Engaged WorkforcePerformance Management & Rewards

Getting Strategic in HR with Employee Recognition Efforts

Effective and enduring employee recognition can only occur when aligned with corporate strategy and business practices.

by Roy Saunderson

Perhaps because of its people-focused energies and past transactional mindset in delivering employee services, employee recognition has typically been owned and often relegated to the HR department. But with greater presence of HR executives in the boardroom and with an aging employee market, there is good reason for employee recognition and rewards being utilized as a more strategic tool in attracting and retaining today’s shrinking workforce. So it might be good to ask if you even have a rewards and recognition strategy.

When the National Association for Employee Recognition and WorldatWork (2005) teamed up and asked their members if they had a recognition strategy, 60 percent reported yes. How effectively their recognition strategy is working was not asked.

An effective employee recognition strategy is driven by a clear and focused vision and mission where everyone can hang his or her hat on, know his or her purpose on the job, and understands the direction he or she is headed. Organizational culture is built on a strong set of living values, which creates beliefs that all individual behavior is expected to follow. Working on the values and beliefs of an organization will do more to shape a recognition-giving culture than working on the behaviors alone.

Organizational culture is a fluid concept and must continually be defined, communicated, and reinforced. In this manner everyday, instant recognition strategies can be established for immediate recognition of individuals by managers, supervisors, and peers for demonstrating exemplary behaviors that mesh with corporate values. Immediate supervisors or managers can nominate employees for above and beyond displays of performance linked with the values. Recognition at formal award events elevates the importance of walking the talk.

From a strategic perspective, senior leaders must examine current business strategies, which address functional areas such as finance, marketing, sales, management, operations, etc. Armed with internal and external performance indicators and past financial results, business objectives will be established to address present product and service deliveries, the need for future expansion and growth, and the whole balancing act of determining the level of risk involved and capital projections required.

With business objectives set, managers of functional areas can enlist the assistance of each individual by informing them of the desired business goals and committing them to reach those targets. These clear objectives state the quantifiable measures to be achieved, the laid-out timeframes, and identified tactics as well as the outlined resources and personnel required. This is when performance targets can be assigned to various players. It naturally follows that contingent incentives and rewards can be established for achieving these outcomes to reward individuals who meet their goals on time.

For business strategies to be carried out effectively, you must have the personnel in place to make it happen. HR leaders rise to the occasion in showing how human resource strategies support and produce business results. Equipped with business strategies, HR leaders forecast staffing projections and the expertise required. Effective attraction and retention practices can be designed to help obtain and retain a vibrant workforce. Creation of education and development plans will enhance leadership and management competencies through training and other resources. Culture and values are maintained through HR and kept front and center throughout the organization.

So it’s no surprise that employee recognition plays a vital role in reaching your HR strategies. HR leaders are responsible for compensation and benefits, so total rewards and recognition processes start there too. The key point is recognition programs are managed by HR but owned and implemented by everyone else in the organization. Recognition can help you reduce turnover and provide options for everyone to actively attract and recruit new employees because they are rewarded for doing so. Whether designing, facilitating, or implementing programs, HR is the place to make recognition an effective tool for managers. For example, point-based recognition systems are integrated with personnel and payroll systems for ease of automation and efficiency in administering electronic notification, taxation, and on-line management, and reporting.

Recognition is much more than just length-of-service awards and honoring retirees with gold watches. Employee recognition must become an important part of the equation in securing corporate business results. It should be a strategy well worth considering.

Tags: Engaged Workforce, Performance Management & Rewards

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