5 steps for creating an employee recognition program

July 13, 2021

An effective and sustainable employee recognition program can increase engagement, make employees feel appreciated and reduce turnover.

 

Several studies have shown that the reason most Americans leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. As a business owner, you can develop a recognition program for employees — similar to what larger corporations have — that will help you attract and retain talent.

With a little forethought and planning, you can help hard-working employees feel appreciated and reap the benefits for the growth of your business. You could also potentially reduce voluntary turnover. In fact, a Bersin & Associates survey1 reported that companies with recognition programs that are highly effective at increasing employee engagement have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover than organizations with less effective programs.

Following these steps can help you develop an effective and sustainable employee recognition program that can increase engagement, make employees feel appreciated and reduce turnover. 

 

1. Establish team recognition

Don’t try to develop a team recognition program in a vacuum. Recruit a few people who can actively co-create the initiative. As a small business, you may not have a large HR staff, so get cross-functional involvement by employees at all levels. By involving the team from the beginning, they will feel a sense of ownership and will want to promote the program among their peers.

 

2. Identify what you want to reinforce

As a team, decide on the objective of your recognition program. For example, maybe you want to encourage employees who start and end meetings on time, or who deliver exceptional customer service. Or, are you trying to boost individual performance in sales or manufacturing? Another option is to reward entire teams or the entire company for reducing spending, reaching growth goals or other macro-level achievements.

 

3. Set attainable goals and clearly communicate expectations

When you announce your employee recognition program, make sure people know what’s in it for them. Why should they care? The answer should go beyond the carrot at the end of the stick. Tell them how they are affecting change and growing the organization so they feel a sense of purpose. They want the company to succeed — and they want you to notice how much they care.

Make sure you set attainable goals as well. Start by looking at what’s reasonable to expect for your company, your industry and your people. If your competitors are growing by an average of 5 percent per year and you set a goal to grow your company by 20 percent, that’s probably unrealistic. As a result, employees will likely reject the program and feel defeated.

 

4. Acknowledge both the positive and negative

Some people feel our society overpraises, yet others leave their jobs for lack of appreciation. You have to find a balance. Creating an employee recognition program can certainly promote positive vibes, but don’t let it take the place of constructive criticism. After all, making positive changes requires us to first recognize where change is needed.

Encourage a culture of constant improvement. To sustain enthusiasm in your program, make the rewards timely. If you only salute outstanding performance once a year, you may only see outstanding performance once a year. Your best bet is frequent reinforcement of incremental progress.

One option is to recognize employees with prepaid rewards cards, such as U.S. Bank Rewards Cards, which allow them to purchase whatever they want, online or in-store.

 

5. Make sure it works for your company

Fine-tune your program regularly by evaluating if it’s motivating, if it’s helping individuals and/or the organization achieve goals and if it fits the culture you want to create for your company.

There are lots of great ideas out there for employee recognition programs, but what works for one company may not work for another.

 

Learn 10 ways to reward employees to increase motivation and spark greater company success.

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