Does Your Recognition Program Need an Overhaul?

BY Kathy Crosett
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We all like to think that our employee recognition programs support our positive work environments. Is that happening at your company? Or do your employees secretly hope you'll start giving out gift cards instead of watches?

The 2019 Trends in Employee Recognition report, produced by WorldatWork and Maritz Motivation, surveyed over 440 employers to find out what’s new in recognition. Analysts report that the vast majority of businesses, 87%, maintain a recognition system. Around 23% of employers have a formal system in place. Another 69% also allow for unplanned gestures of appreciation.

The most commonly used systems reward employees for:

  • Length-​of-​service 72%
  • Above-​and-​beyond performance 62%
  • Spot recognition 55%
  • Retirement 46%

Other recognition programs reward specific types of employees. For example, 28% of businesses recognize individuals who excel when selling. And some businesses reward any employee who demonstrates desired behavior. Top examples include instituting a cost-​savings program (26%) or achieving a wellness goal (25%).

Measuring Recognition Program Success

In addition to formalizing your program, you should also measure its success. At companies with biometric/​wellness programs, 40% of employees have been recognized. And managers have recognized about 22% of employees with spot programs. 

These statistics don’t necessarily mean team members appreciate these gestures. By far, employee satisfaction surveys serve as the most frequently used measurement tool, with 65% of survey respondents selecting that option. If you haven’t been asking your team members for feedback, it's time to start. 

Latest Trends in Recognition

Most companies, 70%, ask the manager to give the award to the employee during a one-​on-​one meeting. A bigger venue is also popular with 66% of companies using a staff or team meeting for this purpose. Just over half, 53%, call attention to the honored employee during a banquet or luncheon.

The most popular types of rewards include gift cards (62%) and cash (not compensation-​related) 50%. At least 20% of organizations now allow recipients to select their gift. This kind of flexibility increases personalization for the recipient. 

Recognition programs account for about 0.3% of an organization’s budget. Given that fact, you don't want to waste money. These programs can lose their appeal if employees believe managers play favorites. One way to get around that problem is to establish a peer-​recognition program. When co-​workers vote to recognize a peer for outstanding effort, they feel empowered. In addition, the team will work as a cohesive unit.

Don’t be afraid to make changes to your long-​standing employee recognition program. Managed properly, these programs should increase employee loyalty and engagement and improve culture.