CEO’s Letter: “Recognizing” Culture

This month we publish the Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Ratings for employee recognition services. Congratulations to Achievers who ranked at the top of this year’s list, and to Madison who led for quality of service and to all of the other providers that made the list. The recognition services market is changing and that change should be interesting for all of the HR community.  

If you go back to the dim, dark recesses of the past (like 15 years ago), the recognition industry was really the “recognition and rewards” industry with a heavy emphasis on rewards. They focused on things such as service award pins and tenure service awards, and offered catalogues from which employees could choose prizes. I remember my first summer job in a fast-food restaurant and their “Employee of the Month” plaque featuring a bunch of faces and blank spaces for future months. The idea of honoring people for great service goes back thousands of years. Even the service pins came to the corporate world from the armed services. Basically, if you want certain behaviors, you have to honor them and call them out to reinforce them.  

Today, with the advent of so much more social science research on employee populations, HR has a more sophisticated sense of what employees see as valuable in recognition. It turns out that while monetary awards have some impact, they don’t have as much as people think. That is why so many recognition-based cash equivalent gift cards go unredeemed. And, the gift catalogs of home decor items, sports equipment, watches, and electronics have even less impact. This is not to say they have no value, but they are not the be-all and end-all of what employees want. While there are some variations in the multi-generational workforce, gift cards and products are only one part of a much bigger story.  

And that story leads us to the evolution of the recognition industry. The top of the Baker’s Dozen list in recognition in recent years has been dominated by the companies that focused on the technological development of employee communication platforms built around both monetary incentives and social recognition. We know from social science research that what many employees want most is for someone to say thank you, to be recognized in front of their peers, and to believe the recognition is authentic. These new tech platforms deliver that, create engagement, and some even train managers to provide recognition in more authentic ways. 

These recognition platforms are one of the key employee communication tools and recognition can drive both engagement and retention. Most of today’s service partners also provide guidance and consulting on program design and employee engagement. In fact, many of these platforms offer pulse survey capabilities, and I have been predicting for years that the employee engagement survey businesses and the recognition service providers would begin to blend together. Engagement can tell you what has happened; recognition can help ensure what happens next. It would seem the services belong together, but that is taking some time.  

In the interim, if you have an employee recognition program that does not offer the technological sophistication to measure engagement or even how often employees log on and other performance metrics, then you have a service product that is grounded more in the past than in the present and the future. You should rethink your strategy and reach out to a provider that can show you a technological platform that can do much more than just redeem points. Please enjoy the coverage of this year’s Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Ratings for Recognition. 

Elliot S. Clark


Tags: CEO's Letter, July August 2023

Recent Articles