Building a recognition programme that works

There’s a strong business case for appreciating staff, with an effective recognition programme proven to positively influence engagement, innovation, talent acquisition, employee retention, productivity and revenue. However, creating a recognition programme from scratch can seem a daunting task and as such, many HR teams flounder, resulting in a half-baked appreciation strategy that ends up doing more harm than good.


Here, Kerry Drury, Culture and Engagement Strategist from recognition specialist, O.C. Tanner Europe, gives her guidance on how to build a recognition programme that provides the foundations for a thriving workplace culture.


  1. Set a purposeful foundation – the recognition strategy shouldn’t operate in isolation but must be carefully aligned to the company’s purpose, values and objectives. By putting the “why” into the recognition strategy so employees understand and can relate to ‘the bigger picture’, this will create a meaningful connection between the employee and the organisation.


  1. Get buy-in from senior leaders – The recognition programme shouldn’t be seen as ‘just another HR programme’ but an essential workplace culture initiative. It’s therefore key to gain buy-in from the top-down, after all, a lack of commitment from senior leadership is the top barrier to an effective recognition programme. Presentations to executives about the ROI of the programme and the why and how of recognition can be an effective way to gain their support.


  1. Ensure all staff are involved – It’s vital that all staff feel part of the recognition programme and so everyone from across the company needs to be able to give and receive recognition. And recognition can’t be just about giving appreciation from the top-down but must be given bottom-up and sideways as well. It’s also important not to forget about remote workers as well as employees at global offices in which local and cultural nuances may create barriers to effective recognition. Be mindful that the recognition programme needs to be global but may need tweaking at a local level to ensure effective take-up.


  1. Put recognition into the flow of work – Giving recognition can’t be time-consuming and hard work but must be quick and easy. It’s therefore important to embed recognition into tools and apps that staff use every day so that recognition can be given without staff leaving their flow of work. With 66% of employees unable to access or use their company’s recognition tools, this can prove a huge barrier to success.


  1. Match awards to accomplishments – There shouldn’t be a ‘one size fits all’ award. Instead, provide a variety of meaningful awards, appropriate for any level of accomplishment. After all, if you receive a low value gift card after reinventing the company’s business model, this won’t make you feel especially appreciated.


  1. Help recognition to become embedded into the culture – Keep recognition top of mind so that participation becomes second nature. It needs to feature in team meetings, email campaigns and day-to-day communications so that employees are reminded to show appreciation frequently.


  1. Ensure recognition is personal and meaningful – Giving recognition shouldn’t be transactional but needs to be sincere and tailored towards the recipient so that it deepens the individual’s connection with the organisation. After all, giving a colleague a quick “thank you” while passing their desk won’t be impactful and may even do more harm than good!


  1. Provide recognition training – Introduce a training plan so that managers and teams understand why recognition matters and how to deliver it genuinely and effectively. Also identify and train-up ‘recognition champions’ from across the organisation. These champions are excellent advocates who can remind managers and peers about ‘best practice’ recognition giving.


  1. Evaluate success – Analyse usage metrics, culture measures and business results to determine the success of the programme. Usage metrics may include who is giving recognition and how often; culture measures could include the recognition programme’s impact on engagement, workplace culture and perceptions about leadership; and business results may include sales figures, customer satisfaction levels and staff retention rates.


  1. Keep it fresh – Don’t just turn on the programme and walk away, letting it go stale. Keep it up-to-date and relevant to ensure maximum staff involvement. It’s also important to keep re-evaluating the recognition tools to ensure staff are still using them.


Putting a recognition programme in place that delivers the desired results needs to be well thought through. All elements need to be considered, from ensuring the leadership team is invested in its success through to providing recognition training. When done correctly, the rewards will be significant.  In fact, when a company has a formal recognition programme in place, employees feel 355 per cent more appreciated, a greater sense of belonging and an increased connection to their workplace. So if you’re doing it, do it right and watch your workplace culture go from strength-to-strength.

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