What Your Leaders Need To Better Understand Recognition

WorldatWork surveyed their members and found that the average organization uses eight separate recognition programs. That’s a lot! 

However, what they don’t state is how well people use those recognition programs, either by leaders or by their employees. The secret to using these programs properly is to help your leaders better understand the value and importance of employee recognition. 

How can you get your leaders on board, and what do they first need to know about employee recognition? 

Declare the Overall Recognition Purpose 

Leaders are decisive people and like to be aware of what is going on in the organization. They are visionary people and very self-aware. Once they learn the value and importance of something, they become powerful advocates by communicating the right message out to people and influencing and involving the right people.  

Organizations aim recognition programs at a variety of objectives, both in terms of employee experience and business results. It makes sense that you need to share with your leaders the overall purpose of employee recognition practices and programs. 

Referring back to the WorldatWork 2019 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey, they found organization identified the following objectives for their recognition programs, namely:

  • 78 percent > Create/maintain a culture of recognition
  • 77 percent > Create/maintain a positive work environment
  • 71 percent > Reinforce desired behaviors
  • 71 percent > Increase employee engagement
  • 69 percent > Support organizational mission/values
  • 68 percent > Motivate high performance
  • 60 percent > Increase retention or decrease employee turnover 

These are more objective driven reasons that could help leaders.  

But it is more important to give them the overall purpose and vision you desire for recognition to play in the organization. You should articulate what the “why” reason is for investing in improved recognition practices and using recognition programs more effectively. What do leaders believe about employee recognition? Why should they care? 

For example, is the purpose of recognition in your organization about:  

  • Stating the belief that employees will know they are valued and make a difference.
  • Believing motivated employees develop better products and services and ensuring employees feel valued, inspired and proud of their contributions.
  • Encouraging and celebrating employee and volunteer contributions.

Whatever the purpose is, it should have the input of a cross-section of leaders, frontline managers, and those who work in recognition. Facilitate a working draft recognition purpose statement for senior leader approval.

Present Compelling Recognition Numbers 

Leaders love numbers so present them with the program statistics and the people metrics that tell the story of the employee experience with recognition, from onboarding to everyday appreciation. Monetize any of the numbers that you can.

Step#1. Show the leaders the numbers. What are the unique number and percentages of senders of recognition messages or eCards, and senders of rewards, nominations, or points? Likewise, what are the number and percentages of unique recipients of both recognition and rewards?

What is the percentage ratio of recognition program usage to reward programs used? How many employees are reached with eCards and recognition messages? Same for rewards, nominations or points. What number and percentage of employees do not receive any recognition at all?

These numbers paint either a glorious or scary picture of the recognition reality. According to the Gallup organization, using their Q12 recognition question, only a third of employees reportedly receive recognition or praise in any week for doing good work. 

Step #2: Show the recognition story. Interpret and explain what the numbers mean by drilling down by the various departments, and where possible, how well managers use the recognition programs, and how employees perceive the recognition they receive, or do not receive, from managers and from peers.  

How well are managers engaged with using the programs? Are employees using the peer-to-peer recognition programs? What results do you generate from pulse checks or recognition related questions on the latest employee engagement survey? 

You must share the story with your leaders on how well recognized employees feel and which managers connect with their employees and are praised by them.  

Step #3. Show the truth. I have always loved this quote from John Kotter from the Harvard Business School on dealing with change. He said, “Changing behavior is less a matter of giving people analysis to influence their thoughts than helping them to see a truth to influence their feelings.”

That is why video has become such a powerful marketing tool because people can see the truth for themselves. 

Capture video testimonials, with employee written consent, of the positive impact that amazing recognition has on employees. Also record evidence of lost recognition opportunities and interview employees who do not feel valued for their contributions in the workplace. Be objective and show an equal number of positive and negative perspectives. Use these videos to show your leaders the attitudes and influence of the presence and absence of recognition has on people.

You can use the numbers from employee engagement surveys, but that will only stay for a short while in a leader’s mind. Showing leaders the truth of where recognition is at in the organization will influence their hearts and likely last a lot longer.  

Create Your Recognition Strategy 

Leaders are always thinking strategically and want to see strategies implemented and go beyond the printed documents businesses create. 

Another tool to help leaders better understand employee recognition is to create a written recognition strategy. Only 49 percent of organizations have one according to WorldatWork. Such a document will outline the purpose for recognition in your organization. It will identify and spell out the beliefs your organization has about recognition and rewards. And it will have a plan to address the gaps with recognition practices and programs in your organization and what your goals are to help make recognition better.

Seek Internal Recognition Alignment 

Leaders love it when people have aligned their organizational initiatives with the business strategy. 

You must show your leaders how you have aligned the recognition programs in place with the values and organizational culture. Show them how using the programs helps to reinforce the very culture everyone should uphold. 

Show your leaders how current recognition programs are aligned with your people strategy goals and support and drive some business strategy initiatives. 

Culture drives recognition practices. Recognition reinforces your organizational culture. Recognition programs recognize and encourage positive behaviors. Rewards help reinforce and reward results. 

Recognition Drives Employee Experience

Your leaders know well that employee satisfaction is a given, employee engagement is now becoming passe, and the new focus today is on employee experience. 

Remind your leaders what recognition really is and differentiate it from rewards.

Teach them that real recognition is appreciating people for who they are and recognizing them for what they do. Explain how recognition is mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgment and valuing of an individual or team, for any positive behavior, for their personal efforts, or contribution they have made on the job. 

Employee experience is the sum total of what employees encounter and observe over the course of their tenure in an organization. Whenever employees emotionally invest themselves in an organization, they make a positive impact on business results. Recognition helps. 

Which is why leaders need knowledge and insight by digging deeper on whether the recognition happening in your organization is affecting the overall employee experience. 

These are just a few of the things your leaders will need to know to understand recognition the way you do. 

Recognition Reflection: How well do your senior leaders understand the value and importance of employee recognition?

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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