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Do employee recognition programs really work?

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Q: My Company is considering implementing an employee recognition program, do these really work?

A: The Conference Board of Canada found that recognition is the top drive of Employee Engagement (June 2110 HR Trends and Metric Report Conference Board of Canada)

Further, the Gallup Organization surveyed over 4 million people, showing that people who receive regular recognition have: increased productivity, engagement, loyalty, longevity and interestingly fewer accidents on the job.

So yes, to answer your question, they do work when done right. When done wrong however, can have the opposite effect. A classic example of a recognition program gone wrong is the commonly used employee of the month program. This one is often unsuccessful because the criteria for success are not clear to employees and lack consistency. Employees assume favouritism is happening and become jaded & resentful.

Here are tips on implementing a recognition program:

Determine what you want to achieve through implementing an employee recognition program. Then create goals, guidelines and action plans for each area of focus.

Remember, you want to recognize the actions, behaviours, and accomplishments you are hoping foster and reinforce in your organization.

Transparency and consistency is key. People need to see that each person who makes the same or a similar contribution has an equal likelihood of receiving recognition for their efforts.

Vary the type of recognition and reward you offer. While you DO want to be consistent with employee recognition, you DON’T want your recognition program to become an expectation. Expectations become entitlements and are no longer meaningful. An interesting study by B.F. Skinner discovered that random reinforcement more strongly anchors behaviours than consistent reward.

With day-to-day recognition, be specific & timely. Just like feedback, it needs to be given sooner then later to be most effective. Often, all it takes is your thoughtful, personal and sincere appreciation.

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