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Jul 28, 2015

Links to values can enhance recognition programs

Think about what you want to reinforce to make the most of your programs

By Claudine Kapel

These days, almost every organization will tell you it has some sort of recognition program.

But are these programs really delivering value?

Conventional wisdom tells us just having programs in place isn’t enough to really motivate or inspire employees or to foster desired behaviours and results.

If you really want recognition programs to fire on all cylinders, you need to pay attention to both what you want to acknowledge and how you want to deliver that acknowledgement.

A new study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Globoforce found that organizations with values-based recognition programs are more likely to give their recognition efforts high marks.

Overall, 80 per cent of respondents indicated their organization has an employee recognition program.

More than one-half (58 per cent) indicated they have a program that is tied to their organization’s values. Of these, 78 per cent rated their program as excellent or good, compared to just 41 per cent of respondents at organizations where the program is not tied to organizational values.

Further, organizations with values-based recognition programs were more likely to report their program is helping:

  • increase employee engagement levels (90 per cent for values-based program versus 67 per cent without)
  • instill and reinforce corporate values (88 per cent versus 42 per cent)
  • improve employee relationships (84 per cent versus 66 per cent)
  • improve employee retention (68 per cent versus 41 per cent).

Other survey findings:

  • About three-quarters of respondents (74 per cent) indicated anyone can nominate or recognize a colleague.

  • Few (12 per cent) use leaderboards, rankings, or badges — gamification techniques that promote competition by tracking progress or accomplishments — as part of the recognition program.

  • Only 13 per cent said they rely strongly on electronic thank-you cards and emails alone, without an associated reward, to facilitate recognition. Large organizations (2,500 employees or more) were more likely to report a strong reliance on using e-cards alone as a form of recognition.

The survey also examined organizational practices related to service anniversary programs. Some key finding include:

  • Most respondents celebrate service anniversary milestones every five years.

  • About one-third of respondents provide employees with merchandise options from a catalogue or website to commemorate a service anniversary. Some 21 per cent provide an in-person event or award presentation and 17 per cent give out pins, plaques or company logo items.

  • More than one-third of respondents (37 per cent) reported that on average they spend $50 or less per employee on service awards, while 31 per cent spend between $51 and $200 per employee, and 22 per cent spend more than $200 per employee.

Although a well-considered design is vital for an effective recognition program, it’s critical to ensure the program is also fairly managed. Some questions to consider regarding your own recognition program include:

  • What are your program objectives? How will you measure whether these are being achieved?
  • How do you allocate dollars for recognition awards across departments or units?
  • Is the recognition program — and how it operates — well-communicated?
  • Do you have criteria to help managers and leaders align the value of recognition awards with the level of contribution made?
  • How are awards approved? Who ensures the program is being used consistently across departments or units?
  • What information about program usage is being tracked and reported on?
  • Do you have a process in place to encourage peer-to-peer recognition?
  • Are managers adept at acknowledging employee performance and contributions informally on a day-to-day basis as part of their ongoing people management activities?

Consistency and authenticity are essential if recognition of any form is to be meaningful and valued. Taking the time to clearly map out the optimal recognition process — including considerations related to budgets, communication and award criteria — will set the stage for a more positive experience for everyone involved.

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