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Recognition in The Real World
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Award Winner Profile: MIT

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the 2016 recipient of RPI’s Best Practice Award for a simple reason: MIT understands the value of recognition as a positive way to reinforce attitudes and behaviors that support a successful, dynamic organization.

As detailed in a white paper recently released by the well-respected school, MIT has identified seven best practice standards for their recognition program. Here is an overview of how it works, with significant additional detail available in the full report:

Standard 1: Recognition Strategy

MIT’s Rewards and Recognition (RR) program was designed to recognize exceptional work specifically from MIT staff. The program includes all levels of employment and all Departments, Labs, and Centers (DLCs).

Standard 2: Management Responsibility

To ensure that the recognition program would be adopted throughout all areas of MIT, the originating Committee worked collaboratively to build a program and consensus. With buy-in from senior leaders, the R+R Committee established a network of 24 RR Key Contacts across MIT.

Standard 3: Recognition Program Measurement

MIT measures the success of the RR program in multiple ways. One is by assessing outreach during key nomination periods to be sure that the programs are accessible to all staff. MIT’s dedicated web pages on the recognition program contain critical information on nominating for the Excellence Awards + Collier Medal, and also for the other tiers of the recognition program.

Standard 4: Communication Plan

Communication and outreach for the MIT Excellence Awards + Collier Medal are handled by the RR Program Administrator. Calls for nominations, information about the process and award criteria are branded with the award-specific logo and linked to the RR website for ease of use.

Standard 5: Recognition Training

From the start of their time at MIT, staff are acquainted with the recognition program. Staff at every level attend New Employee Orientation where the recognition program is explained. New staff are invited to attend department recognition events and/or participate in planning and implementation of those events.

Standard 6: Recognition Events and Celebrations

MIT believes that a critical component of recognition is a celebratory event where recipients are acknowledged formally with family, friends, and colleagues attending. The recognition program is structured to include the annual all-MIT Excellence awards ceremony, and the 24 department-centric Infinite Mile events.

Standard 7: Program Change and Flexibility

The RR Program Administrator is the point person for initiating changes, with input from senior leaders and RR Key Contacts. Award categories, the nomination, and selection process are under continuous review for the MIT Excellence Awards and the 24 Infinite Mile and Spot awards. As the administrators, RR Key Contacts act as change agents for their units, and an advisory board for the R&R program overall.

MIT is proud of the global diversity of its staff, and the recognition program is proud to honor that diversity. In 2012, with support from the Manager of Staff Diversity, a significant change was made to the Fostering Diversity Award to change to the Advancing Inclusion + Global Perspectives Excellence Award, better reflecting MIT’s distinct culture.

Tags:  best practice  recognition  recognition strategy 

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Recognition. Incentive. Reward.

Posted By Society for Incentive Travel Excellence , Monday, January 30, 2017

Recognition. Incentive. Reward. There’s a whole lot of confusion what to use when. The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Foundation recently took a look at the ways in which we drive behaviour and performance through a series of articles.

The results offered a few intriguing insights and thoughts, including:

Companies that invest more than 1% of payroll on recognition 79% more likely to see better financial results. 
(Read the full article — Incentive vs. Recognition – What to Use When – and Why)

You can’t always measure ROI — which is why VOI might be a better metric. 
(Apply for the white paper— Using Recognition and Incentives to Drive Results)

Do the terms “recognition” and “incentive” even matter to practitioners?
(Find out more from industry leaders Michelle Smith and Paul Hebert in — The View from Here)

You can’t always measure ROI — which is why VOI might be a better metric.
(Download the white paper by Jill Anonson of ITA Group— Using Recognition and Incentives to Drive Results)



Tags:  recognition 

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Creative Ideas Abound as Recognition Day 2017 Approaches

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Friday, January 27, 2017

It was a really simple idea at its conception in 1995. Bob Nelson, a renowned speaker on the importance of employee recognition developed the notion of Recognition Day offering a designated spot on the calendar to celebrate the individuals whose accomplishments benefit organizations and companies.

Scheduled for the first Friday in March, the 2017 version of Recognition Day is coming up on March 3. Recognition Professionals International experts recently held an informative webinar to discuss ideas for making sure employees feel valued, not just on the first Friday in March but all year.

