Six Hallmarks of a Best-in-Class Employee… | Gagen MacDonald

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Six Hallmarks of a Best-in-Class Employee Recognition Program

Mar 03, 2015

If high levels of engagement drive business results, and recognition is consistently viewed as a top driver of engagement, then why aren’t more companies investing in recognition programs? Research shows that strategic recognition programs contribute to higher levels of employee engagement, increased feelings of pride, reduced turnover, and in some cases, improved customer satisfaction. These six hallmarks will help you build your best-in-class employee recognition program.

1. Align your program to company strategy and values.

The program should align with the needs and expectations of the workforce. It has to connect to employees’ day-to-day reality and what you’re already asking them to do. For example, a recognition program for a pharmaceutical company may focus on innovation and agility, while a manufacturing company’s program could be aligned with safety and operating excellence.

Tying recognition to strategic objectives and values reinforces the sort of thinking and behaviors you’d like to see more of in your organization. When done correctly, great recognition programs show employees how the work they do contributes to the bottom line. They provide tangible evidence of great strategy execution.

2. Get senior leaders on board.

Establishing a culture of appreciation and implementing a recognition program requires executive sponsorship and accountability. In addition to committing resources, leaders need to be ambassadors of the program and model the desired behaviors from the top down. It also demonstrates senior leadership’s commitment to building a high-performing organization.

3. Demystify the selection process.

Make all aspects of your program transparent. From day one, employees should know the award criteria, how nominations are collected and evaluated, and awards selected. The program needs to be viewed as fair for employees to want to participate.

Ensure your selection process reflects your company culture. Gagen helped Phillips 66, a growing energy manufacturing and logistics company, evolve their selection process to be more objective by implementing a clearly defined scoring system that judged nominations using a shared set of criteria. Being a company full of engineers, this change was greatly appreciated and complemented their analytical culture.

4. Use storytelling to educate employees and set a standard

Get the most out of your investment. While celebrating employees at a recognition event is a great start, it only begins there. Sharing the winning stories through organizational communications will help educate employees on what the strategies and values look like in action. It reminds employees that their dedication is valued, establishes them as role models and inspires others to raise the performance bar.

5. Move beyond carrots and sticks.

The workforce has changed. More than ever, employees are motivated by purpose more than money. What does this mean for your recognition program? Consider other rewards beyond extra compensation. Increasingly, companies donate funds to charities in honor of their awardees, which supports external branding and corporate social responsibility goals while connecting employees to a shared purpose. Watch this great interview between our CEO Maril MacDonald and Daniel Pink for insight into the link between motivation and reward.

6. Measure your program’s impact.

In business, what you measure is what matters. First, identify the key metrics for success. Do you want to increase employee engagement; deepen employees’ knowledge and understanding of your strategy; or increase feelings of pride? Maybe it’s all of them. Once you know what you want to measure, benchmark your program at the outset with internal employee surveys. Watch these metrics year over year to fine-tune your program to ensure you’re delivering on program objectives.

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