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What Most Companies Get Wrong About Employee Recognition Programs

May 8, 2018
| ByGina Jessica Smith

The workforce has grown dramatically recently, yet many employee recognition programs have not. When a recognition program doesn’t evolve and grow with its employee base, it can suffer from lack of use or, even worse, it can demotivate employees.

Here are six reasons your company's recognition program is not serving its purpose, maximizing its ROI and motivating your employees.

1. There is no publicity attached to the recognition.

You are not only rewarding the employee who performed well when you deliver social recognition - you're motivating their peers to model similar behaviors. Employee recognition that happens behind closed doors can actually be a deterrent to the growth of motivation among your employees, so if you’re not taking advantage of social recognition, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to cultivate a culture of recognition that’s effective and meaningful.

2. It is all about the reward and not about recognition.

Rewarding an employee with a bonus for performing exceptionally isn't a bad thing to do. But those policies can backfire on employers when they begin to develop mindsets that focus purely on compensation. If employees are rewarded only with cash, then you will build a workforce focused solely on monetary gain. But if you reward performance with travel and experiences, you can develop a more profound sense of commitment and loyalty from the employees to your company.

3. It is controlled entirely by a manager.

The time when a guy in a suit in a corner office gave out favors based on his inclinations is a thing of the past. In the same vein - top-down recognition is also in the grave. Employee recognition should be done at every level of your management structure, and employees should be able to recognize their peers and bosses alike.

4. It is lost in a sea of half-hearted attempts at recognition.

Specific recognition, delivered promptly, means more to employees than a shoutout at the quarterly all-staff meeting. Providing praise and appreciation for hard work and achievement in a prompt manner will go a long way to developing lasting motivation. Additionally, if your recognition sounds generic and would fit anyone from any team, it's time to update your vocabulary. Effective employee recognition programs need to have specific expectations for the particular performance or activities that actually mean something to that employee, department or branch.

5. It fails to take into account what actually motivates employees.

You should never assume you know what motivates every single employee. Just like one-size-fits-all clothing rarely fits anyone, so too do employee recognition programs. Before investing in what you think your employees want, ask them, learn the nuances and generational makeup of your workforce and then speak with an employee recognition partner that understands your unique business. 

6. It is not actually linked to any company strategy or purpose.

Your employee recognition program should recognize both the software developer who stayed late to help fix a bug and the person who spearheaded healthier snacks in the vending machines. But overall, your recognition program should focus on every contribution that moves your company's strategy or purpose forward.

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