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3 Steps to Impactful Recognition

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Investments in employees need to account for value, visibility, and level of contribution to maximize their effectiveness. Social recognition is the ideal solution across all three.

One of the challenges that some clients bring to us involves getting the right mix of recognition and other investments in their total rewards portfolio. This is an important question because the strength and duration of some of those investments, especially in the form of incentives or bonuses, has been called into question.

At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence that illustrates how important recognition is in creating a more human workplace, which itself is foundational across a number of pressing HR challenges in talent attraction, engagement, and retention. Together, these dynamics suggest that the better investment is towards strengthening social recognition, the effects of which may be more impactful and also more enduring.

For some companies, this can present something of a paradigm shift in thinking: often from a blend of tactical yet inconsistent recognition alongside bonuses and incentives, towards a strategic and unified social recognition solution. This shift also requires thinking about what it is about recognition that ultimately makes it an effective motivator vis-à-vis other potential investments a company can make.

Here are three attributes that impact the ways that employees perceive investments in them that ultimately determine their effectiveness:

  1. Value. Employees may assign a financial and an emotional value to the investments that companies make in them, but the relative weighting of each depends heavily on the particular type of investment. Bonuses and other like incentives fall more squarely into the financial side, while traditional recognition (e.g., a written thank you) fall more squarely into the emotional. Combining both- a recognition moment which includes a tangible award- is well positioned to have the largest impact by touching upon both financial and emotional drivers.
  2. Visibility. Looking again at the types of investments that a company can make, there are differences in the extent to which those investments are public or shareable, as well as the source most often associated with them. Bonuses and incentives, much like pay, tend to be less transparent in nature and less shared. Recognition, on the other hand, spans private and public acknowledgement through a variety of potential channels and from all across the organization. Social recognition lends structure to the amount of visibility, with flexible control of who can see what to ensure that moments of great work are shared where possible and privacy is maintained where needed or desired.
  3. Level of Contribution. Matching the investment to the level of contribution is another crucial factor to consider. Often, bonuses and incentives are metered out at predetermined intervals, rather than in real-time according to the work being performed. Traditional recognition, in the form of a verbal or written thank you note, can be timelier, but may also fail to accurately reflect the employee’s investment in contributing great work. Again, social recognition can provide a solution that is both timely and structured to capture the differences in contributions across employees, resulting in perceptions of fairness.

Successful employee recognition programs are flexible to account for these differences in an elegant fashion, ensuring that the recognition moment itself remains both simple and natural.

What other factors do you think need to go into planning for effective social recognition?