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How to Start an Employee Recognition Program

Employee recognition has been tied to retention—happy employees work harder, are more satisfied with their jobs, and are willing to invest more in their career and your company and much, much more! An employee recognition program is a great way to foster company-wide positivity, engagement, and camaraderie. While building an employee recognition program from the ground up takes a lot of work and a commitment to seeing it through, here are the four basic steps needed to start an employee recognition program:

1. Define your goals and objectives.

If you are going to start an employee recognition program you need to have a clean plan of what exactly you’re going to be recognizing. Are you looking to reward tangible metrics of success like highest quarterly sales? Or are you hoping to encourage more intangible attributes among your employees like leadership and teamwork? If you don’t know what you want to recognize, how you are going to recognize it, and also understand how to explain to your team what they need to do in order to achieve that recognition your program is dead before it even gets started.

2. Develop program guidelines.

What can your employees do to earn that company wide recognition? The recognition program should be used to inspire employees to achieve the internal goals of your company. If  you want to recognize leaders within the company what specially makes someone a leader? Is it the person who shows up early? The person who always offers ideas at group meetings? The person who is always willing to help a coworker out? You want to give your staff some guidelines to follow so they know the recognition program actually means something. One of the fastest ways to kill an employee recognition program is to give a recognition award to someone that doesn’t deserve it.

Also, will you be relying on managers or peer recommendations? Managers may or may not see everything that goes on behind the scenes while peers see who really puts the work in and who might just be riding the coattails of their coworkers.

3. Choose your prizes carefully.

Not every employee is going to respond to prizes, awards, and recognition the same way. Some employees might prefer a monetary reward, such as a gift card. But you have to be careful with monetary prizes—if someone busts their butt for a project and gets a $10 gift card to Starbucks is that gift card an accurate representation of how much you appreciate their hard work? Other incentives like Fridays off in the summer, the opportunity to wear jeans to work, an extra vacation day, lunch on the boss, and a custom designed award are also worth investigating. No two companies are the same and the prizes that work best for your team might not work for the company down the street.

4. Promote the program.

What good is an employee recognition program if no one knows it’s going on? Be sure your whole staff is aware of the goals, the guidelines, and the prizes up for grabs with your new employee recognition program. The recognition should be publicized in some way, be it formal or informal—create an employee honor roll, host a corporate event, or even just cater lunch one day. A recognition program that doesn’t recognize anyone isn’t going to last for very long!