Traditional peer recognition programs are grounded largely in the 1950s’ motivational theories that hold little relevance to the workplaces of today, where technologies, demographics, demands and career expectations are significantly different.
One difficulty arises when the rewards become more important than the pride and learning that should flow from a job well done or a behaviour changed.
In fact, designing peer recognition programs that are appropriate to today’s workforce remains an untapped opportunity for HR professionals to understand and influence behaviour. The following sites provide some examples and insights from peer recognition programs to help determine if, when and how to design and introduce a peer recognition appropriate for your organization.
National recognition association
The home page for the National Association for Employee Recognition. Among the queries in the FAQ section: Do companies need to create a position to manage a recognition program? With a response from the Royal Bank’s Steve Richardson: “At Royal Bank, we created a position entitled, Manager, Recognition Programs. I have a staff of four reporting to me to service our 50,000 employees. We are part of the Sales Effectiveness dept. I would not recommend setting up the group in the HR dept, as most people will begin to view recognition as compensation, which is the worst possible thing to happen.”
The gifts of time as recognition
From this page, enter “employee recognition” in the search field to bring up a number of useful articles including, “7 low-cost ways to make sure your employees are happy, healthy workers.” Some of the suggestions: “Set aside an hour here and there for employees who have delivered an extra level of work. Make it clear that the free time is a reward for a specific accomplishment, such as finishing a challenging project or delivering month-end reports early. Alternatively, you can reward all your employees together, for example, by letting them leave an hour early to miss rush-hour traffic on a day of expected heavy traffic.”
The University of Washington puts forth a series of suggestions that are easily adapted to many different types and sizes of businesses. Among the issues they cover are recognition opportunities, events worthy of recognition and language to be used during peer recognition.
Tips from the Canadian government
There’s a wealth of information here: articles and research reports, best practices and information on the benefits of informal recognition. Included are top five recognition practices from one academic study of 1,500 employees: the manager personally congratulates employees who do a good job; the manager writes notes about good performance; the organization uses performance as a basis for promotion; the manager publicly recognizes employees for good performance; the manager holds morale-building meetings to celebrate successes.
A fine balance
A nice balance can be found here between theory, practice, overview and case study. All the while, the point is made clearly that while recognition programs might be an excellent way to promote new values in a business culture, the implementation of an appropriate program requires a knowledge of learning theory, a careful assessment of the culture and extensive planning.
An example drawn from the University of Iowa, this site explains that the “4 Rs” of good management — recognition, reinforcement, reward and relationship — “support a workplace that is healthy, humane and competent. Think of them as power tools for building a workplace where people feel their contributions to achieving the mission of the university are important.”
The site of well-known recognition author, Bob Nelson. Click on “recognition resources” from the navigation bar on the left to check a number of articles on recognition, as well as a lengthy list of low-cost recognition ideas. The site suggests: “When introducing new employees to current employees, describe each current employee with an example of something great that he or she did on the job,” and “Yearly awards named after commendable employees who have retired. Given to current employee who exemplifies similar characteristics.”
A. Brown is president of Write On The Money — business writing and communications that drive your audiences to take the actions that you want. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTheMoney.com.