An Employee Recognition Strategy Is Just That – a Strategy

You may have seen the episode of Mad Men when Don Draper asserts to one of his colleagues, “That’s an idea, not a strategy.”

And so it is with an employee recognition program.  Many firms decide to “do some nice things” for their employees, and yes they may have some nice ideas, but they have not taken the time to develop a true employee recognition strategy.  And without a clear strategy, the program is doomed to fail.

Strategy is not easy.  It takes a lot of thinking and planning. An assessment is necessary, with a baseline measurement of how employees feel they are recognized (if at all!). 

Recognition strategy must include:

  • management responsibility
  • a communications plan
  • employee recognition training
  • a plan for events and celebrations
  • measurement
  • flexibility to modify the recognition program
  • reviews
  • reporting of results

Most importantly, an employee recognition program must be aligned with the company’s mission and culture, and must advance the organization’s objectives (both internal and external objectives).

Companies need to recognize that there are many forms and levels of employee recognition: day-to-day; informal recognition; formal recognition; events that employees look forward to.

Effective leaders know that a strategic, consistent recognition strategy can go a long way in reducing staff turnover, increasing employee productivity, and creating an environment where people want to stay and new employee prospects want to be part of the organization.  These are real bottom line considerations.

Think about your organization’s mission statement, your values.  Does the organization hold true to these in terms of the way it treats its employees?  Think about the worker who passes by the framed poster touting your mission: does he or she feel included, rewarded?  Or do they say, “Yeah, sure…” 

Organizations have all kinds of strategies for prospecting, increasing sales and customer retention, so doesn’t it make sense to also have an employee recognition strategy?

To remain competitive, companies need to recruit and keep the best people it can find; people who are not only competent, but who feel like they are part of the bigger picture, part of the mission.

Keep in mind too that an employee recognition program is not for the top few percent of “achievers” – it’s for all employees.  The hourly shop floor person or the mail clerk is just as important as the v.p.  Every employee needs to be recognized.

Don’t overlook peer-to-peer recognition programs since it’s just as valuable to an employee to give recognition as it is to receive it.

Follow the numbers, with sharp measurement of your recognition program.  You can bet that your HR director and your president will insist on looking at your program’s results, in data form.

Employee recognition programs are also an effective way to promote wellness and safety programs, and reward employees for innovation. 

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Remember, an idea is not strategy, and strategy is not an idea! 

If your organization has a carefully thought-out mission statement and meaningful values, then it should align its mission and culture with an employee recognition strategy.