employee. Or they can conduct the formal presentation and acknowledgment in a sloppy manner. Doing so loses the employee’s respect, devalues their contributions, and damages their loyalty towards the company.

When leaders do length of service awards incorrectly, the widespread negative communication about it, internally and externally, goes viral.

The programs may do a great automated job of notifying the candidate that their anniversary is coming up and reminders to order their gift. Programs typically notify the person’s immediate manager to get ready to acknowledge the employee.

The biggest problem that employees tell me about is their manager not saying anything on their anniversary date. That is a practice we should hold all managers responsible for doing and not leaving it just in HR’s hands.

Social Recognition—From Programs to Practices

Let’s look at social recognition programs.

Social recognition programs exist as a viable way for peers to give quick recognition and positive feedback to each other in the workplace. Social recognition is easy to use and mirrors the popular and prolific use of social media in today’s culture.

The benefits of social recognition is it provides a tool for people to give personal feedback and praise to their peers without depending on their manager.

It is an informal practice that multiplies and spreads the positive recognition when peers like and add comments to the original message. The overall positive emotions gained from using social recognition have impact on other emotional sentiment metrics like employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

However, sometimes people don’t use social recognition programs properly.

I have seen where people use social recognition programs as a messaging tool for company events instead of connecting people and acknowledging contributions

Social recognition programs can be another negative when people use it only for trite and generic comments. Also, when very few people use the social recognition program, it gives a negative perception of the company.

The practice side is making this a regular habit to go online and start planned expressions of recognition. Add comments to employees recognition whom you know, even if they are not your direct reports. Participation and being a positive example will amplify recognition across the organization.

Performance Recognition—From Programs to Practices

And then there are performance recognition programs.

Performance recognition programs exist to draw upon recognition along with rewards to elevate productivity and reinforce positive results in the workplace.

Performance recognition programs are a great tool for aligning recognition and rewards with the company’s business goals and strategies.

The benefits of performance recognition programs can be things like:

  • Improved sales and performance results.
  • Increased employee engagement.
  • Reduced turnover.
  • Better customer satisfaction scores.
  • Greater likelihood to recommend company to others.

But things can still go wrong with performance recognition programs, too.

If there is too much focus on rewards in an organization over that of recognition, then you can create an entitlement mentality with employees. With too much emphasis on rewards, you lose the intrinsic motivation within people, and then they will only do things if we reward them.

You might find people gaming results and trying to manipulate the program to get the rewards they want. So, without extremely clear criteria for why you should give rewards, unethical practices can occur where people give rewards inequitably for the benefit of a few people.

When you have access to using the performance recognition and rewards programs, it is important to use the program with equity across your employees. It means being on top of goal setting with employees and conducting regular follow up on their progress and when you give out rewards.


Having a clear understanding of the purpose of each of your recognition and reward programs underlines how people practice recognition using online programs. And having a foundation of practicing recognition giving the right way should encourage individuals to use the programs as an alternative source for recognizing great work done well.

Recognition Reflection: Are you focusing on people practicing recognition giving every day as a precursor to using 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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