Be (S)SMART with your recognition programme (part 1)

Recognition for ideasRecognition programmes deliver long-term benefits for organisations of all sizes and as such should form part of any business strategy. They create a win-win situation for both employees and employers, employees get appreciation, rewards and public validation, while for employers recognition programmes can:


  • Improve employee retention
  • Increase productivity
  • Reinforce company culture and values
  • Increase creativity and problem solving among employees
  • Lead to improvements in processes
  • Foster collaboration and team working
  • Build community among your employees
  • Improve your employer brand
  • Make it easier to recruit talent

Whatever the reason you want to motivate your employees with a recognition programme, if you want it to be effective and give you the benefits associated with recognition programmes such as increased staff loyalty, improved performance and an improved reputation as an employer then it needs to be delivered SSMART.


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

Make your recognition programme SSMART

Recognition needs to be a daily management practice rather than something done on an occasional basis. And it doesn’t need to be costly or time-consuming. To make your recognition effective you just need to follow the SSMART philosophy of Jim Brintnall, in his article, “What Makes a Good Reward?”

That means that your recognition and rewards should be:

S: Supportive

Your recognition programme will be most effective if the goals, and the criteria for recognition, are aligned with your organisation’s vision, mission, values and objectives. In other words, it needs to support your organisation’s values, mission and goals. Not only will this help you achieve your organisation’s mission and goals but it also demonstrates to employees how they can play their part in achieving your organisation’s mission and goals.


S: Sincere

A Thank YouMeaningless praise doesn’t work as employees see if for what it is, so recognition and appreciation need to a genuine expression of appreciation given in a sincere and heartfelt way. If managers struggle with what to say when giving recognition, then here is a simple recipe for success:

  1. Thank your employee by name.
  2. Tell your employee (and the audience if it is a public recognition event) specifically what they did to deserve the recognition.
  3. Explain to your recipient the result it had, for example, did it save you time, result in exceeding the customer’s expectations, or mean you got the report to your manager on time?
  4. Tell your employee effect it had on yourself and other members of the team – how did it make you feel?
  5. Finish by thanking the person once again by name and giving them a token of your appreciation.


M: Meaningful

Organisations, even among competitors, differ greatly so avoid one-size-fits-all recognition programmes, and don’t try to implement a programme that works for your competitor in your organisation – it won’t necessarily work for your organisation. Make your recognition programme meaningful by making sure it is tailored to your company culture and that the recognition and rewards focus employees on your underlying mission, values and goals rather than the rewards themselves.

The rewards also need to be meaningful to the employees receiving them. Managers and HR professionals need to get to know their employees so they can understand what rewards will motivate individual employees.

Finally, the presentation of the reward needs to be meaningful. The presentation of the recognition is often overlooked, but it can make or break your programme. Rather than send a gift through the post with a standard letter, it will have much more impact and meaning if it is delivered personally with a handwritten thank you note. That’s because people are more likely to be motivated to repeat the behaviour that led to recognition if it is delivered personally.



In part two of this article, I’ll look at the remaining parts of the SSMART philosophy.


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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