There will always be horror stories around recognition programs if you don’t start off on the right foot.
And the irony of it all is the challenges most often come with the misnomer of calling these problematic programs “recognition programs”. Problems with errant programs usually lies when using rewards, be they tangible merchandise, cash, or near cash rewards.
So, get recognition programs right so there is equity and fairness with non-monetary and intangible recognition and tangible and monetary rewards accompanying these recognition programs.
There is also a need for authenticity and inclusiveness with the expressions of recognition given to people through your programs, whether this is by text, spoken word, or video. Recognition must be genuine and sincere in both intent and how it is communicated to a person. We should give regard to all employees who contribute day in and day out and not focus solely on the rising stars whose performance always exceeds the standards of most employees.
Recognition is for everyone.
You must make sure you get your recognition programs right.
14 Ways to Get Recognition Programs Right
1. Leadership: Proper usage of employee recognition programs starts at the top of the organization and always will. Recognition is a leadership competency by practice and they should push for the design and development of meaningful and performance driving recognition programs. Leaders must lead out with recognition giving and setting the example for everyone by using the programs themselves
2. Strategy: Not all companies have an effective, written recognition strategy in place. Interestingly, you’ll find more companies with a written total rewards strategy than you will a recognition strategy. Having a recognition strategy gives your organization purpose and reason for recognition. It also provides a plan for recognition practices and programs throughout the organization. This is something you can measure and track progress by.
3. Purpose: Why are you giving recognition to your employees in the first place? Your leaders, managers, and the employees themselves want to know the answer to that question. And so do your customers, clients, patients, and families of everyone. Knowing your organizations why provides a guiding compass for developing your recognition programs and gauge how well they are performing.
4. Philosophy: Strive for a diverse and inclusive view of what leaders and employees believe employee recognition is all about. Remember, everyone is an employee, unless they own the company, and even owners need to respect and value employees. Define what recognition means for each group of employees and decide on an agreed collective set of beliefs about recognition.
5. Definitions: It will be important for everyone using your recognition programs to know the differences between recognition and rewards. They must also learn how to determine when they use one or both together. Define the purpose of each recognition program and what all the elements on them mean.
6. Expectations: Nothing will happen with employee recognition programs if you don’t set clear expectations for each type of program and how each person should take part in using them. How do they start recognition experiences with a program? What can they do to encourage others? How will leaders and managers show that they use the programs?
7. Practices: Recognition practices are the frequent personal, and habitual behaviors people do to express appreciation to others, and the cultural and customary ways an organization has of showing people they value them and their contributions. Recognition practices have three times greater impact on measures like employee engagement than programs do.
8. 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. They are an effective tool to help people practice recognition giving, especially when face-to-face recognition is not always possible.
9. Communication: You can’t figuratively plug in a recognition program and expect it to work all by itself. It takes people knowing what the programs are for being oriented on how to use them effectively, and continual reminders and reinforcement messages. Whether this is by emails, checklists, articles, online resources, talking points, etc., communicate, communicate, communicate!
10. Education: Everyone needs to learn how to use your recognition programs effectively and why they are important to the company. Technology may intimidate people and they need a helping hand, be it in person, through onboarding sessions, using online tutorials, at lunch and learn sessions, or in management training.
11. Accountability: Recognition program usage is determined by how managers and employees alike are held accountable for how often and how well they use them. Reports should be available online for frequency of usage and how well employees perceive the recognition programs. We are all responsible for how we use our recognition programs.
12. Openness: Owners of your recognition programs in your organization and those who administer them must be transparent with all that is happening with program functionality, operations, and effectiveness. And they must be open to feedback from across the organization where people think the programs are working well, where they are not, and accept suggestions for improvement.
13. Improvement: Recognition programs can go through five cycles in their evolution, but hopefully only the first three. The program goes Live when it is launched. Programs will Strive as they start up and get going. Programs will Thrive if well maintained, communicated, and educated about. But recognition programs can also Dive and splutter if not well looked after. Should a recognition program ever falter or fail we can only hope that someone can help Revive it. Always be looking for ways to improve your recognition programs. Find out what is working and what isn’t. Get input from others and their help with implementing needed changes.
14. Research: Some people get caught up with seeking best practices of recognition programs from other organizations. These are nice for sure, but they are already old by the time you hear about them and may not fit your culture or needs. Instead, look for next practices. Go online and examine scholarly and professional services for research on a diverse array of topics like performance, human resource technology, Artificial Intelligence, human behavior, and recognition and rewards.
These pointers should stimulate ideas for you on what you need to do to get your programs right and producing the results you want.
Recognition Reflection: If your programs appear not to be working well who instigates the need for change? You or someone else?
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.