What makes employee recognition programmes successful?

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Here’s a typical conversation between an HR business partner and a line manager –

Line Manager – “We are facing a major problem of employee demotivation. I need to fix it asap before my results plummet badly.”

HR business partner – “Well, there could be many things causing demotivation. First, tell me, what is happening about the reward and recognition programme we put in place?”

“Its happening .. but on and off, but that can’t be the reason. We have an awesome incentive plan in place. Its transparent and quite a few employees end up making good money. Infact, its been rated as one of the best ones in the industry”

One of the most common mis-concepts amongst managers is to equate incentive schemes with reward and recognition programmes. However, one needs to understand the very crucial difference between the two. While incentive programmes focus on the what (what was your target achievement this year?), recognition programmes focus on the how (how did you go about achieving such great results?). While incentives urge employees to attain a particular target in a defined time frame, recognitions are more long term. Recognitions revolve around the behaviours displayed by the employees to reach the end results especially behaviours that are aligned with your company’s core values. They recognize employees for the effort put in in achieving a set of results. Traditional annual performance reviews can be frustrating if there is no discussion and understanding of what employees have been doing. It is even more frustrating when employees have been going out of their way to deliver results, and they receive no recognitions for their effort.

As such, the first principle of an effective recognition programme is quite simple – give recognitions based on behaviours. Find a platform (newsletter, online forum, cafeteria meetings etc) where you share what your employees have done to get the recognition. Share specific behaviours and link them to the company’s core values.

The other important aspect of an effective recognition programme is that it should be continuous and real time. To achieve this, encourage your whole organization to give out recognitions regardless of their positions. Recognitions should not necessarily trickle from top to bottom.

One of the most pertinent examples of an effective employee recognition programme is NSF International, a public health and safety organization headquartered in Michigan. The company has tripled in size over the last 10 years, including opening new offices in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. As NSF grew and spanned across more time zones, real time employee recognition and engagement had become a challenge. They launched a global recognition programme, called ‘Give a WOW’ which helped connect all of NSF’s employees worldwide, regardless of location or time zone, to provide a platform for positive recognition and engagement. In addition, NSF incorporated their seven values as the recognition categories, ensuring that they were reinforced on a daily basis. Further, even in their performance rating mechanism, rating officials were encouraged to consider all relevant indicators of levels of performance, to include relationships between organizational success and individual employee performance, and between employee conduct and employee performance. Needless to say, the programme has been a huge success.

In conclusion, if you want your employees to do their best because they are passionate about your company and its mission and not just because you are giving them a financial incentive to do so, it is important to send out a message saying that you care about what they are doing, and you want to thank them for their efforts. A well designed employee recognition programme does exactly that.

 

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