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Five Tips To Breathe New Life Into Your Employee Recognition Program

Posted by Pearl, Travis at Monday, 02/04/2013 2:21 pm
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3.1 from 53 votes
Has your employee recognition program gathered a little dust over the years? With shorter-tenure workers and thinner management structures, top-down recognition and service-oriented awards can lose their effectiveness in today's fast-paced culture.

The good news? It doesn't have to be that way. Here are 5 simple tips to breathe new life into your employee recognition program.

Tip #1: Detach Rewards From Recognition
Employees don't need to feel that giving or receiving recognition entitles them to a reward. Many employees just like to get a little confirmation from their colleagues that they are doing a good job and are valuable to their team and organization. You can still reward employees who receive recognition, but don't make it a one-to-one relationship. Collect recognition from everyone in the organization, pick a couple of your favorite nominations, and give those recipients a special reward to show the organization supports their great contributions.

Tip #2: Eliminate Anonymous Recognition
Recognition is a positive action and it reflects well on both the giver and receiver of the recognition. By making the giver of the recognition attach their name to the submission, it will result in higher quality nominations and give you a chance to see who in your organization is helping to strengthen their teams and act as a leader by supporting a culture of peer recognition. Eliminating anonymous feedback may result in a little less volume of recognition, but it will be much more rich and meaningful act if comes from a specific person in your team or organization.

Tip #3: Require Specific Example Of Great Contributions
Requiring a story or specific example to be attached to each nomination makes it real. Instead of something like “Mary always stays late to help with end of month reporting” which is vague and doesn’t provide a clear example for others to follow, write something like “Thanks to Mary for staying late on February 26th, 27th and 28th to help collect sales data for monthly reporting. Because of her reports, we were able to present growth numbers to our board and get their support for a Q2 expansion of our sales team!”. It mentions a specific action or behavior and the outcome of her efforts. Specific examples become something actionable that others in the organization can emulate to garner recognition from their peers.

Tip #4: Make It Transparent
If every nomination in your recognition program is visible for all in the organization to see, you maximize the value of your recognition program. Recognition programs are meant to motivate and inspire your employees to go the extra mile to achieve results. Keeping all the nominations private and only recognizing a few special standouts means the other recipients go unnoticed and it discourages others from giving recognition unless it is for something really stellar. Recognition should happen frequently and be visible to everyone in the team to maximize the motivational effects of your program.

Tip #5: Tie It To Your Values
Your recognition program should revolve around the values you want to promote and encourage in your organization. Your program should accept nominations for acts that exemplify those values. If your company highly values customer service for example, request nominations for the “Service Superstar Award”, where each nomination must tell a story about another employee doing something amazing related to customer service. As your coworkers hear those success stories, it will keep them on the lookout for other great acts of customer service in their team and motivate them to provide amazing experiences to your customers in hopes of being nominated as well.

The five tips above will help you breathe new life into your employee recognition program. If you’re interested in replacing or supplementing your existing program with something new, sign up for a free trial of MeritShare on our website at We took the five best practices above and made it into a product that is so simple, anyone with a company email address can launch it in their team or organization right away.

Feedback or Questions? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section, or email me direct at

  • John Smith Great Post Travis! :D ...One tip I might suggest is Tip #6: Get Leadership Involved - There is no easier way to make recognition work then getting it from your boss! :D
  • Travis Pearl Great point John - support from the executive team can make all the difference. Sometimes leaders are hesitant to participate in giving recognition to individuals due to the concern about showing favorites, but there are other ways to participate. Leaders can accelerate peer recognition by leaving a comment or by sending a quick thank you note to each recipient nominated by their peers, this indicates leadership saw the nomination and appreciates it without them having to make direct nominations themselves.

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