10 Tried-and-True Tips for Effective Employee Recognition

It’s been widely proven that employee recognition programs can positively impact a company’s retention, culture, and productivity. However, what starts out as a well-intentioned initiative can quickly fizzle when not designed and implemented effectively, leaving HR leadership scratching their heads and wondering why the program didn’t work. 

Here are 10 tips to keep your employee recognition program moving on the right track towards achieving maximum results:

1. Plan With a Solid Strategy
Even a simple recognition program needs a real strategy, including clearly defined metrics that align with the company’s overarching aspirations. When employees understand how their performance directly affects your organization’s mission, they see that everyone is on the same team, working toward something bigger than themselves. As an HR leader, your recognition efforts will yield positive results and, in turn, your employees will understand how their roles have meaning within the larger company.
2. Communicate Clearly and Often
Many companies make the mistake of generating excitement about their new recognition program, but then forget how important it is to continually remind employees about the program, its benefits, and how it fits with the company’s overall mission. In addition, program rules must be clearly communicated to all participants and stakeholders; nothing is more frustrating than a program with confusing goals or unattainable awards. Communication must also be aligned to your audience, so that your messaging is appropriate to different targets -- whether it’s senior leadership, management or front-line employees. 
3. Deliver On-the-Spot Rewards
It’s one thing to offer incentives for employees to reach goals, but long-delayed rewards can have a negative effect. Making someone wait until the end of the year for a service-anniversary award, for instance, will just irritate employees. Instead, consider offering on-the-spot rewards -- whether it’s a gift certificate or a simple act of public recognition -- to catch people when they are doing something great or deserve a pat on the back.
4. Entice With Relevant Rewards
Don’t waste your investment on rewards that aren’t meaningful to employees. Instead, find out what they really want and would appreciate. For instance, your Millennial new hire in San Francisco probably has different tastes than your seasoned, Baby Boomer employee in Chicago. 
5. Develop a Fair and Justified Rules Structure
Don’t set impossible goals for your employees with your recognition program. If the rules are difficult to understand or just impossible to attain, then the program will become negative and will quickly de-motivate employees. Also, the ability to earn awards should be fair -- that is, equal across all departments and among all levels.
6. Manage Program Efforts Within a Single Platform
Often, upper management isn’t aware of discretionary awards being handed out at the middle management level or what’s being used by individual business units. These informal recognition events -- including birthdays and company anniversaries -- are often distributed on a one-off basis. But combining all recognition efforts into one organized, seamless, web-based system controls costs, creates consistency across the company and helps gauge results.
7. Ensure Upper-Management Buy-In
It’s essential to get senior management on board from the start of your employee recognition program efforts. Leadership actions will internally set the tone for success, and programs that embrace corporate culture from the top down reap increased employee buy-in.
8. Use Technology to Boost Employee Engagement
Employees want to share their achievements with friends and access their program information and award opportunities at their convenience. So, make use of social media, collaboration tools and mobile technologies as much as possible to boost employee engagement and productivity. 
9. Seek Continuous Feedback
A successful program continuously gathers information, learns from feedback, and makes changes along the way. Benchmark surveys can help form your strategy prior to launch, and surveying employees at the start can ensure you address any questions early on. Continue to maintain regular contact with your workforce as the program progresses. 
10. Develop Measurable Results
You can’t know whether an employee recognition program is working effectively without gathering and analyzing measurable results. So, make sure you determine the right metrics for your program’s success, and measure regularly and consistently through web-based reports, dashboards, analysis, and survey results.  
Today’s most successful organizations embrace employee recognition, reinforcing it with user-friendly, web-based systems that track individual performance metrics and compensation, communicate and promote best practices, reward desired behaviors, and celebrate success. 

With a thoughtful plan, your organization can boost employee engagement and productivity — and reap the rewards of higher retention, lower recruiting costs, an expanded customer base, higher revenues and enhanced profitability.

Richelle Taylor has been a marketing professional for 18 years, with more than a decade in the recognition and performance improvement industry. Her specialty has been providing enterprise incentive solutions for some of the worlds most admired brands, such as Toyota, Pacific Life, and more. Currently, Taylor oversees the marketing and demand generation efforts for Aimia U.S., a global leader in loyalty. She has also served in product management to develop HR-focused platforms for employee and channel engagement. In addition, Richelle is Pragmatic Marketing Product Management Certified, and was named one of the Top “25 Women to Watch 2013” by the WiBN. She has also worked as a public speaker and has been a published business/trade writer for more than 15 years.

About Aimia: Aimia Inc. is a global leader in loyalty management. Employing more than 4,300 people in 20 countries worldwide, Aimia offers clients, partners and members proven expertise in launching and managing coalition loyalty programs, delivering proprietary loyalty services, creating value through loyalty analytics and driving innovation in the emerging digital, mobile and social communications spaces. 

Aimia owns and operates Aeroplan, Canada's premier coalition loyalty program, Nectar, the United Kingdom's largest coalition loyalty program, Nectar Italia, and Smart Button, a leading provider of SaaS loyalty solutions. In addition, Aimia owns stakes in Air Miles Middle East, Mexico's leading coalition loyalty program Club Premier, Brazil's Prismah Fidelidade, China Rewards - the first coalition loyalty program in China that enables members to earn and redeem a common currency, and i2c, a joint venture with Sainsbury's offering insight and data analytics services in the UK to retailers and suppliers. Aimia also holds minority positions in Cardlytics, a US-based private company operating in card-linked marketing for electronic banking and Think Big, the owner and operator of BIG - AirAsia and Tune Group's loyalty program. Aimia is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: AIM).