Where Do You Most Need to Improve Your Recognition?

Whether approaching the end of a calendar year or a time to consider a refresh of your recognition practices and programs, it is important to ask yourself as the recognition owner in your organization, “Where do we most need to improve recognition?”

Often this whole question of improvement follows the review of your annual employee engagement survey. Right off the bat I can tell you that if the average score of your recognition related questions on your survey is less than 65 percent, then you are dealing with issues with your daily recognition practices of everyday recognition.

Looking at everyday recognition, you know this should happen on a daily or weekly basis and impact between 80 and 100 percent of your employees. This is a great opportunity to work on. 

Where else can you improve recognition at your organization? What are some practical steps you can take?

Ways to Improve Employee Recognition.

Formal recognition programs will probably impact between 1 and 10 percent of employees, and more typically between 1 and 3 percent of your employee base. These formal award programs are your best-of-the-best programs, but they usually only happen once a year.  Organizations invest a lot of time, money, and effort into formal programs, so it is important that formal award programs align with your values and strategic initiatives.

As for informal recognition, these programs are most likely to happen on a monthly or quarterly basis and affect somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of your employees. They are more departmentally based, and more local goal focused in nature. They may have nominated awards, and, sometimes, employees may give smaller valued rewards to peers. Peer-to-peer recognition falls within this recognition level.

Following are three basic strategies for improving employee recognition in your organization.

1.     Increase the number of people giving recognition.

To increase the number of people giving recognition to employees in your organization it will probably require one, or all, of the following actions. 

  • It is essential to set clear expectations of your managers along with specific guidelines to recognize the progress and achievements of employees. To do this will require education and training on giving best practice recognition. Monitor manager progress and hold them accountable on how they improve face-to-face recognition giving and better use of your recognition programs.
  • Then there are your formal awards programs and informal recognition and reward programs. Very few organizations provide ongoing education, orientation training, consistent communication and promotion of their formal award programs to improve people using them more consistently. 
  • Improvement of your formal programs may need a revision of the criteria and ease for writing and submitting award nominations. Even making the online adjudication process easier for those appointed to be judges would go a long way to make formal awards a positive experience.
  • Recognition giving requires ongoing coaching and education. Why not establish a mentorship program where leaders and managers who are exemplary role models of effective recognition giving assist those wanting to improve their recognition skills?
  • Another way to increase the number of people giving recognition is to set some quantifiable objectives of senior leaders, middle managers, and below, on how they will give more meaningful and more frequent recognition.
  • Existing measure may not capture program improvement. You might need to devise some better metrics by departments, by managers, and on the number of employees recognized through the various levels of recognition programs. Or you might need a leading indicator to drive better recognition behaviors such as the number of employee interactions in a week that leads to recognition opportunities. 
  • Capture measures and feedback of people who actively recognize employees as being an exemplary role model for giving recognition. You should also collect data on the number of employees recognized, and who they are, and those who do not receive regular recognition through your recognition programs. This requires drilling down to find out why employees are not recognized and addressing those concerns.

2.     Increase the number of recognition occurrences.

Another metric to examine with the goal of improving employee recognition is to increase the number of recognition occurrences.

  • One way to make recognition occur more often and consistently is to give managers electronic or written notification reminders. Programs can cue managers on each of their employee’s employment anniversary so they can acknowledge non-milestone anniversaries. Too many employees share the lost recognition opportunity when supervisors and managers forget an employee’s career anniversary. Set up triggers to remind manager to get reacquainted with your performance recognition programs or to log back on to the social recognition programs if not used within a set time period.
  • Your senior leaders should set a standard that managers represent their organizational leaders in acknowledging and honoring employees on their service anniversary. However, you might need to help managers through coaching, written guidelines, and online training, on how to acknowledge employee anniversaries in the most effective and meaningful manner.
  • Besides formal award programs there should be a foundational focus on showing managers how to improve face-to-face recognition giving. You may require in-class education or bite-sized behavioral learning through micro-learning programs like Rideau’s Vistance® Analytics and Learning.
  • Installing a formal recognition program and expecting it to work magic with no guidance is like bringing home a toaster and expecting it to toast bread without plugging it in first. These formal programs need ongoing education, re-orientation, constant communication and promotion, and continual quality improvement reviews to keep formal award programs alive.
  • To improve the occurrence of recognition requires constant feedback to managers by department and by manager. They need to know the number of employees recognized through the various levels of existing recognition programs.
  • For many managers and leaders, they are not aware of the typical guidelines or policies supporting recognition procedures. Have regular reviews of these policies and procedures so everyone knows the ins and outs of the organization’s recognition practices and programs. Teach leaders and managers about having departmental recognition budgets and the wise use of those monies. 

3.     Increase the intangible or tangible value per recognition occurrence.

Take a look at the perception employees place on the value of recognition they receive. If they have a low value perception look for ways to increase it.

  • Sometimes improving recognition requires highlighting and showing the intangible or tangible value of each recognition experience. This means proving a Return on Investment of recognition programs going forward or at least identifying the business impact that recognition moments generate.
  • Besides the formal budgets associated with recognition programs, it is also good to have guidelines along with discretionary budgetary allowances for managers to hold departmental celebrations for informal accomplishments and non-programmatic actions warranting recognition.
  • Leaders need reminders on tips and practical ideas on how to use low and no-cost ways to enhance recognition experiences. Some of this may have to do with an effective presentation of recognition awards so that employees view the experience as a celebration and not just as presentation. Develop a manager recognition resources library of written articles and video content to support managers in giving valuable recognition to everyone.
  • Educate with the latest research and findings so that leaders and managers give recognition more in keeping with any identified generational differences and needs of employees within the workplace. Turn the perception of “old school” mentality of longevity with service awards to an opportunity to thank employees for their loyalty on behalf of the organization.

These are just a few of the ideas to help you think about how you can plan to improve recognition where you work in your organization.

Recognition Reflection: What are the systematic ways you look to for improving recognition practices and 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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