Presenters Theresa Harkins and Barbara Ruddy noted that the goal of Recognition Day, and of employee recognition in general, is to create a culture of encouragement in the workplace. Done right, these efforts can not only improve the atmosphere in any organization, they can lead to measurable results in areas like retention and productivity.

Among the ideas Harkins and Ruddy presented for Recognition Day activities included:

Food – Everyone loves free food, be it a simple snack, a sweet treat, or a full meal, and there’s something special about an employee being served a meal by their supervisor that reinforces the notion of value and recognition. Everything from food truck appearances to ice cream socials are encouraged as a way to recognize employees through food.

Team activities – Getting out of the office is imperative to the mental health of employees; even if it’s just to the parking lot for a group stretch.  Team activities can be a valuable way to recognize employees and foster a team spirit among members of your organization. Make the office feel different for a day. Some workplaces practice theme days, where workers dress in the colors of their favorite sports team, or emulate their favorite superhero. Games like Jenga contests or a video game setup can bring a spirit of friendly competition to the workplace as well.

Wellness – Some workplaces provide healthy snacks or energy-boosting foods to give employees a needed jumpstart, especially in the afternoons. A popular wellness activity is to bring in massage professionals to provide back and neck rubs a day or two each year.

Other ideas

  • Create a workplace cookbook, with each employee contributing their favorite recipe, and each of them getting a “book” featuring all of the foods. 
  • Remember off-site and “virtual” employees and find ways to include them, so they feel as recognized and valued as on-site employees.
  • Whatever you do, start small and build gradually, with more activities and edibles as the employee recognition culture grows within your organization.

For other webinars and a wealth of information on Recognition Day, please visit the RPI website at

Tags:  recognition  recognition day 

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Building Your Recognition Muscles – How to Keep Recognition on Track Throughout the Year

Posted By C.A. Short, Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's that time of the year. Health clubs and gyms are busy with the onslaught of people who have decided the new year is when they will finally focus on fitness and health.

It happens year after year. Folks start out with enthusiasm, motivated to create a new reality for themselves, but over the course of the year that enthusiasm falls off - gradually for some, and quickly for others. The regular fitness buffs sometimes even avoid the gym for the first month or two of the year, until the resolution-based users begin to fade away once again.

Unfortunately, the same thing often happens with employee recognition.

When a new program kicks off, or an exciting, high-energy recognition-oriented event is held, the ensuing weeks are filled with a flurry of "thank you" and “you’re awesome!” notes. Managers give away points like candy, as well as little items of appreciation and a box of doughnuts on Friday. But before long, it’s less and less frequent, until few, if any, are participating anymore. So, just like in the gym, we begin to build our muscles but that progress goes out the window and we become flabby once again.

So, how do we build our recognition muscles, and how do we keep it constant, vibrant and top-of-mind throughout the year?  Just like in fitness, it’s important that recognition is regular and frequent with a lifetime of benefit.

Here are just a few tips for maintaining top recognition fitness:

  1. Again, make it frequent – For it to be truly effective, recognize employees on a regular basis. It’s been proven in a number of studies that the best response comes from receiving some simple form of recognition every seven days.
  2. Schedule it! – We all get busy, but don’t let recognition fall through the cracks. Whatever program or platform you use for scheduling, why not schedule days and times on your calendar for recognizing your team?
  3. Don’t Wait! – There’s no time like the present. Studies have shown that on-the-spot recognition is highly effective.
  4. Be unambiguous! – What is the specific action or behavior you are rewarding? Don’t just say you are rewarding someone for being productive. What was the exact thing the employee did to contribute to the success of a project or goal of the team?
  5. Make it heartfelt – When rewarding or recognizing someone, let them know how much it meant to you and how it helped you or the team and tell them immediately. This will let them know your appreciation is genuine.

Most of all, if you stay motivated about recognizing your team throughout the year, you will build a healthy recognition regimen, and in turn, keep your team motivated and strong. 

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5 keys to modernizing your formal awards program

Posted By TemboSocial, Monday, December 19, 2016
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2016

Overcoming the three pitfalls impeding success of your enterprise awards program is much easier today than it was in past years. Internal channels to reach employees are freely available, updated Intranet systems leverage social connections and content syndication to amplify your program, and workflow management and reporting tools bring you the same advantage currently enjoyed by other lines of business in your company.

