The rationale for implementing an employee recognition programme

Recognise ColleaguesBusiness success depends on a lot of things, but perhaps most importantly it depends on its employees. After all many, many studies have shown that the most valuable asset a business has is its human resource.

That’s why successful businesses understand the importance of having a recognition and reward programme that thanks employees for their contribution to the business. Employee recognition programmes help keep employees motivated, reinforce company values and goals, lower absenteeism, stress and employee turnover, increase job satisfaction and productivity, and improve employee loyalty.

If you look at the businesses that people want to work for, and have a high level of staff loyalty, you’ll find that these businesses take the time to properly recognise and appreciate their employees.

There are different employee recognition schemes available to suit every business, from simple informal schemes that just say ‘thank you’, to formal schemes that offer high-end rewards such as a holiday or spa day. The recognition can also come from managers/leaders, or workers’ peers.

However, for an employee recognition scheme to deliver on its goals, and to contribute to business success, it must add value, which is why any organisation looking to set up, or refresh, such a programme must review and understand its rationale.


What is your goal?

Businesses need to think strategically when setting up or refreshing a recognition programme. What do they want it to achieve, why are they setting it up? Reasons may include:

  • Creating a positive work environment
  • Creating a culture of recognition
  • Improving performance
  • Reinforcing desired behaviours in line with company values
  • Increasing employee morale
  • Supporting the business’ mission and values
  • Increasing employee retention and decreasing staff turnover
  • Encouraging employee loyalty
  • Supporting a culture change
  • Improving competitiveness
  • Improving the business’ financial performance


Survey after survey has proved that whilst employees have benefited from greater recognition, so has the business, provided it has been set up in the right way.


Critical elements to an effective and successful employee recognition programme

Whilst these programmes can be as individual as the business that is implementing it, all effective and successful programs have some common elements:

  • workmenManagement commitment to the recognition programme
  • Linked to improving the financial performance of the business
  • Consultation with employees when setting up the scheme and choosing rewards
  • Fair and transparent recognition and reward criteria
  • Simple and easy processes to nominate people for recognition
  • Continuous monitoring and evaluation



To get the best out of your recognition programme it should be set up in a SSMART way (with credit to Jim Brintnall for the acronym):

  • Support business values and goals – There needs to be a clear connection between the business’ values, mission and your recognition scheme. It should help deliver your business objectives.
  • Sincere and simple – Keep the recognition sincere and simple by thanking your employee by name, saying what they did to earn the recognition and what affect that had on the business or others.
  • Meaningful – Make the reward meaningful by giving your employee something that they will value, rather than a cash reward in their next pay packet.
  • Adaptable – Employees are not created equal and are not motivated by the same rewards, so ensure your scheme offers a range of rewards that will motivate most employees.
  • Relevant – Make the behaviours and actions that get rewarded relevant to the employees’ roles and the business goals. Be specific about what will be rewarded, so employees know what they have to do.
  • Timely – Recognition should be given as close as possible to the behaviour that resulted in the recognition, in order to strengthen the link between the behaviour and the result.


See how these organisations show their appreciation through peer to peer 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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  1. Adrian Duncan says:

    Whilst most organisations follow a similar approach unfortunately, it’s incredible how many times consultation with employees is either completely missed or initiated as an afterthought. This exercise has a huge effect on the effectiveness of the programme in terms of initial response and ongoing engagement. This supports the old adage TELL ME: I will forget. SHOW ME: I may remember. INVOLVE ME: and I will understand. STEP BACK and I will act.”

    One of the best RECOGNITION programmes I ever launched involved 3 months of employee consultation to agree the scheme ethos, the criteria, the levels of recognition, the award values and how they were adjudicated and communicated. This included online surveys, drop in Q&As, focus groups, team manager led sessions and senior manager round tables. We then reviewed the overall results with teams through team leader sessions. The scheme is now in it’s fifth year and participation has remained high at over 65% of the audience.

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