What a Difference Leaders Make To Your Recognition Program Success

Your leadership team, and whoever your direct executive sponsor is, can really impact the success of your recognition programs.

For example, nearly one-quarter of respondents on a Gallup survey said the most memorable recognition comes from a high-level leader or CEO. Imagine what leaders could do if they encouraged everyone to get on board with using their organization’s recognition programs. 

In a survey I conducted across the United States and Canada of managers in the public sector, they shared how participation of senior leaders was an important aspect of delivering effective employee recognition. 

Examine your own organization and evaluate how leadership involvement with employee recognition plays out. 

Leaders Set The Direction 

Our public sector found 52 percent of survey respondents feeling their strategy was good, very good or excellent. But that is still not a large percentage. 

This level mirrors the most recent World at Work survey on the trends of employee recognition. They found that only 49 percent of organizations surveyed had a written recognition strategy. Yet, for those organizations that have a written recognition strategy, 97 percent of them are aligned with their business strategy. 


  • Work with your executive sponsor on getting their approval to create a recognition strategy and plan.
  • Gain their support to lead the way in facilitating a session to create a recognition strategy and plan, or several sessions, if done virtually.
  • Enlist the help of supportive departments such as Communications, Organizational Development, Learning & Development to get on board with you.
  • Have this senior leader present the final recognition strategy and plan at their executive leadership team meetings.

Leaders Set the Example 

Nothing drives culture and leadership practices better than an example from leaders at the top. In our consulting and education work, the feedback from the large majority of managers and employees emphasizes the significant impact that modeled behaviors, along with firm support from senior leaders, has on making recognition giving the norm in most organizational cultures.  

Consider that according to Gallup that 24 percent of employees say that the most memorable recognition comes from their CEO or a senior leader. 


  • Give senior leader a summary report of their personal usage of online recognition programs along with their colleagues on the executive leadership team.
  • Provide guidance and coaching on how they can integrate accessing the recognition programs and recognizing employees throughout the company.
  • Have leaders set expectations of their direct reports to become great recognizers of their staff and through using the recognition programs.
  • Ensure you prepare leaders with the scripts and information they need to be personable and wonderful presenters at organizational award events.

Leaders Show Personal Commitment 

Again, from the survey I conducted, we asked about the impact of senior leader participation in recognition. 

A large majority of managers, 75 percent to be exact, showed it was extremely important to them. We have repeatedly found that organizations whose leaders commit to supporting award and recognition program initiatives strategically, financially, and with their personal presence and example, correlates with higher evaluations by employees for feeling appreciated for their contributions on the job.

However, only 21 percent of managers reported their senior leaders as very involved in their recognition programs. About 59 percent of respondents indicated their senior leaders were “somewhat involved,” which seems a fairly lukewarm evaluation. Another 21 percent were “not at all involved” with their recognition programs. 

  • Present a plan for how your executive sponsor can be involved with recognition strategy and planning.
  • Provide them coaching on the use of your recognition programs.
  • Work with their executive assistant on reminding on the use of your recognition programs.
  • Have their direct reports primed to report outstanding employee performance that the leader can commend and recognize.

Make it your goal to assist your leaders in becoming incredible supporters of your recognition programs and marvelous recognizers of staff. 

Recognition Reflection: How do you enlist senior leader support to drive your organization’s recognition strategy?

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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