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Tips for Creating and Maintaining an Informal Recognition Program

Karen Rubin has implemented various employee recognition and motivation programs among her clients. Rubin suggests doing the following to help develop and support an employee recognition program.

November 1, 1998
Related Topics: Recognition
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Karen Rubin is the president of Future Work Partners Inc., a San Mateo, California-based human resources management firm. She has implemented various employee recognition and motivation programs among her clients. Rubin suggests doing the following to help develop and support an employee recognition program:

  • Before you start building or rebuilding a system of employee recognition, ask whether your current recognition methods are sufficient enough. Determine the purpose of implementing an informal awards program. Is your goal to improve employee morale, reduce turnover, increase teamwork or all of the above? Make a written list of your expectations and hopes for employee recognition efforts.
  • Design and redesign programs that capture what’s meaningful to employees. Ask them what they value in rewards and recognition, and then listen to their responses. Identify non-cash rewards that employees value and ones they don’t. Survey employees on a broad range of HR and organizational issues in addition to asking them about types of rewards and recognition. Listen to their comments and respond appropriately by providing meaningful and motivational rewards.
  • If you don’t want to undertake a survey, form an employee focus group. The focus group is a representative sample of employee perspectives. During the meeting, plan to spend an hour learning why employees prefer particular types of rewards and why they resist others. How interested are they in merchandise, travel, tickets to athletic or cultural events, or fine dining certificates? Face-to-face meetings can help you gain a better understanding of their beliefs.
  • Communication is important throughout the process—even before the implementation date—to let employees know how they will be involved. The rationale and results of the new program should be clearly reported. After implementation, communicate responsiveness. After asking employees to compare the previous and new recognition methods, it’s crucial to respond to employees so they know they’ve been listened to.
  • Using information from employee feedback, plan ahead to stagger the different types of awards they select. Oftentimes, companies are enthusiastic about putting this kind of informal recognition program in place, but a couple of months down the road, people become busy with their day-to-day activities. To counteract this, use a recognition-team approach by having a group lay out a schedule for the next year’s informal rewards, with one for each month. Each team member can be responsible for a given month.

Workforce, November 1998, Vol. 77, No. 11, p. 70.

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