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How to Implement an Employee Recognition Program

Millennials and Gen Z look at workplace culture as a top factor, and they want both professional and personal development. An employee recognition program and awards for your employees can help you create a positive culture that rewards personal and professional achievements. A positive work environment like that will help your company attract and retain top talent.

Benefits of An Employee Recognition Program and Achievement Awards

employee recognition

An employee recognition program is a low-cost way to make a huge impact on your bottom line. Just look at the numbers:

  • Increase employee retention: A study from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 68% of HR professionals agree their employee recognition program helps with retention.

  • Create a positive workplace culture: The same study found that employee achievement awards provide a positive workplace experience (89%), improve relationships (87%) and contribute to a positive organizational culture (86%).

  • Improve motivation: A Gallup poll found that employee recognition boosts engagement and increases productivity. It’s simple – employees who feel their managers value their contributions are willing to work harder for those managers.

  • Be more competitive: All of these things add up to the ultimate business goal: improving your bottom line and being more competitive in your marketplace. No matter what industry you’re in, that’s something any business can get behind.


Characteristics of the Best Employee Recognition Programs

Nearly 80% of companies have some sort of employee recognition program. But you want to make yours the best. The Gallup poll found that public ceremonies with an award or certificate were the most memorable type of employee recognition. They also have these traits:

  • They’re tied to business goals: Attracting and retaining employees and creating an excellent culture are great goals – but your recognition program needs to be more specific. Need to improve your customer service? Want to create innovative new products? Or maybe you just need sales. Relate your program to your business goals and you’ll get double the results.

  • They’re related to your values: Creating a positive company culture is one of the best results you’ll get from giving employee achievement awards, so don’t forget about your values. Give awards for things like teamwork, thought leadership and integrity, and you’ll promote those same things in the workplace.

  • They involve all employees: The best employee recognition awards aren’t just given out by management on a whim. They take feedback and input from all levels of the organization, and they give out awards equally across departments. Make sure you don’t skip new hires, administrative departments and other “behind-the-scenes” employees when awards season rolls around.

  • They have executive engagement: Of course, buy-in from managers and the company C-suite is necessary to get any program off the ground. Plus, recognition from the top tier of the company can make an award more meaningful. Your executives can sign a letter, or better yet, lead the awards ceremony.

How to Implement an Employee Recognition Program

1. Get Executive Buy-In

The numbers above are just the start. There are tons of studies that have proven the importance of employee recognition programs and achievement awards for attracting the best talent, improving profits and reducing turnover. If you’re an executive, you’re already ahead of the game – skip to the next step.

If you need to get executive buy-in, create a presentation for your C-level bosses using just the facts. Give them a detailed plan of how you’ll develop the program and what will be involved, including the money and time needed. Make sure you’re specific about what the executives will need to do – for example, presenting the awards or making a ceremony speech.

2. Choose What You Want to Recognize

You can’t give an award without knowing what you’re recognizing. Some of the most popular employee recognition program awards include:

  • Length of tenure: Inspire a sense of loyalty by recognizing those who have stuck with the company. Depending on how old your company is, you can give 1, 5, 10 or even 20-year awards.

  • Promotions: Corporate awards are a great way to recognize big promotions. Regional sales managers, department directors and C-level promotions are award-worthy.

  • Sales and customer service: Every business involves these on some level. Rewarding those with the most sales or best customer service over a specific period of time is a sure way to improve these metrics.

  • Innovation: Edison said, “There’s a way to do it better – find it.” In the race to stay ahead of the competition, rewarding innovation in any part of your company – from product to operations – is always valuable.

  • Personal development: Younger employees don’t just want purposeful jobs – they want continuous professional and personal development. Employee recognition awards go hand in hand with mentorship programs or other development programs you may have.

3. Determine Your Criteria

The best employee achievement rewards have concrete criteria. This could be as straightforward as number of sales made or number of customer complaints resolved. For example, as part of your employee recognition program, consider “rating systems” in an innovation category. Employees would be rated on several criteria using a pre-determined scale. For less tangible awards, like those related to company values, surveys or a voting system are good methods.

In order for your employee achievement awards to be motivational and help your business goals, your workers need to know what they need to do to win. Criteria should be specific, documented and accessible to all employees.

4. Decide Who Votes

Any employee recognition program should involve all of your workers at some level, but they don’t necessarily have the final say. You could create a program in which anyone can nominate a candidate, and then a select committee (whether upper management or a team of volunteers) chooses finalists and a winner. This works well for awards like innovation and thought leadership, where not all employees will have detailed knowledge of the candidates.

A completely democratic process works well for an employee recognition program and awards involving company values such as leadership, social awareness or work ethic. Simple and representative, just send out a survey to all employees and take a vote.

5. Create Your Awards for the Employee Recognition Program

This is the exciting part – and you don’t need to spend a lot of money, either. Plaque awards are a great budget option and look ultra-professional hanging in any office. Trophies are perfect for fun categories and for sales and customer service awards. You can even create custom awards in the shape of your company logo or an item related to your industry. The sky is the limit, so start browsing!

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