BenefitsEmployee Engagement

Raising Recognition’s Standards

When raising the bar on your recognition programs and practices, seek out solid standards of excellence. By modeling after the best, you can excel and make a difference in your organization.

by Roy Saunderson

One of my thrills this year was being a judge for best-practice awards nominations for Recognition Professionals International (RPI, formerly NAER). Each nomination was judged against the recognition industry’s seven “best practice standards.”

An industry standard is an approved model of excellence with a set of established measures or principles, which by general consent is used as a basis of comparison. RPI established a comprehensive set of seven best-practice standards (visit as comparative measures to judge recognition programs. Evaluate your own recognition programs against these standards.

Recognition Strategy. Leading organizations with successful recognition programs start and end with a clearly defined, written recognition strategy. Corporate culture drives and sustains recognition and the recognition strategy, and practices reinforce both the culture and the employee behaviors needed to achieve an organization’s business goals.

Having a strategy spells out the philosophy and expectations for every employee as recognition givers. It helps promote the importance of recognition at all levels within the organization. And by establishing short- and long-term objectives, the strategy becomes a tool for improving performance, as well as valuing people.

Management Responsibility. Organizational leaders must play a key role in defining and writing a recognition strategy and stating their commitment to employee recognition. Leaders and managers should demonstrate the importance of recognition-giving by being examples. They need to be involved in recognition planning, as well as being at events. They must hold their direct reports accountable to available processes and practices, as well as regularly reviewing program measures for success and growth areas. Ultimately, they provide financial and staffing resources to make recognition an important tool for all leaders to use.

Recognition Program Measurement. From the organizations I evaluated, many had regular measures in place to quantify the occurrences or acts of recognition, whether submitted online or manually. Reports are easily generated with web-based programs, which automatically produce rates of usage and redemption rates with point-based systems. However, what can get overlooked is seeking employee input on program effectiveness. Return on investment must provide proof in making a difference on results, as well as with people.

Communication Plan. Organizations will often unveil a new recognition program with all the hoopla and pizzazz they can. However, they can forget to establish regular, ongoing communication processes to reinforce and maintain recognition awareness. Electronic, hard-copy, tangible items, and physical presence of leaders, all communicate the varied aspects of a recognition strategy, including program objectives, recognition processes, and events.

Communication plans around recognition are not just for the “best of the best” recognition programs. It’s also about keeping recognition top of mind.

Recognition Training. Managers and supervisors can rise quickly through company ranks based on degrees and expertise. Yet when surveys show employee dissatisfaction with a lack of recognition, it often requires training and ongoing education to provide insight to principles and skills for effective recognition-giving.

A combination of face-to-face coaching or training in effective recognition skills is critical. The awareness building and mastery in skills can be reinforced through online or web-based learning.

Recognition Events and Celebrations. Many organizations excel with outstanding events and celebrations, usually around formal awards presentations. What can get missed is the effectiveness around smaller, informal departmental events where financial and other resources may be minimal. Yet by striving to create a rewarding experience, a regular presentation can be turned into a fine celebration with just a little thought and some creativity. Always evaluate your events afterwards.

• Program Change and Flexibility. Those responsible for recognition can fall into the trap that once a recognition program is developed, they are “good to go.” Recognition must always be seen as evolutional and never as a static “done deal.”

Leaders and recognition professionals must continually monitor the success of programs and glean feedback from employees on their effectiveness. Then, if something is not working well, you must assess the situation and be open-minded and flexible to change goals and objectives to better accomplish the strategy. Only by aspiring to high standards can any organization become a best-practice award winner in recognition.

Tags: Benefits, Engaged Workforce, HRO Today Global

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