Employee recognition best practices: Part 1

Employee recognition at ChristmasThe purpose of an employee recognition programme is to recognise and reward employees for behaviours and work that supports and furthers the mission, goals and values of the organisation. It is an opportunity to recognise and thank staff for the contribution, dedication and commitment to the organisation, especially when all employees like to know they are appreciated for the work they do.

In this two-part series, I outline some employee recognition best practices to help you improve your recognition programme:


Cultivate a successful recognition culture

A recognition culture needs to start at the top of the organisation and permeate every level. But particularly senior leaders need to be able to:

  • Give their employees an understanding of how their role positively impacts the organisation’s goals and success.
  • Explain how the employee recognition programme works and how employees can receive recognition.
  • Walk the talk by giving recognition, not just talking about it.
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Include different types of recognition

Employee recognition can take many forms from long service awards and employee of the month award to on-the-spot rewards. However, recognition is most effective when it takes place on a regular basis and in a variety of different ways.

Your organisation should offer a mix of both formal and informal recognition. An official programme that recognises both individuals and teams will support the objectives and strategic goals of the individual, team, department or organisation. While managers can use informal recognition every day to acknowledge contributions of individuals, teams and project teams.


Involve your employees

Employee InvolvementAs well as meeting the needs of the business, your recognition programme should meet the needs of your employees by helping them achieve the work performance and demonstrate the attributes the department needs to succeed.

This can be done by involving your employees in the development of your programme.

There are numerous ways your can involve your employees in your recognition programme: for example including employees, as well as management, on the committee  charged to develop and implement the recognition programme. You can also survey employees to get their input on behaviours and job performance that should be recognised, identify recognition criteria and rewards, and gather other recognition ideas such as birthdays and work anniversaries.


Consider your reward criteria

Your reward criteria should be linked your organisation and department objectives, and should focus on values and behaviours. Some examples of reward criteria include:

  • Teamwork
  • Customer service
  • Going the extra mile
  • Commitment
  • Flexibility
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Professional development

Once you’ve decided on the reward criteria, then you need to consider the eligibility requirements, such as can an employee win the same award more than once a year?

Communication is important, all employees should know what they need to do and the behaviours they need to demonstrate to be eligible for a reward. Communicating the criteria significantly increases employees’ propensity to display the behaviours you want them to.

Download our guide to reward and recognition

Reward and recognition guide

This guide will assist programme managers to develop a scheme that will improve the performance of your people, engage them and make best use of your available budget.

Click here to download


Specify your nomination and selection process

Like the reward criteria, you need to consider carefully your nomination and selection process and communicate it clearly so employees understand it and there are no accusations of bias.

To help you determine your process consider the following questions:

  • Will the nomination process confidential or will the nominators be named?
  • Can all employees submit a nomination, or will it just be managers?
  • What information should be provided on the nomination form?
  • How will the nominations be submitted, for example, email, online form, or paper form?
  • How often will nominations be reviewed?
  • What is the timeframe for reviewing nominations and making a decision?
  • Will there be a limit on the number of rewards given out, or will they be given to everyone who deserves it?


In part two of this series I’ll highlight more employee recognition best practices.


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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