One trend I am seeing with different clients over the last two years is the development of written recognition strategies.
Organizations are leveraging a tighter mandate on recognition, especially when coupled with rewards in their programs.
I’ve seen programs where lower-level reward amounts, whether point-based or gift cards, are opened up in global recognition and reward programs for employees to reward their peers. This can create problems when the cost of living is low in some countries and employees use the rewards more as a make up for lack of salary increases, rather than rewarding above and beyond actions. And some staff get into a tit-for-tat of “I’ll reward you if you’ll reward me” behaviors when controls or approvals are not present.
So, why should recognition be more strategic in your organization?
Keep the recognition happening for work from home staff.
Managers are dealing with more work from home employees than ever before. And the current COVID-19 pandemic is looking to keep employees working at home for the next foreseeable future. You must recognize and reward your employees better and you must also enhance the total employee experience, even at the home office. Follow these suggestions to make the work-life experience a better one for your staff.
What are they proud of? Chris Littlefield, founder of Beyond Thank You! suggests asking employees what they’re most proud of in the last six months. Listen carefully to what they say, and you will quickly learn what matters most to each employee.
Conduct a litmus test of home offices. Make one of your 1:1 meetings with each staff about working from home. What are they dealing with in working from home? How is the situation with family, children, and school? How can you help them?
Remove barriers. There are constraints in working from home like time issues, technology challenges, or a lack of communication. Take note of each concern and work on operationally and report back on progress with addressing them.
Use your recognition programs frequently. Go onto your online recognition programs daily and send positive messages. Celebrate people’s birthdays and work anniversaries. Acknowledge people for their help and the positive actions you see.
Create employee connection plans. Facilitate discussion in staff meetings on creating better connections. What internal processes must be improved? What is the preference for each employee? Some will be grateful for less connections. Find out.
Email only during office hours. Boundaries relieve employees from feeling compelled to respond to senders’ emails after hours. It allows staff to separate their work and their personal lives better especially since COVID-19 has affected things.
Flexible schedules and boundaries. Sticking to 9-to-5 schedules may no longer be realistic due to childcare/elder-care responsibilities. Be open minded to budgeting of work time while accommodating others’ time zones and time constraints.
Encouraging peak productivity. If staff are not used to working from home their productivity may wane. Invite staff to identify their peak performance hours and prioritize important tasks during these times and make time slots interruption free.
Virtually socialize. Create the chance for staff to connect and socialize informally while remote. This can be done through scheduled happy hours or at lunch and learns. This is especially helpful when staff cross multiple locations and time zones.
Offer online learning. Career development shouldn’t stop because people work from home. Draw upon industry and professional certification programs. Have Learning & Development advertise existing resources. Offer to cover learning costs.
One of the many challenges in managing a recognition and rewards program is figuring out how to steer the course of your programs to maximum impact.
And one repeated concern I see is when program owners inherit a program, they call recognition, but it’s been almost a total rewards program. Getting rid of the rewards mindset that triggers entitlement, expectations, and “more please”, is hard to unlearn.
Providers, compensation and benefits associations, and non-profit business research organizations give good estimates on how much money to spend. They draw upon a percentage of your payroll budget or the average dollar spent per full-time equivalent (FTE) of employees.
But what’s missing is how much to spend on the different programs. Is there a perfect balance between recognition specific programs and reward type program? How do you advocate budgets based on how people use the different types of programs?
When I assist company leaders in creating a recognition strategy, I take them through defining and crafting a purpose statement and philosophy statement as part of their strategy design.
Essentially, I am asking them to answer the question, why are you doing recognition?
WorldatWork asked the same question and received the following responses. These are the top seven of the 17 choices people had to select from.
1. Create/maintain a culture of recognition
2. Create/maintain a positive work environment
3. Reinforce desired behaviors
4. Increase employee engagement
5. Support organizational mission/values
6. Motivate high performance
7. Increase retention or decrease employee turnover
You can ask the same “why” question about giving rewards, too. Why are you giving rewards if you are combining them in a recognition and rewards program? Not enough people stop to define their reasons or purpose for giving rewards besides recognition.
There are a lot of things the current pandemic has affected with how we use our recognition and reward programs.
Many organizations affected by the pandemic economically have reduced revenue because of shutting down production, a lack of sales, and the impact on clients affording goods and services.
The bottom-line outcome is companies cannot always afford to pay for rewards as they normally would.
People have asked for guidance on how to communicate to their teams the need to prioritize no or low-cost recognition options versus use of rewards in view of the financial reality. They also don’t want to give a negative viewpoint.
It is an interesting question to ask. Who is the leader in your organization who leads recognition practices and programs?
More often than not, people will point you to Human Resources. Or it could be an offshoot from there such as compensation and benefits. Occasionally, you will find out communications is at the helm, often paired with marketing. And if it involves sales in your industry, you’ll have the sales folks to deal with.
Managers of organizational recognition practices and recognition
programs are often torn between focusing on growth of people or on
You’ll find some organizations create elaborate people strategies
to prepare for the growth and development of their employees. Talent management
strategies prepare now for the future. And recognition is always a part of the
equation, especially when measuring employee engagement.
Then there are others who are strictly business. Their goal is to
align recognition and rewards with helping to drive and achieve the strategic
initiatives of their business goals.
So, the question is whether, as the owner of recognition in
your organization, should you focus on people of the business?
When was the last time you reviewed your recognition and reward program data to see if there is any tendency toward hidden biases?
A hidden—or implicit—bias is defined as a preference for, or
against, a person, thing, or group, which is held at an unconscious level. This
means you and I don’t even know our minds are holding onto this bias. In
contrast, an overt—or explicit—bias is an attitude or prejudice which is very
much endorsed at a conscious level.
For example, what is the proportion of
recognition or reward recipients who are male versus female, with respect
to your employee gender ratio? Are rewards given more often to one gender over
another? Is there any general ratio between white and non-white employees? Do
disabled staff equally merit and receive recognition and rewards for exemplary
Perhaps we all need to ask these kinds of
question when identifying whether hidden biases exist in our recognition and
reward practices and programs.
If there are certain principles that
keep recognition and rewards open it is fairness and equity.
What do you
do when you want to recognize people? What’s the right reward for employees
when you feel they need one?
Recognition, as I have shared before, is mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgment and valuing of a person’s positive behaviors, personal effort, and the great contributions they have made. Recognition is your personal communication and feedback stating how you admire and appreciate someone for what they are doing. Recognition is a gift, not a right.