How to Build a Recognition Culture
November 2, 2012|
Written by David Harvey
Business leaders know that engagement is a business imperative. Aberdeen Researches latest quarterly poll of business leaders published in August puts engagement at number six of top ten issues. In fact, this is one of six people-related concerns on the list of which most, such as retaining key staff and workforce productivity, are strongly influenced by engagement levels.
Given the concern about engagement at the top, the mystery is that so few companies have got their act together.
Even among those companies that Aberdeen classifies as best-of-class engagement practitioners, just over half have formal recognition programmes. This drops to 41% for those outside the top group.
Less than a fifth have a joined-up strategy to drive recognition and reward.
Aberdeen’s report, Saying thank you: how recognition drives organisational performance, points out that it is neither expensive nor complicated to implement the touchy-feely programmes that people appreciate.
Recognition can be expressed in a number of ways: special events, e-cards, celebrations, various kinds of prizes, family outings and, increasingly, schemes based on peer recognition. It can also involve a bit of fun, as evidenced by the company that marks staff recognition with the award of helium balloons.
This may be the soft side of engagement but Aberdeen argues that alongside reward, it is an essential part of the engagement mix. While tangible reward focuses on the achievement of specific business goals, recognition creates the organisational climate that encourages longer-term performance excellence. Yet few companies treat these together to create a recognition culture that drives engagement and performance.
According to Aberdeen, there is a simple explanation why some companies have a recognition culture and most others don’t.
It comes down to support from the top.
HR Insights’ case study of the Merlin Entertainments Group points up the importance of senior management champions. From the outset, Merlin’s CEO identified engagement as a key success factor and the existence of a strong recognition culture has played a major part in the performance record of the business.
A three-point plan to create a recognition culture
Companies that want to achieve higher level of engagement need to address three key aspects of organisational policy and practice, recommends Aberdeen.
- The first requirement is to develop a unified reward and recognition strategy to ensure that both tangible and intangible components work in harmony.
- Second, there must be effective communication channels for managers to demonstrate authentic appreciation for a job well done. Increasingly, social media offer an effective and practical means for recognition to be given to staff. It also works well where peer-to-peer schemes are in place.
- Third, because the goal of engagement is to raise organisational performance, any recognition programme needs to be inclusive and reach all staff. This means part time and remote workers as well as office-based staff.
There are several points to consider in traveling this route.
Recognition has to pass the trust and authenticity test. Any suspicion that it is a cynical or empty gesture will fatally undermine any scheme.
While most thank you schemes require little or no investment, there is a case for ensuring that the technology is up to the job of providing an adequate channel for peer-to-peer schemes.
Finally, there are hard business reasons for taking this seriously.
Talent programmes falter where engagement levels are low as it becomes harder to either keep or attract staff. Also, engagement drives performance. If thanking people encourages them to go that extra mile, why doesn’t every company make this custom and practice?
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