Building Recognition To Last

March 19, 2013 Darcy Jacobsen


Various toolsMost businesses fail. That’s a depressing but true fact. About 543,000 new businesses are started in the US every month. And 56% of those businesses fail long before they even hit their 5 year anniversary. Few companies begin life expecting that sort of expiration date, but it’s a stark reality that only companies that stick to solid principles are able to consistently deliver results, evolve, and prosper over the long haul.

Sustainability, in that sense, doesn’t only apply to the environment—it also applies to your business practices.  Sustainability in business means effecting a balance between stability and flexibility. Including a willingness to grow while staying true to what made you succeed in the first place.

Recognition is no different. We want maximum impact from recognition in the short term, but we also want the power of that thank you to reverberate. We also want to design a consistent solution for recognition that won’t need to be reinvented every 9 months. We want sustainable recognition that will last, remain relevant and pay dividends.

Okay, so how can you ensure that your employee recognition program is designed for that kind of sustainability? Here are three principles to consider, to help build long-term stability into your recognition solution:

Build on the pillars of your own success: Make sure your recognition program is tied back to your company’s core values, so that every award given is given for observing and practicing one of the behaviors that has been at the heart of your success.  This has the dual advantage of letting your culture reinforce recognition, and recognition re-inforce your culture—strengthening both in the process.

Make recognition tangible and concrete: Don’t just provide employee rewards. Turn recognition into a material, permanent reminder that daily reinforces the behavior that inspired it. Design a solution that offers the widest possible array of choice, but put that choice into the hands of your employees. This offers two benefits:

1.   The redemption process reinforces appreciation and the behavior that inspired it.

2.   Being able to choose something that is personally meaningful ensures that that reward will stick around, as a permanent reminder of that recognition. (That goes for whether the gift is a cool tool they’ve been saving up for, or the photographs they take on a trip they bought with reward points. )

In a world where we all too often ask “what have you done for me lately?” it is nice to be physically reminded of the answer.

Future-proof your choices: The truth is, any technology has a certain ephemeral quality built into it. Anything you buy today is already obsolete because something is being developed that will replace it. It is hard to predict. The product you’re looking at today might seem state-of-art, with all the trendy bells and whistles. But three years from now it may look like the BetaMax of HRIS? That’s why, as you look over your choices, it is really more important to shop for a partner than a product.

1.  Ask to speak with the product people. Find out how they think.Peek past the features and benefits and ensure that the underlying principles of the company are compatible with your own—and equally designed for sustainability.

2.  Be sure your vendors are thought leaders that are going to have the best product tomorrow and five years from now and ten years after that. That they are going to work to stay on the leading edge of technology and to help you to anticipate and adapt to changes. (A good thing to look for in this regard is a multi-tenant SaaS solution.)

Good recognition should reverberate and last. And good recognition solutions should, like companies that last, find the sweet spot between a willingness to evolve and grow, and long-term sustainability. Be sure you’re designing for the long haul.

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