Ensuring everyone understands your recognition efforts. Implementing them properly require the fine art of effective communication.
What good is a recognition strategy if no one knows anything about it? To have everyone on the same page with what your organization really means by employee recognition and the program options available to them, each employee needs access to all pertinent information. The intended message about the value of employee recognition must be heard and understood.
That’s why a consistent and explicit communication plan must involve HR, communications, and marketing. Too often, recognition programs receive an initial communication plan, which creates a masterful unveiling but loses steam because nothing else is said. Our research on the effectiveness of employee recognition within the public sector revealed that 44 percent of managers slightly or strongly agreed that formal recognition programs were clearly communicated and understood by all employees. Breaking this down further, only 13 percent strongly agreed.
To help solve this communication gap, strive to formulate some communication guidelines to assist with the process. Some suggestions to consider when designing communication strategies for your programs:
• Plan for the long term. Make sure your communication plan covers a full year and not just the initial launch of a specific program or new recognition strategy. A common pitfall is spending an entire budget launching a program and failing to plan for ongoing communication. It is far better to stagger messages over time rather than cramming every recognition message into one method and on one occasion. Programs, processes, and reminders must be repeated and in a variety of ways.
•Target your communication. It’s important to customize your communication to your intended audiences. The message you send to your communication targets can be delivered through formal and informal channels. Because people are bombarded by various communications, concentrate on making your recognition communication specific, concise, and to the point. Customize the message for senior leaders and managers. Leaders must know the “what” and “how” of all recognition programs. Management must also be informed of program expectations and accountability for giving recognition.
• Vary your communication media. Another form of targeting communication is the different methods or styles used to reach your audience. To make your message stand out, use well-timed e-mails strategically so recipients look forward to receiving them. Complement e-mails with traditional communication such as printed posters, newsletters, postcards, surprise voice mails, information via your company’s Internet/intranet, and even podcasts. The key to success is in the mix. Each medium used conveys its own message. Consider the impact when senior leaders are involved in face-to-face exchanges such as at town hall meetings or delivering recognition training sessions.
• Make communication two ways. No one likes feeling as if he or she is being talked at. An effective communication strategy should include ways for employees to communicate feedback and suggestions on recognition programs. Direct feedback can come from annual employee surveys and focus groups. Managers need to conduct one-on-one encounters with employees to determine individual preferences and evaluate recognition initiatives. Following up with employees’ learning progress and scheduling regular management forums to discuss in-house best recognition practices keep channels of communication flowing.
• Actions speak louder than words. When asking employees for their input, leaders must prepare to incorporate and address their concerns. Communicating these expectations and coaching senior leaders on how to respond are critical.
Any changes or suggestions adopted must be communicated to the employees so they are understood. Even if suggestions are not implemented, it is important employees know their ideas were considered. Provide employees with reasons why a suggestion was not used. Doing this reassures employees that their time and effort were not wasted. Clear and immediate feedback will encourage such behaviors to continue and instill ownership in your recognition strategy. Employees will also feel valued, respected, and even recognized.
Most organizations can always stand to improve their corporate and internal communications. Working to enhance face-to-face, written, and electronic forms of communication in support of employee recognition will go a long way to ensuring the success of your recognition strategy.