If people truly are your greatest asset, engaging and inspiring them to achieve greatness individually and collaboratively would be the most important thing in management. In fact, over the past years many organizations have embedded a recognition philosophy as part of their Rewards strategy, placing a greater focus on recognition over traditional monetary rewards. This aligns with research by Aon Hewitt which found that “career opportunities, recognition, and organization reputation are consistently top engagement drivers”.
The body of research on engagement in general and recognition in particular has grown significantly this past decade and far from being a ‘fluffy’ activity, recognition has since become known as a strategic driver that is directly linked to tangible business outcomes.
A report by famed industry analyst Bersin stated that “organizations with recognition programs which are highly effective at enabling employee engagement had 31% lower voluntary turnover than organizations with ineffective recognition programs.” Once you calculate the cost of turnover in your organization you can easily quantify how a 31% drop in turnover can easily amount to millions of dollars, depending on the size and nature of your organization. Suffice to say that getting your recognition programs right is a key enabler of any business strategy.
Having worked in both consulting and practitioner roles across the world and within the GCC, I have seen my fair share of Rewards & Recognition (R&R) programs. Some have been highly effective, yet others not so much. Over time a pattern started to emerge, a set of common mistakes organizations make when setting up or running an R&R program. All of these mistakes come out of the best of intentions, but all of them ultimately lead to the same outcome: a program that looks great on paper, but doesn’t work in practice.
Here are three common mistakes that organizations make when building or running their R&R programs:
#Mistake 1 Delivery over Strategy
Many organizations embark on their first recognition program for the wrong reasons. Often an executive has read something on Harvard Business Review and within a month a brand-new R&R program is launched. The mistake here is that without having a clear and understood organizational strategy that includes well defined culture and values you end up jumping the gun. It’s like embarking on a treasure hunt without a map, you’ll just end up with the whole organization being frustrated.
# Mistake 2 Event over Content
Having a periodic ceremony where you recognize and awardyees is great, but don’t mistake the medium for the message. Employees having fun is a great side effect of a good ceremony, but the focus should always be to highlight desired behaviors and performance across the organization, to continuously reinforce a baseline of what is expected and to openly acknowledge and celebrate those who act as role-models of your culture. Nothing is worse for the credibility of a corporate culture than having a great event where the wrong people or wrong behaviors are recognized.
#Mistake 3 Rewards over Recognition
In his book ‘Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivation’, author Dan Ariely states that money is often less of a motivator for workers than other things. He is not alone as countless research journals and books have been published that describe how recognition beats rewards every single time in the quest to employee engagement and productivity. Even Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs, states that money satisfies the lowest level of the pyramid. It doesn’t affect the things that matter most — like feeling important and that the work you do matters. Yet often in R&R programs the main focus is on cash or monetary rewards, which causes a double whammy as they both costs more and accomplish less than a certificate of acknowledgement or recognition would
These are easy mistakes to avoid or fix, but they each require focus and commitment to a broader organizational strategy, across all levels of the organization. While HR typically plays a large role in designing and operating these programs, R&R is ultimately not an HR program – it’s an organizational program that requires buy-in and involvement from across the business. The best R&R programs I have seen were not even managed by HR, but rather by the business directly.
Digital technologies are being increasingly used in all aspects of corporate life and R&R programs are no exception. Digital platforms like PeopleCart developed for designing and automating R&R programs make Recognition instantaneous, social, transparent and organization wide. That positively increases the impact of the Recognition manifolds, for an employee. Such platforms also help organizations capture relevant data to measure the impact and tailor future programs with the required interventions, to be more effective.
Remember what Dale Carnegie said: “People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards”. The fact is, R&R programs are here to stay. Let’s ensure that we build and run them the right way.
Giovanni is a global expert on Organizational Strategy, People Analytics and HR.
A Harvard Business School alum, he serves as Senior Advisor for multiple forms across the globe, including Boston Global – a Harvard affiliated consultancy, Qlearsite – a People Analytics startup and PeopleCart, a leading provider of SAAS based Engagement, Recognition and Innovation platform.
Giovanni is a passionate writer and speaker on The Future of Work, Strategic HR and People Analytics. He has been a speaker at the global SHRM and CIPD annual conferences. His writing and thinking is featured on TLNT.com, in Change board magazine and in the people analytics practitioner’s textbook “The Power of People”. Outside his corporate life he recently produced "SHE",; an award-winning documentary on Female Empowerment in the Middle East.
PeopleCart is a leading SAAS based integrated platform for Engagement, Recognition and Innovation for modern workplaces. We help organizations create meaningful work environments, align employees to organizational goals and in turn create happy and positive workplaces. (Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)