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How to Establish an Effective Employee Recognition Program that Delivers Results

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Employee engagement is so much more than just a “nice-to-have” item on HR’s wish list. Rather, it’s proven to be a very real business metric in areas such as productivity, employee retention, and financial performance. According to the Aon 2018 Global Employee Engagement Trends Report, companies with high levels of engagement (65% or greater) even outperform the stock market, posting total shareholder returns 22% higher than the average. Alternatively, companies with low engagement (45% or less) have total shareholder returns that are 28% lower than average.


While there are many ways to improve employee engagement, developing an employee recognition program can be an extremely effective way to achieve this goal. With the right approach—and backed by the right platform—companies of all sizes can transform their disengaged workforce into a single, collaborative entity that works effectively to achieve the company’s goals.


5 Steps to Develop and Deploy a Winning Employee Recognition Program

At this point, you may be thinking, “All of this sounds great, but how can I get started?” Good question. To answer, here are five steps you can follow to successfully design and implement an employee recognition program for your organization.


Step #1: Plan to Succeed

Any successful journey must start with the right plan. The same is true when it comes to developing an employee recognition program that is right for your company.


Start by carefully considering the specific challenges you’re trying to solve and benefits you’re hoping to achieve—then make sure a recognition program can help. For example, if you’re looking to build a stronger culture of collaboration or increase employee retention, you’re on the right track.


But if others in your company have other motives, such as reducing costs or driving short-term sales, an employee recognition program is probably not what you’re looking for, and you should consider a different approach.


Step #2: Create Metrics for Success

After you align your company goals with desired outcomes, you should create clear metrics to track your progress. This step is crucial in order to demonstrate the program’s success to senior leadership and calculate its overall ROI—both of which are vital to gaining valuable long-term support and sponsorship.


Remember, an effective employee recognition program can lead to significant improvements in many different areas—engagement, retention, collaboration, productivity, and more. Plan to track and report progress made in each one of these categories.


Step #3: Create the Right Implementation Team

Your success depends on creating the right team to lead the effort of developing and implementing your program. Ideally, this implementation team will include cross-functional representation as well as a mix of employees, managers, and senior leaders. This helps send the message that your company is serious about its employee engagement effort and committed to seeing it through.


As you begin to give out rewards and recognition, you may want to invite some of the early recipients to join the team. Many companies find this to be a valuable opportunity to have these employees share their experience and even contribute new ideas to make it even better for subsequent reward winners. 


Step #4: Create Eligibility Requirements and Other Operating Rules

Team members should be given clear employee eligibility requirements and understand the rules to participate, nominate peers, and partake in other processes. Additionally, the implementation team needs to determine exactly which behaviors your company would like to recognize. This helps align specific employee actions with larger initiatives that contribute to your company’s goals.


Step #5: Announce Your Employee Recognition Program and Get Started!

After all this hard work, it’s time to announce your exciting new program. Ideally, such an announcement should come from senior leaders (again, to reinforce the importance of this initiative) and be presented in a fun, celebratory way. 


Make sure to create supplemental communications documents and resources, such as FAQs, enrollment information, and additional program details. This will reduce questions and help employees further understand what this program means for them. 


5 Tips to Ensure Your Employee Recognition Program Is a Success

So now you have the step-by-step guide to start your employee recognition program, but how can you guarantee its ongoing success? Here are five tips to get employees excited to participate in your new recognition program.


Tip #1: Make Rewards Fun

Get creative! Make your rewards as appealing as possible—think gift cards, gift certificates to trendy restaurants, corporate items, and “special” experiences such as spa or hotel getaways. Some companies even come up with an annual grand prize, such as a luxury vacation, to generate maximum interest and participation. 


Tip #2: Set Objective Standards

It’s important to create a selection process so you’re not picking favorites or building a system that reasons, “I won last month, it must be your turn this month.” By basing recognition on objective standards, your employee recognition program will become much more meaningful and effective.


Tip #3: Automate Key Announcements

With employee recognition and rewards solutions, you can automate key messages and announcements, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, and promotions. You’ll show appreciation to all team members—and never forget to buy a birthday cake again!


Tip #4: Celebrate Successes

Celebrating employee success is a great way to create a public fanfare and remind the entire workforce of the recognition program. Consider using time during a company-wide meeting or a public event to announce each recipient and celebrate their achievements. 


Make sure you communicate exactly what they did to earn the award. You should also create an internal location, such as an intranet site or portal, where other employees can learn more. Finally, encourage senior leaders to officially thank them and let them know how much the entire company appreciates their contributions. This goes a long way to generate interest and ongoing participation.


Tip #5: Recognize Employees Quickly

Fast recognition rewards the behavior right away and creates an element of surprise that makes the program fun and exciting for the entire company. Delaying rewards or recognition with monthly or annual announcements may lead to heightened expectations and ultimately, disappointment if employees don’t win. 


The Ultimate Employee Recognition Platform

Workmates is a powerful communication, engagement, and rewards and recognition platform that gives you everything you need out of your recognition program. With Workmates’ kudos feature, any employee can reward a peer for a contribution or achievement. Highlighting exemplary behavior becomes fun and encourages future recognition and effort. 


In Workmates, top kudos recipients are showcased on a prominent leaderboard. This is good for the employee’s self-confidence, but it also highlights exemplary behavior that can inspire your entire workforce and foster an ongoing culture of excellence.


To learn more about Workmates and see how it is helping today’s leaders develop and deploy the most effective employee recognition programs possible, please visit

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