Does Your Recognition System Need a Reboot?


You may have heard stories from your parents or grandparents about old-​school recognition programs – something along the lines of receiving a gold watch and being shown the door after twenty years of stellar service. In today’s competitive environment, you need to do better.

In its survey of over 180 companies, Rewardian asked why businesses are investing in recognition programs. The top objectives include improving employee motivation (79%), encouraging employees to take initiative (68%) and aligning employee behavior with organizational values (57%).

Those objectives may be similar to what businesses have sought for decades. What’s changed is how and when the recognition occurs. Only 15% of organizations stick to the annual recognition timeline. They may be handing out prizes at the annual sales or company-​wide meeting. In some cases, this process means an employee might have waited eleven months to learn that managers were delighted with their efforts.

Some businesses are getting the message that making employees wait for recognition doesn’t align with their goals of encouraging them to take initiative. Approximately 33% of organizations now have no specific timelines on when to recognize a job well done. When employees exceed expectations on a task, spot recognition can take place. If the work effort is substantial enough, a reward in the form of a certificate or voucher, cash, gift item or plaque, can make a big impression on the employee who receives it and on team members who witness the recognition event.

Leaders should also tap into another trend in the recognition industry. This one’s all about peer-​to-​peer and junior-​to-​senior recognition. Employees appreciate the opportunity to recognize a peer or boss when they do a great job. This kind of recognition system gives employees agency toward thinking about how everyone's actions lead to achieving organizational goals.

To be successful, consider formalizing your recognition program. You may want to budget by department for recognition costs. About 75% of companies formally do so. The Rewardian survey indicates costs range from under 0.25% (36%) of payroll to over 2% (9%).

As recognition programs grow in importance, you may also want to use technology to track the process and impact of this investment. Currently, leaders use email (32%), town-​hall meetings (26%) and the intranet (17%) as top tools for communicating about rewards and recognition. To assess the impact of these programs, leaders are tapping employee feedback (31%) and company-​wide surveys (19%). They're also tracking attrition and productivity changes (19%).


Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.