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Frequently Asked Questions
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As a service to our members, RPI has compiled a list of some frequently asked questions and has asked our Board of Directors to share their experiences. We would also welcome your input. Send your questions or responses to: info@recognition.org.

Q. I've just been given the task of initiating a Recognition Program. Where do I begin?

  • Take a look at your company's vision, values, goals, etc. and determine how recognition can help you achieve those things
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • I would recommend that first a meeting take place with the management team of the group who will sponsor this program, this is important to establish the scope, expectations, goals of the program, budgets accounts established, reporting process and measurement process preferred to evaluate the success of the programs and initiatives. I would also recommend that the program development be a result of cross functional employees who serve as product experts who can accurately evaluate what would be successfully received by each work group, and at the same time be able to propose and recommend which process and policies need to be established in order for your programs to be successful (ie.. Accounting, Legal, mailrooms, a rep from each division of your company).
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • Research is needed. The web is a good place to start. Find out about companies and suppliers who deal in recognition principles. Organizations such as RPI can be a good resource. Make sure the budget is approved and that senior management has bought in. Staff focus groups will help identify needs of your companies staff, and get ideas of the types of recognition they would appreciate. Check out legal and tax aspects of awarding staff with merchandise, travel etc.
    Steve Richardson, Royal Bank of Canada
  • When I was given the task of creating Walt Disney World's first global recognition program, I did extensive external benchmarking with other exceptional companies. I also used two consultants who had been instrumental in setting up noteworthy recognition programs in their own organizations. Then I did internal research using focus groups, surveys and design days to gather input from over 1,000 Disney Cast Members. They really helped create Partners In Excellence, a very successful performance-based, peer-driven program.
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. Do companies normally create new positions specifically to manage and administer a Recognition Program? Are there Recognition Departments? Are the positions normally a part of Human Resources Department?

  • I would say that someone working in Human Resources typically handles corporate-wide recognition programs. Recognition is not typically an employee's sole responsibility within the department. Very few companies have recognition departments but some establish recognition committees that include representatives from all departments throughout the company.
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • My experience has been it that it varies, however those companies who officially appoint such a position benefit from the fact that this allows for established practices in a consistent manner and allows the programs and critical players to develop teamwork, increase a knowledge and efficiency skillbase and ultimately increase the chances that the programs are developed, maintained and enhanced in a professional manner. In our particular case we fall under the People division which also houses HR functions.
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • YES! At Royal Bank, we created a position entitled, Manager, Recognition Programs. I have a staff of 4 reporting to me to service our 50,000 employees. We are part of the Sales Effectiveness dept. I would not recommend setting up the group in the HR dept, as most people will begin to view recognition as compensation, which is the worst possible thing to happen!
    Steve Richardson, Royal Bank of Canada
  • That was the case when I was named Manager of Cast Recognition at the Walt Disney World® Resort in 1995. Our Recognition Team was under Human Resources. It is also the case at CalPERS, which has just added a Recognition Coordinator position. However, as I work with organizations, I insist that all the business units help create and own the various recognition programs. This is not just an HR initiative! I think companies are realizing that in order to gain a competitive advantage, they must have a system in place to reinforce the mission and business goals through recognition. Higher compensation and incentives are short term solutions; recognition is a lasting solution.
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. What suggestions do you have to begin a Peer-to-Peer Recognition Program?

  • Some things that need to be considered include: How will the program be administered? Who can nominate employees fro awards? How large is the budget? What criteria will be used for award levels?
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • A peer to peer recognition program is best accomplished when it is user friendly and well marketed prior to implementation to both the management team prior to roll out so they in turn can help educate employees on a new process that may need internal support in order for all to become comfortable and realize the value and benefit of this type of program.
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • Nomination forms are time consuming but do serve the purpose. Staff can nominate each other for sales and service excellence.
    Steve Richardson, Royal Bank of Canada
  • Get your people involved with the design and implementation of any recognition process and make sure that there is representation from all levels of the organization. Make sure everyone understands the goals you must accomplish then listen to your people. They will tell you what they want to be recognized for and how they want to be recognized. You may be surprised by their answers.
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. What is an average budget for a Recognition Program?

  • This varies by company. I would recommend benchmarking what other companies in your industry or other companies of your size are doing. Any award program vendor should be able to provide benchmarking data like this.
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • This varies on what each company is establishing as its ultimate goal of the recognition program, the size of the company and its demographics, that is the beauty of recognition it can start small and grow with time and measurements of success!
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • Very hard to answer. Ours is approx. $100 per person per year, but this includes funds for an annual recognition conference that only 500 attend each year.
    Steve Richardson, Royal Bank of Canada
  • According to the benchmarking research I've seen, this figure can vary wildly. Some companies invest up to 2% of their payroll, others feel that .05 of 1% is sufficient. Some invest very little. One of the goals of RPI is to help establish some guidelines or standards but that data will have to be gathered over a period of time. A confidential format for sharing this information may make it easier to obtain.
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. What factor is the basis for most Recognition Program budgets?

  • It really depends on your program objectives. Once again, consider what you'd like the program to accomplish and then work towards that goal.
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • This varies on what each company is establishing as its ultimate goal of the recognition program, the size of the company and its demographics, that is the beauty of recognition it can start small and grow with time and measurements of success!
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • Per capita.
    Steve Richardson, Royal Bank of Canada
  • Smart companies are investing in recognition that drives performance and behaviors that further the mission and goals of the organization. Consequently, they are seeing bottom line results. I can tell you that while at Disney during the 25th Anniversary celebration, we saw a 15% increase in the Cast's satisfaction with day-to-day recognition by their immediate supervisors; an overall improvement of 32.6%. We saw correlating Guest satisfaction scores that were very high and showed a strong intent to return, which directly impacted the bottom line. After working with CalPERS for two years, we have seen their recognition scores improve 19%; productivity is increasing, as are customer satisfaction scores.
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. What data is available linking Recognition to a reduction in turnover?