Generating a volume of nominations, managing and monitoring the shortlisting process and administering a workflow that results in the most deserving employee accepting their award at the Gala can be the new normal. Here are the key elements of a successful and modern awards program:

  1. Available - Employees can access the award nomination process directly from the main pages of your Intranet

  2. Automated - Employees are prompted to nominate colleagues as part of the regular course of their day-to-day business

  3. Flexible - One system to administer enterprise-wide, regional, departmental and high volume awards such as Years of Service

  4. Amplified - Winners can display their awards within their online profile enhancing their personal brand while creating sustained awareness of the awards program

  5. Efficient - Real-time nomination and shortlisting activity reporting with data exports for the award committee and executive team

Awards programs motivate employees, validate accomplishment and reinforce the knowledge that contributions are valued by the corporation. Ideally the impact the awards program has on performance levels, retention and customer satisfaction is measured and tracked.

To learn more visit

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Bringing it all Together – Celebrating Recognition Throughout the Year

Posted By David Layman, Thursday, December 15, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Don’t Put Off Recognition Until the End of the Year!

Chances are you’ve long ago planned your organization’s big holiday event or celebration for December.  But hopefully this year-end celebration is the culmination of many recognition opportunities and events over the course of the year.

That’s right, it’s not enough to have just one big blowout at the end of the year. Regular employee recognition, and recognition events planned throughout the year, is a vital part of creating and maintaining a recognition culture.

Service Awards Don’t Drive Performance

Many companies use their year-end event to recognize employees for years of service. In fact, a WorldatWork study showed that this type of recognition is the most used type of employee recognition. Another study from Bersin & Associates found that 87 percent of all recognition programs focused on tenure.

While still a great way to recognize employees, tenure-based recognition misses a lot of opportunities. With employees switching jobs at an ever-increasing rate (especially among millennials), tenures tend to be much shorter. In fact, a Gallup study showed that 21 percent of millennials say they have changed jobs within the past year. That’s three times the number of non-millennials. If you are waiting five years to recognize employees you may miss the opportunity to give recognition and you may end up losing high potential employees before they ever make it to the five-year mark.

“Tensure” is a long held tradition in the field of recognition, but more and more companies are seeing the value of achievement based recognition.

Employee Recognition Using the Three-Dimensional Approach

Asked about how leaders could best improve engagement, 58 percent of employees responded “give recognition.” (Psychometrics, A Study of Employee Engagement in the Canadian Workplace).
The key to making recognition work is making it frequent.

Through academic study and best practices from top organizations, RPI has found and recommended that the best system for giving recognition is a three-dimensional approach.  This includes Day-to-Day, Informal and Formal recognition.

Day-to-Day Recognition is fairly self explanatory. It is the epitome of frequent. It can be really simple, like a thank you note or verbal recognition at a team meeting. It could also include ways for employees to give peers or fellow team members praise. It can include simple rewards, or even small events, that recognize employees for a job well done.

Informal Recognition is similar, recognizing employees or teams for achieving certain milestones or completing projects. Celebrations may include low cost mementos or refreshments as a way to celebrate achievements or outstanding positive behavior.

Formal Recognition usually includes more defined measurements of achievement, usually lined to organizational goals. This often includes a nomination and selection process and a formal awards ceremony. This is generally done at an annual event, like an awards dinner or other type of formal celebration. 

It’s All Recognition and It’s All Celebration

While there are many ways to give recognition throughout the year, what it comes down to is that recognition is really celebrating an individual or team for success. Everybody wants to be appreciated. Whether it’s appropriate to recognize achievements with small gestures or elaborate events, it should be done frequently and sincerely. The result will be a more engaged, more productive organization.

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Recognition in Holiday Movies

Posted By David Layman, Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Classic films celebrate holiday fun, but also point to reflection, assessment, change and transformation

The moment Clark plugs in the lights and everything comes to life.

