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Feb 3, 2015

Another Employee Recognition Program? I’m Out!

Oh no…another employee recognition program?! Negative emotions can run high in some organizations around these types of new program initiatives. The main questions are: How do you avoid this reaction? And how can you maximize the adoption of your new initiative?

It’s a double-edged sword for many companies wanting to increase KPIs around performance or job satisfaction. Most calculated reactions are to look at the latest trends in employee engagement and assign the task of vetting a solution to a small committee or lone individual to “fix” the issue at hand. This poor employee soon realizes the precarious position they are placed in – keeping management happy while not introducing a corny new program to their peers. It feels much like a kid being dragged to the dentist by their mom.

In one case I recently was involved in, tempers flared to the point of revolt against management from one lone department when management tried to introduce a social recognition system into their lives. These were full-grown adults, in a hip and cool tech environment, but they detested the thought of another program being pushed onto them. Without adequate buy in, ANY program is doomed to die on the vine.

My 5 Key Suggestions for Program Adoption Success:

  1. C-Level Buy In:  Employees are pretty savvy to empty programs that have the Trojan Horse Effect slid in the employee gates by executives on the premise of a global attitude. At the first indication that the C-level ranks are not bothering to take part, the facade begins to crumble and the countdown to failure begins. On the flip side, when top-down involvement is maintained, and their genuine engagement is obvious, the hierarchy is energized and motivated to support the cause.

  2. Have a Short- and Long-term Plan: With the understanding of what a successful program looks like to your company, defining short- and long-term goals via a roadmap or plan is essential. A big key to success is how the program is initially introduced to the employee group. Plan a fun, interactive and educational launch day. This is essential to showing your employees how much the company is behind the initiative with direct involvement from the top C-level team. Plan subsequent goal-driven quarterly schedules to introduce campaigns or contests designed to drive improvement in individual KPIs. Set goals, plan around them and adjust where needed to align towards increased success.
  3. Monitor and Analyze Resulting Employee Engagement Metrics: Without a firm understanding of how the new program is impacting (or not) your employees, you cannot make effective tactical decisions. Measure what you’re managing! Most social recognition systems, such as Kudos, provide key metrics like participation rates and weekly/monthly deltas in engagement either per individual, department or as a company. This business intelligence, or BI, can make the difference between hitting your KPIs or not.
  4. “If you build it they will come” Never Works!:  The old systems of setting and forgetting as programs burn through short life cycles are dying quickly. It takes ongoing work to maintain the level of overall involvement and participation you need to prove success. Monthly programming ideas, a list of campaigns or contests on hand for extended low periods of engagement are just a few examples of must haves for any system administrator. It is easy to assume the new interfaces within SaaS environments are auto-managed, but these types of programs deal directly with the culture of an organization, meaning a human touch is required behind the wheel.
  5. Reward Employees Appropriately:  Ultimately, your engagement program is not about the “carrot” or reward. It’s about creating an environment that enables employees to feel they are valued and a part of something through contribution of best practices, small or large. Inappropriate reward for demonstrating discretionary effort is paramount to belittling. The positive impacts will be reversed very quickly when employees realize their company has little regard for the above and beyond being showcased.

Keep in mind rewards do not have to be monetary!  Time with a person that has influence over their careers (lunch with a manager) is more impactful than a gift card in many cases. Define an annual reward budget. I have heard mention many times the calculation of 1-2% of gross annual salary as a universally accepted benchmark to aim for. This is purely up to your own internal finances, and creativity in the blend of monetary and non-monetary rewards. Finally, I would suggest you ASK your employees what they would like. You can guess, however, you may have a diverse employee group in terms of age and attitude. Plus, personal finances are different for all individuals, so it’s best to keep open and ask for ideas from within.

Taking these 5 suggestions into consideration will greatly increase the success of any employee recognition program within organizations who are trying to improve or build upon their internal culture. Being eyes wide open around the reluctance likely to initially occur will help in the development of “what” to do, “when” to adjust the plan and “how” to introduce and maintain the program. You may never reach 100% participation, however, you will have a much higher adoption and longer lifecycle throughout. With a little planning and attention, you can turn “I’m out!” to “I’m in!”.

Tom Short

Tom Short is the President and Co-Founder of Kudos Inc, where he is pioneering his vision for an industry leading recognition and engagement SaaS solution. Tom’s expertise in branding, marketing strategy and cloud-based SaaS development allows him to chase his passion of changing the world one thank you at a time. When he’s not showing the world that recognition matters, Tom enjoys coaching football, the Black Keys and a steaming vanilla latte to start his day.

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Tom Short

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