On LinkedIn Discussions a couple of weeks ago, an HR manager posed a question about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to employee recognition programs. At first a few members of the LinkedIn HR Retention group including myself posted comments on recognition program best practices. Towards the end of the discussion though, a couple of people concurred that companies need to establish ways that managers can recognize and thank employees for their contributions. This discussion really got me thinking about the need for companies to design a formal employee recognition process in order to facilitate recognition and foster a recognition culture in the workplace.
I first want to say that there is an absolute need for companies to work out a plan for providing consistent employee recognition. Some people who are managers realize the power of recognition when it comes to making people feel good about the jobs they do and understand the correlation of recognition and higher job satisfaction/employee retention. Employee recognition programs are not just for those who accept the merits and roi possibilities of recognition; many times these programs are designed to maximize participation and keep recognition consistent. There are still people in management positions who believe workers are paid to do their job and shouldn’t be thanked and recognized for what a paycheck compensates a person to do. [Clearly this doesn’t apply to you- the fact you are reading this post is testament enough to your belief for the need to establish a formal recognition policy…]
When I talk about formal recognition programs in this post, I am not referring to the formal dress attire, once a year dinners that companies hold. I am referring to a formal award program that takes place on an ongoing basis and is strategically aligned with the company’s business strategy and core values. The Human Capital Institute’s white paper, “Value and ROI of Employee Recognition,” supports this definition by making the point, “The best way to implement a recognition program is with a rational, carefully formulated approach that is based on sound theory and that is well integrated with an organization’s business strategy—one that recognizes behaviors that are likely to positively affect an organization’s value.”
When an employee recognition strategy is formulated, companies need to decide how managers and employees recognize each other, how to keep track of recognition given and what kinds of rewards may be tied to recognition. I highly recommend companies keep the recognition program simple and maybe even fun for people to recognize one another when appropriate. Sometimes a theme is created to spice up the recognition program and all communications and the recognition website is designed to reflect a central theme.
When a recognition program is kicked off, it is important that the new program be communicated by executive level employees. A message needs to be sent to employees that there is now a formal way for employees to get the attention they deserve and that the program is endorsed by upper management. This ensures the formal recognition program is started on the right foot and helps to plant the seeds of a recognition culture.
After the recognition program is in place, it must be kept fresh and relevant so that managers 1) don’t forget about it and 2) actually want to use the program to its full potential. Management needs to actively remind people WIIFM; one way to do this is to gather feedback and regularly review and tweak the recognition program. Another tip is to highlight the impact of the recognition program and to put the spot light on employees who have received recognition for above and beyond behaviors.
By designing a recognition program that is strategically aligned with core values, making the program easily accessible and fun for participants, kicking off the program with communication and endorsement from top management and keeping the program fresh and relevant over time, a culture of recognition can be fostered and sustained. If a formal recognition program is created and maintained with these concepts in mind, an organization is able to foster a recognition culture where people take the time to recognize and reward employees on a regular basis.