3 mistakes that will destroy your employee recognition scheme

Employee recognition mistakesEmployee recognition schemes are usually implemented by HR Teams wanting to attract, motivate and retain talented and productive employees, which of course is key to business success.

What drove your business to implement a formal employee recognition scheme may differ from the business next door but generally there are some common themes, such as:

  • Increasing employee retention
  • Supporting innovative thinking
  • Addressing performance issues
  • Improving productivity
  • Reducing staff turnover

Most businesses seem to understand that not all employees are motivated by the same things and not all recognition schemes serve the same purpose. However we still meet companies who have implemented recognition programmes but found that they simply didn’t have any impact, so they stopped them.

Our experience shows that if your employee recognition scheme isn’t working for you then it’s probably due to one of these three main reasons…


Choosing rewards your employees simply don’t desire

Rewards must appealThe biggest mistake we see are rewards that fail to inspire, motivate and engage employees. This is because the people running the scheme have chosen rewards that they think their employees want or rewards that appeal to them.

You can’t please everyone all of the time but you can ensure that you have a range of options that suit most people. Start by consulting with your employees on the types of rewards they would like to be available and the types of rewards they don’t want. You can do this through questionnaires, town hall meetings, team meetings and even online polls through your email, intranet and tools such as Survey Monkey.

Once you have the insight you can use this to plan your rewards. Rewards don’t have to be expensive, there are plenty of low/no-cost options such as a plaque, congratulatory certificate or the CEO’s parking spot for a week.


Not communicating your scheme

Typically the induction process for a new employee will involve an introduction to the company reward and recognition programme, but that’s where communication about the programme stops. If you’re not communicating the benefits of continually using your scheme then you might as well not have one!

Communicating your recognition programme is probably the most vital element. If you’re not engaging with your employees through on-going communication then you could be missing out on all the benefits of having a recognition scheme.

Communicate schemesUse every available communication tool, such as notice boards, email, intranet, mobile messaging and meetings to let your employees know about updates to the programme. Use case studies of those who have been rewarded and promote the behaviours and values that qualify for recognition.


Unfair schemes

Every employer starts out with the very best intentions when it comes to employee recognition but some schemes result in complaints about the behaviours and targets that are recognised and rewarded, complaints about favouritism, plus jealousy and employees being overly competitive with each another.

These are all easy to avoid. You must make sure that your recognition programme is transparent: the behaviours and targets that will be rewarded should be clearly communicated as should the processes. Consider implementing a peer-to-peer recognition scheme where your employees nominate their co-workers, as this is avoid any complaints about favouritism by managers. Also avoid offering limited rewards, for example to the first 10 employees to achieve a sales target – what about employees working in departments other than sales?

Fail to plan = plan to fail

A lot of the mistakes I see are usually due to a lack of planning when setting up an employee recognition scheme. With a little bit of awareness of the pitfalls and by taking the time to properly plan and implement you’ll be well on your way to a successful scheme that engages and motivates your employees.


See how other companies run their recognition schemes

Recognition Video Case Studies

Aviva, Virgin Media and Siemens recognition videos 



John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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