It’s a classic Christmas film moment, and this time of year, it seems that few of us can get enough of those moments – like Ralphie’s quest for a BB gun in The Christmas Story.
It’s a fascinating thought that this is the time of year that we use film as a path to self-reflection. One of the obvious ones is It’s a Wonderful Life, where George Bailey finds out what life might have been like without him. He sees that despite some aspects of his life that he considers failures, he has actually accomplished more than he ever realized.

Another favorite is the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. This story is essentially about looking at our lives and recognizing the mistakes and missteps – the places where the main character, the miserable old Ebenezer Scrooge, could have made different decisions that might have changed his life.
Scrooge’s long suffering employee Bob Crachit has always been an intriguing character. He slaves away at meager wages and somehow maintains a sunny disposition.  He goes home to his family who get by on little but are somehow still able to enjoy holiday cheer. Crachit even goes so far as toast his horrible employer. When Scrooge is transformed overnight, it’s tempting to see this change in the way he finally throws his money around, but the real transformation is in the way he is finally able to change his views about the people around him – their value – and in the way he treats them.

Recognition is about Valuing People

Hopefully, none of us needs three ghosts to change the way we appreciate those around us. But the holiday season, and even just the completion of another year, is a great opportunity to think about what we could do better.

In recognition, we often talk about the transformation it can have on an organization’s culture. We focus on the employee and how we can change that employee’s engagement level, productivity or attitude toward their job and the company.

A survey by Socialcast found that 69 percent of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated. Even old Scrooge, at his most miserly, would agree that this would be beneficial to his bottom line.

Don’t Ignore Assessment Findings

Reflecting on our efforts in recognition and employee engagement within our organizations is critical.  Assessment of recognition programs is an essential part of their success. What components were successful and where could we improve? Scrooge would have benefited from a simple SWOT analysis. He also could have done an employee survey, but what good would it have done if he had ignored Crachit’s concerns?

How often do we look at our Strengths, while neglecting to see the Weaknesses, Opportunities or Threats? How often do we ignore our own surveys or measurements?

An unvarnished look back at our program or how we interact with each other – how leadership or management interacts with employees – can show us the changes that need to be made, perhaps some drastic changes. But if we are unwilling to change based on past experiences, we may face negative consequences. Sometimes we are unwilling to see that changes are necessary until we envision those consequences. Scrooge was moved but remained unconvinced until he saw what his future held.
The experiences of quite a few highly successful companies, along with statistics and academic findings, have shown the value of employee recognition and how it contributes to higher engagement, productivity and retention. The consequence of not heeding our own assessments in recognizing employees could certainly have devastating consequences on your organization’s culture.

As we reflect on the past year, we should keep in mind that the success in the coming one is predicated on our willingness to celebrate our successes and take a hard look at our failures – as well as to recognize it is a wonderful life – and we hold the power to transform our own lives and the lives of those around us.

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3 common failings of formal awards programs

Posted By TemboSocial, Monday, December 12, 2016
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2016

The pain points tied to the annual awards program are legendary. The most common complaints we hear are that nomination volumes are low year after year and the end-to-end management of the awards process ranges from frustrating, all the way to torturous.   

Is this familiar to you as well, where everyone dreads the process except maybe the award winner - assuming the process results in the most deserving candidate being selected?

Here are 3 reasons that may explain why your formal awards program is failing:

  1. Low nomination volume - Employees know who the rock stars are in your company; they work with them every day. Nothing does long-term harm to your awards program like selecting a less than deserving winner in the eyes of your employees. If your program is not visible and easily accessible, then you are probably seeing low nomination volume, possibly selecting the wrong winner, and likely diminishing the value of the awards program for your company.

  2. Reviewing and shortlisting - After nominations are submitted, the reviewing and shortlisting phase begins. At this point, program success is dependent on the people or committees assigned to review and advance the best possible candidates. As the program owner, you struggle with timely feedback and a worrying lack of transparency over the candidate review process. The question remains; are the most deserving employees being presented to the Award Committee? 

  3. Workflow management and reporting - Enterprise award programs are more than a nice-to-have. They exist to shape culture, retain talent and sustain business success. Business success is dependent on proper workflows and timely reporting. Think of the investments your company has made in the past three years and it will surely include modern systems such as ERP, Finance or HRIS. Not having real-time reporting and transparency into the nomination and shortlisting activity means that you are flying blind, unlike the other departments who have the proper tools.

