O.C. Tanner Company
SPHR and SHRM-SCP
33 years in HR
19 years at O.C. Tanner
From one HR leader to another: I know how tricky it can be to implement new employee programs, especially in this rapidly evolving workplace. While something like employee recognition seems like a simple enough initiative, there are important nuances to keep in mind. Recognition can be a powerful force in improving workplace culture so employees thrive at work and want to stay, but if your recognition program misses the mark, you may miss out on cultural impact as well.
Here are six things you should think about before implementing a new recognition program. Whether you do it yourself, or partner with an experienced recognition provider, how you design, implement, and support your solution will make all the difference.
Whether you are trying to get leadership buy-in for your recognition program, training managers on the importance of recognition, or getting employees excited about a new program, the “why” of recognition is the most important thing to communicate.
Why is recognition important, and what impact can it have on your organization? Think about the goals and dreams you have for your new initiative. Are you trying to improve the daily employee experience? Increase engagement? Be a more attractive place to work? Improve retention? Show employees they are valued? Whatever the reason for recognition, make sure it’s clear, specific, and aligned with your organization’s purpose. It is essential everyone knows there is a reason to recognize great work beyond the recognition itself.
Employees who are recognized generate twice as many ideas per month
Many companies try to create their own home-grown recognition programs and fail because they don’t understand the nuances around creating a formal process for recognition. You’ll want to get specific about what kind of programs and tools your program needs. Use our checklist and consider things like:
If it seems daunting to do it all yourself, consider partnering with an expert to help guide you through recognition strategy and design.
Deloitte reports that every day, the average worker uses eleven different technological systems to do their job. Integrating recognition technology means that people should be able to easily access the tools they need to recognize great work immediately when they see it happen.
Instead of making employees dig through your intranet website to find your recognition program, put shortcuts and links to recognize into the programs they already use, like Outlook, Salesforce, and Slack. Allowing recognition to happen on mobile devices and within collaboration tools, in addition to visible links on your intranet, lets employees quickly and seamlessly give recognition when they see something great happen. Being able to acknowledge someone “in the moment” ensures recognition happens frequently and consistently.
And employee recognition integration is about more than just technology. It’s ensuring recognition is embedded into your everyday employee experience and workplace culture:
Manage change deliberately. It takes time and effort to get employees on board with any new program, and recognition solutions are no exception. While any new rollout has its challenges and setbacks, a little planning goes a long way. In fact, it will make implementation smooth and successful. Think about how you want to launch the program and what you want to communicate about it. Without a good change management plan, adoption of any new technology drops 51% and the overall employee experience decreases 32%.
Remember that it takes time for a new program or solution to take off, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see the utilization you expect right away. Constant improvement is better than a flash in the pan. Dedicate a resource that employees can go to with questions about employee recognition, and have an established communication plan for how you’ll promote and remind people of the program throughout the first year. Be sure to keep excitement going beyond launch and well into the future.
Recognition can stay top of mind and be viral if people are seeing it, hearing about it, and giving it every day. Create a community where people can cheer each other on. Have a social media wall of fame where recognition is publicly displayed to broadcast accomplishments company-wide. Allow people to like and comment on recognition and interact with their peers. When celebrating work anniversaries, invite other employees to pile on praise, whether on paper or in a formal presentation, and make anniversaries public so people can proactively send a note and celebrate.
Nurturing a culture of recognition doesn’t stop the day after launch. Have a strategy for how you’ll maintain momentum and grow it. How will you keep recognition top of mind? Do you have ongoing reminders to recognize, or a plan to keep leaders accountable for recognizing their people? Use proven ways to help leaders and employees regularly look for opportunities to recognize, whether it’s sending every new hire a welcome e-card to introduce the program or having leaders schedule 30 minutes each week to give recognition. Simple, small steps can start to make recognition a habit.
Your solution should have an easy, automatic way to track who is giving and receiving recognition. Share that data with leaders so they can see what’s happening on their teams and identify where recognition can grow.
Also think about regularly updating your program. As a rule of thumb, we recommend a solution refresh every 2-3 years to maintain momentum. Add new awards, update the look and feel, replace old photos, add another award level. You may also want to integrate other programs into your recognition solution—service awards, incentives, wellness, etc. Whatever you do, update your solutions regularly to keep your programs new and exciting and give employees even more ways to celebrate success.
Above all, believe in the incredible power of recognition. Recognition can transform your organization. You’ll see changes in how employees feel and interact with each other, your customers, and their work. If done well, recognition can even impact your organization’s bottom-line growth and financial success. You just need to believe in it, champion it, and do it.
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