Tips to start a formal employee recognition program

A formal employee recognition program is a kind of a program which is aimed to reward your employees formally either in terms of bonuses or awards handed out at the month of a time cycle. These programs are well-planned and designed to improve work place performances, boost morale and confidence among employees and achieve overall organization goals with a positive workforce. If you still haven’t started an employee recognition program at your workplace, then it is important that you take steps to do so. For your help and reference, we have come up with a well detailed process to create a program of this kind.

STEP 1: Identify the Goal of Your Recognition Program
The first step to setting up a reward program is to come up with a long term goal or objective. You must identify and define what you want to achieve from the program. The objective must be appropriate and meaningful to your company and should not violate company policies in any way. In order to identify the goal of a strong recognition program, you can follow the given below points and tips:

Talk at the management level – Make sure you sit down with your top managerial executives and list down all the possible objectives of the program. Take their ideas and make sure there is a higher purpose and a clear vision for the program.
Talk to employees – Besides taking opinions of the managerial staff, it is also important to talk to employees and take their take on the matter. Every employee is different; while some may just like a quiet and personal appreciation note, others may prefer to be recognized a little more publicly. This is why, talking to employees can help you figure out their temperaments.

STEP 2: Establish a Budget
Now that you have set up the goal of the recognition program, it is time to establish a budget keeping in mind the financial position of the business and reserving a practical amount for awards or rewards. For this, talk to the finance or accounts department and figure out the amount that you can afford to spend on such a program every month or year. It is important to know that such programs can run on either no cost or little costs as well. However, keeping aside some money for cash rewards, coupons, gift cards and other rewards too may be a good way to differentiate between levels of recognition and awarding. Make sure you do not overstep the budget just in order to strengthen your program as this can eventually lead to a loss rather than major profits.

STEP 3: Set a Committee
The 3rd step in this process is to set up a committee and appoint a few employees or managerial level executives to handle the functioning of the reward program. Try not to form too huge a committee in the beginning and include only a few recognized employees in it. The committee can then be given the responsibility to handle everything related to the program including the formation of formal awards; creation of new reward types every month or quarter and interesting ways to promote the program internally. Doing so will help you get a more streamlined approach to the program that does not leak out among the employees and remains a surprise for them.

STEP 4: Set criteria and guidelines
Every successful and effective employee recognition program has a set of guidelines and criteria on the basis of which it functions and goes on smoothly. It is important for you too to create core values and guidelines so that it remains fair and unbiased. Make rules, discuss exceptional cases of recognition and have a list of points according to which an employee will be recognized or rewarded. The following are a few guidelines that you can follow.

Potential criteria for assigning a reward:

Length of service;
Excellence in performance;
Peer-to-peer communication and association;
Leadership qualities;
Personal accomplishments;
Team accomplishments;
Milestones crossed;
Number of points earned according to point system;
Attendance, punctuality, results achieved.
Rules about setting criteria:

Be fair and unbiased in your approach to setting up the guidelines;
Be clear and transparent about the rules;
Make the criteria strictly applicable on not only top or medium level executives but also on entry level staff or technicians and other workers.

STEP 5: Select the rewards
Rewards that you give to your employee doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. At the end of the day, it is the appreciation and recognition of efforts that matters the most to employees and hence the formal reward can be nominal in cost. The reward must be chosen in such a way that it suits your budget and is given keeping in mind the needs and interests of your employees. While selecting an award or a reward, you can get as creative as you want but it should be tied closely to the goal of the program. Some good examples of possible rewards can be:

Gift coupons;
Gift cards;
Cash rewards;
A short vacation opportunity;
Insurance-related benefits;
A pen/gadget;
A free lunch/dinner with family/friends;
Free pick up and drop off facility for a month;
Redeemable gold points;
A hotel stay.

STEP 6: Communicate with Your Employees
Once you have figured out the entire program and worked out each of its details, the next step for you is to tell all your employees about the idea or initiative. You can send a mail to the entire workforce, put up bulletin notification or send promotional materials across the workspace for everyone to be aware of such a program. If employees know and understand the program and the way it will work, they will be encouraged to pump up their performance. This will encourage them to be at the top of their game and may automatically improve the overall performance. Moreover, this helps to create a trust factor in their minds and makes them feel like their efforts count.

Make sure the communication material or method explains the various factors on which employees shall be evaluated so that they can consciously work on those areas and know that the process is unbiased and fair for all.

STEP 7: Maintain and Repeat Recognition Program
The key to running a successful recognition program at your workplace is to make sure it runs continuously and keeps adding more creative awarding ideas to maintain the fun element and interest among the workforce. You must make sure that you define the frequency of the rewards, for example – weekly, monthly or yearly, etc. Also, ask the recognition committee to keep changing the criteria and technique of selecting candidates and awarding them every now and then so that employees look forward to performing better through each cycle. Only when the program will run for a long time will it become truly a part of the corporate culture.

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