What Makes For a Good Recognition Strategy?

Creating a written recognition strategy is not as easy as it seems to create. It should not simply repeat the organization’s vision and mission statements. Nor is it a set of aspirational goals that never amount to anything, let alone try to change things.

So, what makes for a good recognition strategy? That is what I thought I would investigate while reading Richard Rumelt’s book, Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters.

Richard Rumelt is the Harry and Elsa Kunin Emeritus Professor of Business & Society at the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management. And as you can guess, his focus is primarily on strategy. He knows a thing or two about strategy. 

Let me share with you some insights I gained reading his book so far and then apply those ideas to crafting a good recognition strategy.  

Strategy Insights To Apply To Recognition

1. Strategy is as much about what an organization does not do with recognition as it is about what it will do about recognition. 

Tell others through your recognition strategy what your organization wants to stop doing regarding certain recognition practices. Also, show what people should agree not to do anymore with how they use your current or proposed recognition programs. Spell out the positive recognition behaviors and procedures you want to see happen where you work.

2. Strategy allows for flexibility because you now have a roadmap on how you will achieve your recognition objectives.  

External and internal events, along with business and people strategies, can change the way they run an organization. Mergers can happen by pulling together two organizations with different cultures. Competition may cause an organization to go in an entirely new business direction. The intent of your recognition strategy can be flexible enough to always adapt, no matter what happens outside or inside your organization.

3. Strategy is not just a list of goals to be reached but should be a guide for anyone to know how to deal with the current recognition situation.

There should be some declaration of what your organizations believes about recognition and what the intended purpose is for recognition. State what recognition can do to help the organization achieve its business strategy goals. Identify how recognition practices and programs can help drive the organization’s people and talent strategies. Give enough guidelines and policy direction that people will know what needs to be done. 

4. Strategy should make anything that might seem complex easily understandable to the average employee. 

Some strategy documents are full of gobbledygook, double-speak, and pretentious words that tell you nothing. They’re useless! Your recognition strategy should be a simple too for everyone. Frontline employees must understand it and those in the C-suite. Anyone could launch recognition practices and programs just by reading your recognition strategy document. 

5. Strategy needs to define the challenges with current recognition practices and programs.

A good recognition strategy starts with diagnosing the current state of your recognition practices and recognition programs. Be up front and personal with the weaknesses of people and systems. Share with those working with you on your recognition strategy exactly what the challenges are. Then collaborate on what they need to do to resolve these concerns. 

6. Strategy must define and analyze obstacles and problems that interfere with successful recognition practices and programs.

Similar to the previous statement, except now you are drilling down one step further. You need to pinpoint who, and what, the barriers are to successful recognition giving. If it is your leaders, call it out. Perhaps you’re dealing with a lack of resources. Maybe there are managers who don’t believe in recognizing staff. And there are probably lots of people who simply don’t know how to give recognition and want to learn how.

7. Strategy responds with how to overcome the current challenges you are having with employee recognition practices and programs.

Your strategy must provide answers and solutions for overcoming the current state of your recognition practices and programs. Your assessment of the recognition situation tells you what is going wrong with recognition and where you need to improve. Now you can build into your recognition strategy the procedures and plans for correcting all things recognition related.  

8. Strategy has objectives that lead to action by addressing specific processes or accomplishments and move the dial or hit a specific target.

We set too often only goals, which are broad generalities of what you want to achieve with recognition practices and programs. My recommendation is to set objectives instead, or besides goals, which define strategies and implementation steps. These objectives will be specific enough for anyone to understand and implement them. They will have measurable output metrics to you know if you are successful or not. And they will state a completion date. 

9. Strategy is a documented pathway to gaining higher performance from your current recognition practices and programs. 

A good recognition strategy takes you on a journey of progress. You can see the beginning with where recognition is at right now. And you see the potential endpoint of what recognition practices and programs could look like soon. Let your recognition strategy give a complete picture of the pathway you and others need to follow.

10. Strategy has objectives that have a good chance of being accomplished rather than pie in the sky fluff. 

I have referred earlier to setting actionable objectives. When you have completed your recognition strategy with your team, or collaborated on with a leadership group, you should be able to nod your head and feel good that this is doable. Your recognition strategy is workable. Action will happen. Recognition will soon change for the better.

11. Strategy should always answer the true reasons recognition practices and programs are not working well. 

Never hide behind the explanations given for why recognition fails where you work. Put the reasons out there for everyone to know. Identify the issues and problems behind why your recognition programs are failing. More often than not, it is not a program issue but a people problem. Perhaps no one has shown people properly how to access and use the programs well. Individuals may not feel confident about what to say or how to express recognition online. 

12. Strategy requires leadership to make tough decisions and hard choices to put some objectives aside in favor of others. 

While you may have responsibility for drafting and implementing a recognition strategy, you need an executive sponsor to guide you. It is a senior leader who has accountability for recognition who can decide how you need to move forward. Funding and resources are finite. It is the leader you report to who has to make the hard choices between some objectives happening and cancelling out others. 

13. Strategy always forces the wise use of resources towards one or more particular result versus others. 

A well written and excellent strategy always focuses individual time and efforts, money and resources, all toward an end goal. For example, I always recommend creating an overriding one-year goal that you want to focus all of your recognition objectives on. Even if you can’t accomplish each focus point objectives you set, you will still move recognition toward this end goal with other approved objectives.

14. Strategy is all about fully understanding exactly what is going on with recognition in your organization. 

Finally, your recognition strategy becomes a good one when it documents the current state of recognition clearly enough for everyone to follow. And it should not just show an idealistic future state. It should itemize specific objective steps that will make your recognition practices and programs flourish. The result will be people everywhere in your organization feeling appreciated and valued for their work and contributions. 

Recognition Reflection: Do you feel you have a good recognition strategy?

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