Employee Motivation

Fresh Ideas for Motivating & Recognizing Top Performers [Webinar recap]

You've done a great job designing and implementing a modern performance program at your organization...but do you have a recognition program to match? If you think performance management and recognition have nothing in common, think again! Data shows that rewards and recognition are consistently the strongest drivers of employee engagement across all industries - particularly for your high-performing employees. Knowing this, how can we ensure that performance management programs and recognition systems are working well together to motivate your top employees?

To address these questions, we hosted a webinar with Sahra Kaboli-Nejad, a People Scientist at Culture Amp and Bryan Vermes, Global Manager of Employee Experience at Mimecast for a lively discussion on how to motivate and recognize top-performing employees.

Check out the full recording and recap below and, for more great HR Webinars, stay in touch via our Resources page.

Here are our four best tips for motivating your high-performing employees through recognition:

1. Develop strong recognition and performance systems

It’s important to remember that while recognition is about acknowledging great work, it’s also used to motivate employees to continue working toward their highest potential. To achieve and measure this, you must have strong recognition and performance systems in place. One way to do so is by using the organizational justice framework.

This framework focuses on three components that, when properly applied, will lead to huge improvements in development areas such as employee engagement, performance, and learning and development.

The employee recognition process.

This component concerns the rules for decision making, consistency, and employee voice. When designing our performance and recognition programs and thinking about the process involved, we should ask ourselves: Are the decision-making rules clear and consistent? Are the measures we’re using relevant to aspects of performance that are important to us? Are we applying them consistently? Do employees have an opportunity to voice their input?


This aspect focuses on expectation setting, transparency, and clarity around our performance and recognition processes. This is to ensure that employees understand exactly the performance that is expected of them in order to receive recognition. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about the information around your programs: Are we training our employees about how the performance process works? Do they understand how decisions are made regarding their level of performance? Have we provided clarity around expectations of work performance?Do they know what goals they need to accomplish in order to receive recognition or rewards?


Finally, this component is about gauging whether employees feel like an outcome was fair and what they wanted. And this isn’t only referring to getting a raise, bonus, or awesome experience through Blueboard. It’s also about whether or not they feel like they received the reward or recognition that was suitable for their performance. When designing your performance and recognition programs, ask yourself these questions about the outcomes: Is the recognition or performance rating received (or not received) on par with others at the same level? Is it in line with the level of effort and impact delivered?

You can use performance management platforms like Culture Amp to measure whether or not you’re moving the needle on these various components with your recognition program.

2. Consider the three layers of recognition

There are many flavors of recognition. Consider mixing them up in your program to ensure you have a diverse offering and present an opportunity for all of your employees to participate. When more employees participate, employee engagement rises and enriches the company culture. Let’s examine the three layers of recognition:

Day to day (accessible to all employees).

This type of recognition is all about verbal praise and other very light-lift forms of expressing your gratitude. At Mimecast, they strongly emphasize the power of a simple “thank you” as part of their company culture and demonstrate it through shoutouts at employee gatherings.

Informal (accessible to 25-30% of employees).

Informal recognition is slightly more involved than day-to-day efforts, but also isn’t overly structured. Spot recognition is a great example of informal recognition. It’s usually used to highlight employees who have gone above and beyond in performance or who amplify company values. Mimecast has a program called Bravo Zulu, where they use the power of storytelling to recognize employees. People can submit recognition kudos to the leadership team, who will then read out the nominations via video at a quarterly meeting so it can reach all 12 of their global locations.

Formal recognition (accessible to 5-10% of employees).

Finally, you have formal recognition programs. These usually take the form of high-end company retreats or sabbatical programs. For instance, Mimecast has partnered with Blueboard to provide experiential rewards for employees who hit their five-year anniversary. An extra special form of recognition like this ensures they feel appreciated for all their contributions, can create a memory with those they care about, and come back to the office feeling re-energized.

3. Align recognition with company values

These days, many companies are choosing to align their recognition efforts with how well an employee lives and breathes the company values. Why? Because these values are a huge investment by the organization, serve as a business differentiator and have a direct correlation to the health of the business. Employees who amplify these values are exhibiting the traits that are the measure of success within that company. Here are a few tips to ensure your recognition program aligns with your company values:  

Have conversations.

You should uncover your company values by talking to the people in your organization, who are the best representation of what your brand represents. Have a conversation over lunch, host focus groups, or use any other tactic to pick the brains of employees across all roles.

Don’t take a top-down approach.

Make sure you’re being inclusive of all tenure levels when coming up with your company values. This means inviting employees who are six months into the job, as well as seasoned executives. You get a more diverse and better represented range of perspectives this way.

Make everything seamless.

Once you have your values, build them into your systems. This means talking about your value-driven recognition program during onboarding or making sure your recognition efforts are streamlined and part of your HRIS systems.

4. Invest in socialization

Finally, if you want to motivate your top performers with recognition, make sure they know about the opportunities that are available to them! You can achieve this by spreading the word about your program through choice investments in socialization. Consider the following tips:

Make recognition shareable.

You can generate internal buzz around your employee recognition programs by calling out and recognizing employees publicly during team gatherings or sharing the experiences of those who have been recognized in the past. These tactics will build awareness for the program, encourage employees to share and celebrate with each other, and amplify the great work of your people.

Have executive champions.

We all know about the importance of leadership buy in. The same concept applies when it comes to recognition. Make sure your CEO is involved in the marketing and implementation of your program so it’s visible to every other employee in the organization.

Tap into existing channels.

Recognition rewards (and, in particular, experiential rewards) are ripe for sharing and positive brand associations on social media. You can tap into existing channels, such as Slack, to create a home for recognition stories. These communication platforms make it easy for teams to celebrate with one another - even if you have global offices.

Personalize your employee recognition with fresh employee motivation ideas.

For those looking for personalized employee recognition ideas, we’d love for you to browse some of our experiential employee rewards here at Blueboard. To learn more about Blueboard and get in touch with our team, rStay tuned for more valuable webinars and upcoming events here on our Resources page.

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