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5 Critical Factors to Designing an Employee Recognition Program


Recognition programs constantly evolve and grow with companies and it’s never set in stone. Here are five critical factors that should always be considered.

Gallup tells us that employee recognition programs can increase individual productivity and customer satisfaction, enhance teamwork and increase retention of quality employees, and lower negative effects such as absenteeism and stress. It all sounds great, but the path to employee happiness isn’t always clear. According to WorldatWork, almost half (49 percent) of all organizations don’t have a written strategy for their recognition efforts, and there are many organizations who don’t know where to start when designing a program from the ground up.

A recognition program constantly evolves and grows with the company and is never set in stone, but there are five critical factors that should always be considered when designing one:

  1. Celebrate Milestones – With more than 91 percent of organizations using them, service awards are the cornerstone of any recognition program, providing a strong base to build other programs on top of. Celebrating milestones in and outside of work comes quite naturally to us, and due to service awards being a standard offering for the last several decades, some form of anniversary recognition is more or less expected by today’s workforce to keep them engaged and connected to the organization.
  2. Use Peer-to-Peer Nominations – Changing the workplace culture is always an elusive goal, but peer-to-peer nominations offer the most direct path to achieving it. Giving employees a bank of points to nominate each other for going above and beyond with suitably relevant and attractive gifts puts the power to motivate in the hands of everyone in your organization. Rewarding employees with performance incentives such as peer-to-peer have been shown to achieve an average 22 percent increase in work performance.
  3. Link Company Goals to Recognition – Many times recognition collapses within an organization because it is not strongly supported from the top down. Sit down with the decision-makers in your organization and decide on specific, concrete goals for your recognition program before implementing it. Do you want to lower turnover, increase engagement, or increase profits? How about all three? Without desired results in mind, it is difficult to track and measure the success of any program.
  4. Have a Social Element – The workplace has always been a social arena, but today’s employees expect it to be even more so. Recognition tools that can be used like social media have grown by leaps and bounds, and are essential for engaging younger (18-34) employees and keeping them interested. By easily allowing constant messaging and interactivity, it’s also a great way to keep recognition programs top-of-mind for everyone throughout the year.
  5. Involve Employees – Trust us, your employees are more than willing to tell you what they need to feel properly recognized, so ask them and use the information to make your program that much more appealing. Then follow up, asking them about the program regularly to see how you can tweak and improve accordingly. Also plan for in-person celebrations and honoring ceremonies when employees reach major milestones, giving them time to relax, reflect, and enjoy the moment.

While it’s certainly not all things to consider when designing a program, these are the five we stress the most with each new customer. For all the ballyhoo that accompanies it, successful employee recognition is really no mystery – it just takes proper planning.