Inside Business: 5 ways to doom an employee recognition program

At a basic level, employee recognition helps individuals understand what successful performance looks like so they can create more of it. But if your recognition program is committing any of the following offenses, it’s probably not effective at encouraging the right behaviors.

1. Your program doesn’t consider whether behavior relates to the company’s mission, goals, and values. This is a surefire way to administer a recognition program inconsistently, encouraging suspicion among employees that favoritism or other motivations lead to recognition.

2. Recognition is one-size-fits-all. Employees may prefer different types of recognition, so get a diverse group of workers involved in the program design.

3. The program has only one level. Recognition programs can be flexible enough to allow managers to recognize subordinates, executives to recognize individual contributors, or peers to recognize peers. Levels can also be included to allow employees to recognize varying levels of contributions.

4. Nominating or recognizing someone is complicated/intimidating. If your nomination process takes more than five minutes, it’s discouraging participation.

5. You skip the marketing. Be sure to periodically create visibility and buzz for your program even long after launch. Remember that announcing recognition as it happens is one form of marketing that can get employees interested.

A formal recognition program should help to motivate employees, but it’s just one tool. A recognition program that isn’t working in tandem with supervisor-to-employee communication and feedback simply won’t be enough.


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