To learn more visit

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Don’t Forget Training When Assessing Your Recognition Program

Posted By David Layman, Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why CRP Certification Works

RPI’s Best Practice Standards help organizations with an overview of how best to set up, implement and maintain an effective recognition program. These standards were developed through extensive academic research in recognition, as well as knowledge gained from professional conferences and shared experiences in developing successful recognition programs.

To ensure success, companies should develop a plan that addresses each of the seven best practices, and routinely assess and measure whether each standard is being met.

Unfortunately, recognition training, which is one of the seven best practices, is often overlooked. Having people in your company who are trained in recognition principles can be instrumental to your program’s continued success.

Here are some reasons you should consider signing up for RPI’s Recognition Fundamentals or Certified Recognition Professionals (CRP) courses today:

  1. RPI’s recognition training, including CRP and Recognition Fundamentals, is extremely useful and applicable to a wide variety of participants who deal with employee recognition, engagement or other employee issues on a day-to-day basis, including practitioners involved in recognition programs, recognition resource providers and HR.

  2. Credibility and dedication to recognition best practices – RPI’s Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) training is the best training in the industry. Program goals set out by RPI include: raising professional standards of those engaged in employee recognition; encouraging continued education for professional development; encouraging self-development by offering guidelines for achievement in the employee recognition profession; and awarding and identifying special recognition to those persons who have demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of those principles and practices of employee recognition and also laws governing and affecting employee recognition.

  3. Network of recognition industry peers – participating in the in-person training allow you to work with professionals from a wide range of industries who are working in recognition.

  4. Recertification – RPI offers recertification of the CRP designation which helps individuals to keep up to date on new issues and trends related to recognition. It also is a personal investment that adds to your credibility in keeping current with recognition learning.

  5. Convenience – CRP classes are offered at RPI’s annual conference so it is easy to participate in RPI and to have the opportunity for continued education in recognition. However, the courses are now being offered online, which makes it even easier to learn and get certified.  

Start your Certified Recognition Professional® (CRP) curriculum with Structuring Recognition Programs for Success (CRP I), which is now also offered online. The curriculum has been refreshed based on input from past participants and the 7 Best Practice Standards, and offers valuable content with Building a Recognition Blueprint (formerly CRP II), Designing and Implementing Recognition Programs (Formerly CRP III) and Creating a Recognition Culture (formerly CRP IV). These three additional CRP courses are available at the RPI Annual Conference.  

CRP certification helps guide participants through this Best Practice process and produce measurable benefits for their organizations. For more, go to

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Creating Recognition Champions: The Benefits of Recognition Training

Posted By David Layman, Wednesday, November 30, 2016

No matter where your organization currently stands in terms of a recognition program – whether it is an existing program or in the planning stages – for it to be effective you need recognition champions who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable and can help support the program and help make it work.

Training and education in employee recognition and engagement is vital if you are truly interested in building a recognition culture. And why wouldn’t you be? Recognition is tied to greater engagement and productivity, as well as better employee retention. In fact, companies in the top 20 percent for “recognition-rich culture” have over a 30 percent lower voluntary turnover rate, according to a Bersin by Deloitte study.

Employees who receive training in recognition become company ambassadors and evangelists, and help cultivate recognition in the organization. They serve not only as examples of how it is done but also resources to help educate others around them about recognition.

RPI offers several ways to increase your knowledge about recognition, including the online Recognition Fundamentals program which offers a basic overview of recognition, and the more in-depth four-module Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) training.

There are many ways you can benefit from participating in recognition training:

  • You will become an in-house resource for your company or help breathe new life into an existing program by learning and passing on knowledge about recognition programs and how/why they work.
  • You can help make sure your recognition program aligns with your company culture, and evaluate changes that can be made to that will work best within your organization.
  • You’ll be a go-to a resource for managers and other employees about Best Practices for recognition and how it drives employee engagement.
  • You will be up-to-date about trends in recognition, including social recognition, technology, gamification, service awards, celebrations and incentive programs and other ways to drive employee engagement.

Above all, you will see how recognition can transform your business by making employees more engaged and more productive – where you’ll attract the best employees and keep them. Find out more about RPI’s Certified Recognition Professional courses by going to

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