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Reward and recognition: Are you making the most of your recognition programme? How to make it work harder to boost engagement





Posted by Justine Woolf on 17 March 2023

Reward and recognition: Are you making the most of your recognition programme? How to make it work harder to boost engagement

Recognition | Reward Strategy | Reward

In the current climate, a sound Recognition Strategy is a really good way to keep employees motivated and engaged. If companies cannot afford ad hoc pay increases – and many cannot – recognition can reward staff in a way that encourages positive behaviours and reflects the company’s culture. But how can you ensure that your Recognition scheme is achieving its potential?

Planning phase: Create excitement and buy-in

Whether you are revamping an existing strategy or starting something from scratch, sound planning is key to driving engagement from the start.

First, try to understand how your people want to be recognised. It’s not always practical or possible to deliver the perfect solution across the board, but gaining an understanding is an important first step and shows a willingness to engage. One-on-one conversations or focus groups work well and anonymous feedback guarantees honesty.

Knowing what your employees want will enable you to strike a chord with workers. Creating a scheme that has a symbolic award, for example an engraved trophy or a coloured pin, has been shown to be more powerful. "Employees who receive recognition with a symbolic award are three times more likely to remember the occasion and 358% more likely to provide substantial details about the recognition event," states O. C Tanner Institute's 2023 Global Culture Report.

When you’re ready to get the word out, use existing channels to communicate that something exciting is coming. Be careful not to overload the communication but keep it positive and exciting. If you can, involve employees in naming the scheme – another good way to gain early buy-in, grow interest and build excitement.

In this same ‘planning’ phase, it is beneficial to think through your FAQs. Working with managers and employees, this exercise should pre-empt plenty of questions and provide a useful check list. It also arms managers with the answers they will need when the time comes, which reinforces the sense of unity and strength.

This emphasis on planning will also help you to define what success looks like for the scheme, and how you can measure that in the future.

Be proactive: Make it happen

Many organisations we work with assume that recognition is happening without dedicated time, thought and intervention. The best schemes are often led and managed by one person. It doesn’t need to be their full-time job, but making sure it happens is often part of their role, and their objectives. In the best examples, we've helped these people map out a calendar of recognition across the year, with polished communications reminding staff to say thank you and recognise each other at opportune times. With good planning, these reminders can also be aligned with other internal communications such as newsletters, weekly staff emails or management meetings.

If needed, incentives can also be added to encourage immediate engagement. That might mean putting some budget behind it in months one and two. Also be ready to react quickly and flush out any barriers to entry. ‘Rules of engagement’ and ‘T&Cs’ are important but make sure they match the tone you're trying to set or they’ll turn off even the most diligent employee.

Strive for fairness and consistency

Settling on a fair approach to how recognition can be made and awards allocated is key to any scheme’s longevity. Perceived unfairness can switch off whole sections of a workforce, and often it will happen by accident. Certain managers, characters and team dynamics will naturally embrace recognition and use the budgets available to them. Others won't, and that inconsistency can also lead to demotivation, particularly if people see the same team or staff members being continually recognised.

Some degree of HR monitoring can help you achieve fairness, but it’s important to remember that certain managers will need help to grasp the power of recognition, often recalling a time when they were recognised themselves, how it made them feel and impacted their career. We've created Manager Toolkits to help with this process and ensure it's carried out appropriately.

Think hybrid working

If your company is operating different work patterns since the pandemic where some or even all staff are now working remotely some of the time, it may also be important to review your scheme. Where you may have been successful in recognising staff in a full-time office environment, the same methods may no longer apply if only a portion of workers are present on a Thursday to eat pizza or Friday for a coffee break.

One of the biggest challenges in recognising hybrid workers is making sure contributions don't go unnoticed. How do you mitigate more work becoming less visible? Managers can talk amongst themselves, and we have also seen success from incentivising peer-to-peer recognition, which helps with making rewards personal and heartfelt.

Embrace the power of Digital

Almost without exception, recognition works best when it's done ‘live’, in the moment, and in these days of increased hybrid working people can find it increasingly difficult to find the time and the means. Using a smartphone app to manage your recognition as part of your wider benefits package puts your scheme in the palm of every staff member’s hand, giving them access 24/7. Personal Group’s HAPI app hosts things like benefits, payslips and grocery discounts, so employees are already engaging with it. With well-timed notifications, it’s not a massive leap to ask them to recognise or nominate a colleague, and because it’s app-based it removes many of the barriers that exist for hybrid workers. The analytics tool also allows HR or business leaders to share usage stats: ‘Did you know? 50% of you have nominated someone this week’ is a message that acts both as an endorsement and as a reminder.

Be Future-proof

Finally, once your scheme is up and running, do not assume that it will run forever. Even for established managers, do not under-estimate the power of recognition flowing in both directions and employees recognising their leaders. Managers need appreciation too: O.C. Tanners’ report also highlighted that 65% of leaders admit receiving more recognition from the people who report to them would improve their experience at work.

Important steps and decisions are also made every day that chip away at your scheme, including recruitment and promotion. Make sure recognition is included in all new staff inductions, and that newly promoted manager receive the training they need. Without these measures, the scheme could unravel because an increasing proportion of staff will become disengaged. On the opposite side of the revolving door, staff tend to be honest in their exit interviews, so use them to gain valuable feedback.

Armed with this knowledge, do not be afraid to communicate success and any return on investment upwards to senior management, or the board. If money is being spent, a strong update and good news story will never harm your chances of retaining or increasing your recognition budget for next year.

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