Which Recognition Program Do You Start With First?

You have either personally asked or thought about this question, or the leader you report to might have asked you.

“Which recognition program do you start with first?”

Lewis Carroll, in his unforgettable tale of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, gives us a clue to the answer to this question.

The main character, Alice, sees the Cheshire Cat sitting on the bough of a tree and decides to ask it a question.

“Cheshire Puss,” she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider.

“Come, it’s pleased so far,” thought Alice, and she went on.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—“ said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat

Likewise, you need to take the recognition program road you would like to take. Lead by your company’s purpose, recognition needs and budget realities as well as your own experienced opinion.

And if you don’t have a destination, objective or purpose then I will help you choose one.

Recognition Program Selection Guide 

I am going to give you some parameters you will need to consider as you identify the recognition programs your organization needs.

1. Strategic Purpose: Do you have a written recognition strategy and plan? Have you identified the purpose for recognition in your organization?

Only 53 percent of organizations researched by WorldatWork have a written recognition strategy.

Articulating your company’s “why” and the beliefs around recognition will go a long way to guiding you on program selection.

By doing a gap analysis you will know why recognition is performed well, or why it is not, and what needs to be done to improve it.

You need to have clear objectives defined for what you want recognition programs to actually do for you.

2. Foundational Framework: How is your organizational culture driving recognition practices? How well do people give genuine and authentic recognition on an interpersonal level independent of recognition programs? What principles and practices is your organization known for consistently doing? Positive practices and actions have to be in place before pretending any recognition programs will make any difference.

A clear Purpose and Philosophy driven by timeless Principles and positive Practices, will all help you to see what is needed Program-wise to fill the gaps.

3. Pain Points: What keeps your leaders awake at night? Are there strategic initiatives to be reached? Has recognition ever been aligned with the business or people strategy? Recognition, done correctly, can be a powerful tool for leveraging essential strategic results.

Few organizations look to recognition programs as a tool for achieving business goals – yet they should!

4. Desired Goals: WorldatWork found of those organizations with a written recognition strategy, 97 percent of them were aligned with their business strategy. So what performance indicators do you want to improve? Are there glaring performance metrics that embarrass leaders? Take a look at your business results and your people focused measures. What needs to change?

Let’s say retention is high and you want to reduce it by at least 1 or 2 percent.

You work with HR to determine the actual numbers and percentages. Team up with finance to calculate the cost per lost employee and multiply out the total replacement costs to recruit, hire and train a replacement. Then you will know what a 1 or 2 percent improvement will be dollar-wise and the total potential savings.

That’s what the right recognition programs can do for you.

Available Budget: In so many instances purchasing recognition programs comes right down to the bottom-line of how much do they cost. Do you know the available monies being projected to spend on recognition? What is your current recognition budget as a percentage of base salary or per full-time equivalent (FTE)? Somewhere, there is either a proposed budget or an actual dollar figure allocated towards employee recognition. Find that out.

Knowing the available recognition spend amount helps you prioritize what programs you can start with and which ones are going to make the most impact on desired business results.

Types of Recognition Programs

Recognition programs are the regular informal or formal organizational procedures and online administered programs for providing scheduled individual or team acknowledgment, awards, incentives or rewards, for achieving various strategic, behavioral or performance based criteria.

(1.) Recognition Based Programs

Recognition based programs allow individuals to express appreciation to others by showing people that they and their contributions are valued.

These programs can include sending eCards to employees for living the company values or for completing a project or simply thanking them for their positive actions.

Similarly, social recognition programs allow anyone to send a recognition message to a peer, and others can reinforce that message by commenting on the post or liking the message in the display feed.

These programs are non-monetary and cash-free systems.

Focus of Recognition Based Programs: These social communication recognition programs tend to have a greater impact on customer service and customer sentiment, and likewise, on employee engagement measures, than do other programs.

(2.) Performance Based Recognition and Reward Programs

Performance based recognition and reward programs combine the act of acknowledging a person for their behaviors and performance along with a reward. A reward might consist of a cash amount or a non-monetary reward (points or vouchers) to be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards.

In a similar fashion some recognition and reward programs are level based where managers may designate someone as meriting a bronze, silver or gold level (or other description) award for their contribution. Each level based award has a certain value affixed to it and the employee might receive cash or be entitled to selecting a gift from a merchandise catalog.

Focus of Performance Based Recognition and Reward Programs: Performance based recognition programs are great for improving targeted outcomes and elevating business results over other programs.

(3.) Celebratory Based Programs

Celebratory-based recognition programs can consist of milestone recognition awards for service anniversaries and the honoring of those who have gone above and beyond in their work performance.

Milestone recognition programs may consist of a simple acknowledgement by their boss, a standard symbolic award like an engraved plaque or certificate, all the way to choosing a range of gifts for the different year level they have reached, typically every five years starting at 5-years of service.

Above and beyond awards are a celebratory experience orchestrated by senior leaders to honor and acknowledge outstanding performance by a select few employees. They can also recognize individuals who have been nominated by others in reaching specific criteria of performance from various areas of excellence and have been judged to merit receiving that award.

Focus of Celebratory Based Programs: These programs do not have a direct impact on business results and cannot be compared with other programs. However, they clearly have an impact on employee sentiment and are strong reinforcers of the organizational culture.

Which recognition program do you start with first? In summary, this is what you must consider:

  1. Begin with knowing your recognition strategy and what your purpose is for having recognition programs.
  2. Make sure you have the right foundations and supports already in place for recognition programs to be successful.
  3. Find out your company’s pain points to get an idea for how recognition programs could help you improve those factors.
  4. Set some very clear and measurable goals for what you want recognition programs to achieve.
  5. Determine exactly how much money you have available to spend on recognition programs to be able to prioritize.
  6. Evaluate which program(s) are best for you to produce the desired results you and your company need.
  7. Consult with a vendor to determine the pros and cons of outsourcing the design and development of the right kind of recognition programs or work with your IT department with what you have figured out.

Question: How did you decide which recognition programs to start with first?

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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