The right recognition program is a key driver in building your company’s success. Deloitte research found that “employee engagement, productivity and performance are 14% higher in organizations … that use recognition programs.” However, just having an employee recognition program outlined somewhere in your company policy is not enough to make it successful. You have to promote the program regularly, publicize it, and make it appealing to your employees. A recognition program can only succeed if employees actually participate in it on a regular basis. That’s why we’re outlining strategies to win over your employees and maximize your recognition program’s ROI. Here are seven of the approaches we like the best:
1. Drive communications through every channel
Start with an extensive communications push. When General Motors wanted to promote their recognition program, they reached out to employees in a variety of ways: They made it easy for everyone at the company to send recognitions directly through their Outlook platform, and they sent out targeted emails, intranet posts, training videos, and newsletter articles. Management even created fun safety quizzes, through which employees could earn recognition points. This multi-channel approach was successful, resulting in a 97% activation rate on the employee recognition program.
2. Distribute promotional materials about your recognition program
These should include standard print and digital materials that reflect your program’s branding (quick start guides, FAQ sheets, posters), but also some unorthodox media just for the fun of it. Promotional cupcakes, anyone? Instructional balloons? Singing telegram FAQs video? Let your creativity loose… just be sure that every team member is on your recipient list.
3. Host a virtual company-wide meeting
Your employees will feel more motivated to participate in your new recognition program when they understand its power to benefit each of them individually and strengthen the company as a whole. An open Q&A session is important as part of that meeting: “The best all-hands meetings offer employees a chance to engage directly with founders and executives,” according to Atlassian’s Chief of Staff, Cathy Meade. Seeking input from your employees is an essential part of such meetings, and Meade points out that regular Q&A sessions “foster a sense of belonging and loyalty.” Take the time to set up a virtual company-wide meeting and introduce the company’s recognition program; give a demo, answer questions, and have employees share how much the program has positively impacted their lives.
4. Engage company leaders
Leadership participation in your recognition program is important for two reasons:
- First, it’s essential to lead by example. When your employees sees that executives and managers are enthusiastic about the recognition program, they’ll feel motivated to follow suit. The leadership team at Horizon Blue Shield Blue Cross of New Jersey became the most active leaders on their recognition platform, and this created a culture of appreciation that permeated the entire company. The outcome was a 14% increase in employee engagement.
- Secondly, management appreciation is a major factor in employee happiness and engagement (employees leave managers, not companies). Fifty percent of employees believe being thanked by managers not only improved their relationship, but also built trust with their higher-ups. It’s especially important to emphasize leadership recognition given 30% of workers feel “not very” or “not at all” valued by their superiors.
5. Create fun campaigns and contests
A sense of playfulness makes the workplace more engaging. If you make your recognition program fun, it sells itself; you don’t have to talk people into enjoying themselves. Scotiabank’s two-week Pay it Forward campaign gave employees the ability to reward each other with actual reward points, and a company-wide wave of enthusiasm resulted. When Cox Automotive was ready to ramp up activity in their recognition program, they launched “Spark Week,” modeled on Shark Week. Every day the company integrated a new fun activity into the program, such as a meme contest and a digital treasure hunt. With everyone’s eyes already on their recognition platform, the new campaign launch was quick and easy.
6. Hold quarterly Recognition and Rewards (R&R) meetings
Regular virtual R&R meetings amplify the power of recognition, and strengthen the inclusion of remote workers. During these online events, it’s valuable to spotlight top recognized employees, but don’t forget to also celebrate those staff members who have given the most recognitions. Identifying participation itself as a goal is highly motivating, because it gives everyone the chance to be a star. Taking the star concept further, offer workers a chance to nominate star leaders at the company. If you do this before each quarterly R&R meeting, you’ll keep the recognition program at top of mind for employees, and promote a culture of recognition. Who doesn’t love an awards show? After each R&R meeting, sustain the momentum by giving employees additional points to award others.
7. Highlight specific recognition stories
Our minds are hard-wired to pay attention to stories. You can use this natural interest to engage your employees, by occasionally turning a recognition into a whole story. Share an interesting narrative in meetings, on social media, or on your company’s intranet or website. When employees read it, they’ll experience a positive organizational culture, and the sense that every individual matters. For external readers, this kind of warm-hearted story feature will build the company’s brand and attract employees who can afford to be picky about where they work.
Bonus tip: Always ask for (and act on) employee feedback
Communications in your company should always flow in both directions. In addition to promoting your recognition program, you need feedback from employees on what they think of it. Every innovation benefits from critical appraisal, and you won’t get the most out of your employee recognition platform until you integrate suggestions from the people who are using it. You can switch up listening options, in order to keep things interesting: Leverage chatbots, or use employee surveys -- but whichever feedback channels you choose, it is vital that you take action on the suggestions you receive. Employees become cynical about management surveys that never lead to any changes.
The great thing about promoting your employee recognition program is that you’re sharing news about something that your listeners will enjoy using. People like to offer each other appreciation, sometimes even more than they like to receive it. “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships,” according to Harvard Medical School. To learn more about how you can build a sustainable recognition program, check out our webinar recording, “Why Most Recognition Programs Fail and How to Fix It.”
Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.