  • Great question. I am not aware of any proof that recognition alone will reduce turnover; however, many studies show that people include lack of recognition as a big part of why they leave their jobs. There are certainly other factors that contribute to leaving.
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • Employee Surveys, published HR reports, attending recognition conferences such as RPI.
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • Yes, I have some very clear data to share! When I first began working with CalPERS, they had low morale scores and a high attrition rate. Today, they enjoy a very low (5%) attrition rate while other California State agencies are in the double digits. Recognition has gone from the least valued to the most valued aspect about working there and CalPERS has become a "destination employer" in the state of California. Senior management has attributed this retention turnaround to the creation of a thriving recognition-based culture!
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. How do I measure the effectiveness of my Recognition Program?

  • One way is through a survey conducted after the employees have had their recognition experience. It is important to evaluate all aspects of the program from program communication, award satisfaction, presentation satisfaction, etc. How well did the program meet the original objectives you set for the program?
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • Depending upon the type of program that is established, you can measure effectiveness by employee surveys, established reports in your company that track performance, attendance and when in need there are many independent companies who specialize in measurement processes.
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • This is the easiest and hardest question to answer. For sales programs, attendance programs, etc. the measurement is straight- forward. Of course the harder part is for non-sales, service etc. Employee morale scores, focus groups etc. will give some gauge as to the success. Also, manger feedback will tell you if the program is working or not. I've also found the unofficial way of "no news is good news". Most staff won't call to say how much they love your recognition program; however, a poorly planned or executed program can light up your phone.
    Steve Richardson, Royal Bank of Canada
  • There are several ways to measure recognition's return on investment. One way is measuring the increase in employee satisfaction and linking it to customer satisfaction scores, you can see how it will impact the bottom line profits. One example is Sears, Roebuck and Co. who has shared that for every 5% increase in employee attitude scores, they see a 1-3% increase in customer satisfaction which translates to a .5% increase in revenue growth. Another way is to look at your attrition. Put dollar values on recruiting, hiring, relocation, retraining and the productivity lost due to high turnover. One high tech company found that by using great people management practices including exceptional recognition, they saved over $40 million dollars in one year by lowering their turnover just a few percentage points.
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. I have a very small budget for Recognition. How can I use it most effectively?

  • The key to successful recognition is doing it for the right reason. Make sure it is sincere or the employees will not appreciate it. Also make sure that any formal recognition you do is accompanied by informal day-to-day recognition. Employees need this just as much.
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • I would recommend working with your management team to establish the desired goals and work with a cross functional task team to bring in the actual hands on experts to evaluate what projects can be easily influenced quickly and create immediate positive experiences, and what projects are long term and would need more time and larger expenditures and set a timeframe and time line for presentation to your management team for approval.
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • Recognition is based in positive human interaction. Although reward is also important, training managers to correctly recognize staff is most of the effort. Also, many suppliers can help you set up a good R&R program with small items.
    Steve Richardson, Royal Bank of Canada
  • Don't let a small budget hold you back! Get a team of people together from all business units/departments and design a low or no-cost peer-driven, day-to-day process for recognition. Even if it's as simple as starting staff meetings with success stories and taking time to verbally thank each other, you will see positive results. Second, ask a respected leader to be the "recognition champion" in your organization. The middle management team will follow his or her lead and take their role in creating a recognition environment much more seriously. Remember that it's everyone's responsibility to give recognition.
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. What are the most popular types of Recognition Awards, i.e. Years of Service; Team, etc.?

  • According to a study conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide, 93% of companies surveyed had service award programs. This type of program was offered more than any other formal program type.
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • This depends on what programs each employee has had the opportunity to participate in. Generally the easier the program participation the better the response.
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • In my consulting work with many companies, I've found that you need a balance of day-to-day, informal and formal recognition. Unless you have a strong foundation built on peer-driven day-to-day recognition, other forms of recognition can be seen as insincere or as "carrot and stick" management manipulation. One of my clients, CalPERS, has been building a solid infrastructure for recognition for over two years and we have strategically focused on day-to-day recognition as the cornerstone. It has been tremendously successful!
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Q. What is the single most important thing to emphasize in a new Recognition Program?

  • Communicate to employees what you are doing and why. This will help you meet your program objectives and it will get people involved. Also make sure managers understand and are committed to the program. Finally, get management buy-in if you want the program to be successful.
    Greg Boswell, O.C. Tanner, Inc.
  • To educate your management teams on recognition. What is recognition versus reward systems, why you recognize, established behaviors you will choose to support and recognize, what is the benefit of having recognition as part of your corporate culture and the impact of choosing not to implement recognition to a corporations efforts in maintaining and attracting quality employees.
    Sandie Hodel, United Airlines, Inc
  • I agree with Greg and Sandie. The more employee involvement you can get and the more communication you do, the more successful your program or process will be. I also feel that leadership support is critical.
    Dee Hansford, Dee Hansford Consulting

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Thank You, Business Partners

2016 Recognition Professionals International

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St. Paul, Minnesota 55114
Phone: 651-290-7490 | Fax: 651-290-2266 | info@recognition.org