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Topic: Leadership

HR VP to HR VP

How to do employee recognition well: Five tips to crafting a successful recognition strategy

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As an HR leader myself, I know how full your days are and how much you have on your plate. I love how many lives HR lets us impact in a single day, but I also know there’s little time left for those projects we know would make a huge difference. If only we could find the time.

I understand the entire spectrum of workplace culture changes you are trying to make and how, seen in context, something like employee recognition may not be a top priority. But it should be, because when we do recognition well, we not only help employees feel appreciated, we create a workplace culture where people thrive.

Recognition doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are five tips to help you create a recognition program that will inspire your people and transform your company culture.

Be authentic.


Employees don’t expect a perfect workplace, but they want an authentic one. Appreciation is such a personal thing that it needs to be genuine and meaningful to be effective.

Recognition fundamentally changes the way we work together. It has the power to transform your organization for the better, but only if employees clearly understand why they are being recognized and how their work makes a difference.

So be clear about what you are recognizing and why. Be strategic about the values you adopt, the behaviors you reward, the messages from your CEO, the photos you use in your program. Shift the perspective, if it exists, that recognition is all about giving stuff to people. Recognition is so much more than that. It’s about truly appreciating and valuing each employee for their work, accomplishments, and moments in their career.

Remind leaders recognition doesn’t always have to be a big production. You don’t have to be the most articulate person, or have the most polished presentation, to say thank you. Just say it. It’s the thought that counts.

Commitment and consistency are key


Being consistent can be one of the hardest things to do.

Your recognition initiatives need to have the full support and buy-in from your senior leaders. They need to commit to living recognition principles every day, to using the program often, and to holding other leaders accountable. If you treat recognition as optional, leaders won’t do it. Employees won’t see it happening, and your efforts will never be successful. This is the difference between an initiative and a culture shift. Sustained behavior is what helps people believe that something is real, and while it takes a lot of commitment, it’s 100 percent worth it.

Here at O.C. Tanner, we start every meeting with recognition. It’s expected and always welcome. I love when employees come up and ask if they can take time in the beginning of a meeting to give recognition. Our senior leaders are also role models of recognition. Our CEO regularly recognizes above and beyond work during leadership meetings, and often holds other senior leaders accountable if he notices a missed opportunity to give more recognition.

Bring it up. Remind people that it’s important and why. When you voice your commitment to a cause, there is inherent accountability. And this accountability will ensure you give recognition consistently.

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