Why Do Companies Not Have a Recognition Strategy?

If you haven’t already heard, there are fewer companies today than 2 years ago that have a written recognition strategy. Wow! That’s a shame.

According to the latest WorldatWork 2019 Trends in Employee Recognition, only 49 percent of the organizations they surveyed have a written recognition strategy. Fortunately, for the nearly half of these organizations with a recognition strategy, 97 percent are aligned with their organization’s business strategy.

The surprising thing was seeing how the percentage of organizations with a recognition strategy declined from 55 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2019. I really thought more organizations would commit to writing one. But, alas, I was wrong.

Why would organizations not have a recognition strategy? Let’s examine some possible reasons why this occurs.

People Are Afraid to Make Choices

When you are drafting a recognition strategy, you have to make choices. A fear of deciding about something they might not fully understand can postpone creating a recognition strategy.

Looking at Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter’s work on strategy, he states that a strategy must define what the firm will do and what it will not do. In our recognition scenario, you have to prioritize and agree on what elements of your recognition practices and programs you plan to take action on, or not.

You need to explain for everyone’s benefit why you made the choices you did. Once people understand the logic behind your choices and know the why, a recognition strategy becomes so much easier to follow and implement.

Leaders and owners of recognition programs will need to choose what they want to have happen with their recognition programs. You can’t pussyfoot around. Decide to decide!

People Deflect Creating an Action Plan

A strategy is something you must implement and sometimes those involved with writing strategy documents are not prepared to take action. If they won’t take action, who will, and why craft a recognition strategy, anyway?

There are too many plans, goals, and business strategies in existence just sitting there. Nobody takes action on them. No one is willing to be responsible to implement the strategies and actionable goals.

You, or someone, need to lead a team of people who will help you implement your recognition strategy. Wherever possible, don’t do it alone. Enlist the help from communications and marketing, learning and development, and organizational development, for example, to help make things happen. Even if all you can get are passionate staff who want to see recognition come alive in the organization. Collaborate with other like-minded people.

Action is what will make your recognition strategy memorable and momentous. Take the next important step.

People Leave Strategies with The Top

Recognition strategies are often initiated by senior leaders and managers who know that recognition is another leadership tool to motivate people and drive performance. Checking off that you have a recognition strategy is one thing. Putting it into action is a completely different activity.

But sometimes that’s where strategies stay. At the top.

It is essential to have a written recognition strategy that has a clear, top-down strategic direction. But to be fully effective you must empower your employees to create bottom-up initiatives that support the plans, goals, and strategic intent of the crafted document.

Involve everyone by doing a Swiss-cheese approach by taking small bites out of the recognition plan created. Don’t set yourself up for failure by taking too much on. Better to prioritize the most important goals and tackle them one-by-one and celebrate those successes rather than not achieve anything.

Work at enlisting the help of others throughout the organization to make a recognition strategy come to life. Don’t leave it at the top.

People Hide Recognition Strategies.

Sometimes written recognition strategies get written but are hidden in drawers or saved on certain leaders’ computer files. Nobody else knows they even exist.

Your purpose, as a recognition leader, is to translate this higher-level vision of employee recognition into clear actionable goals. Recognition strategies that work best do so because the teams working on them spent more time turning the vision of the recognition strategy into actionable goals.

And they make their recognition strategy visible and owned by everyone. It is not just about aligning the recognition strategy with the organization’s business strategy, it also about aligning the organization around the strategy.

This requires continuous internal communications giving a consistent message of the purpose and philosophy of recognition, the actionable goals established, and the overall strategic direction to be achieved.

Your key is to make your recognition strategy visible and active. Cascade the communications about your strategy in multiple directions.

People Don’t Integrate Their Strategies

Too often recognition strategies end up becoming stand-alone documents with no integration with the operational needs of the organization. So why bother writing one?

Your job is to integrate your strategy into the everyday processes and operations of your company. Some steps you must take is setting up metrics for the actionable goals. These could be financial and operational metrics that help confirm the business impact or ROI of your programs. You may tweak and align your recognition goals with the overarching business strategy. This might affect allocation of resources.

By having well-established metrics you can check the progress of implementing your recognition strategy.

And don’t forget to seek out the voice of your employees about recognition activities through surveys, focus groups, and dialogue with managers and employees.

You should weave your recognition strategy into the very fabric of your organization. Everyone can be responsible for a piece of your strategy. 

Review: Making a Recognition Strategy Happen

Time to review what you need to do to prepare your organization for both writing and implementing a recognition strategy.

  1. Truly create a vibrant and exciting vision and purpose for employee recognition practices and programs where you work.
  2. Work on translating your overall strategy into actionable goals that everyone can understand and want ownership in achieving.
  3. Actively find out through dialogue and discussion groups with employees the existence of any barriers that could prevent achieving your goals.
  4. Consistently communicate to all employees through all communication channels about the overall recognition strategy and inviting employee involvement.
  5. Conduct a stakeholder analysis to anticipate opportunities they see with employee recognition and identify any potential roadblocks you could not know about.

Recognition Reflection: What factors stop your organization from writing or implementing a 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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