Program Best Practices

4 employee recognition program best practices

A successful employee recognition program is one of the most direct ways a leader can influence employee engagement. The challenge is building one that is authentic, effective, and in turn well-received by the team as a whole.

It’s impossible to please everyone all the time, but there are some easy steps you can take to ensure your program performs the best it possibly can.

4 steps to create an employee recognition program tied to your values.

This provides a double benefit. For one, you’re constantly reinforcing the values that your organization lives and breathes by. You’re giving employees opportunities to show how they personally express those values and providing excellent and varied examples to the rest of the team.

Let’s say delighting the customer is one of your company’s highest-held values, you’ll want to give employee recognition for contributions that exemplify that value.

Maybe Claudia from the engineering department went above and beyond to fix a bug that has been plaguing a number of your customers for days, or Rashad’s CS team kept their response times under one hour for the past three weeks without degrading the quality of service. Both of these contributions are great examples of unique ways employees across different departments can exemplify organizational values.

1. Recognize contributions frequently and in the moment.

Recognizing everyday contributions is just as important as recognizing extraordinary contributions. In order to accomplish that, it’s crucial to give employee recognition frequently, and in the moment.

Recognition given in the moment has the greatest potential for impact for several reasons.

  • It's given while the contribution is still fresh in a colleague's mind
  • It ensures employees don’t feel a lack of employee recognition in the time that lapses between contribution and recognition
  • It shows that large and small contributions are important and worthy of recognition

It may seem like a massive undertaking to provide frequent and timely recognition for employees across your organization, but here’s the secret: you don’t have to be the one giving the employee recognition, as long as you’re facilitating it.

Most great leaders are facilitators, and that philosophy aptly applies here. You can ensure the myriad contributions your team makes are recognized by providing an environment or a structure in which you’re facilitating frequent employee recognition. Peer-to-peer recognition is one highly effective way to do that. If you’re not ready to design your own peer-to-peer recognition program, there are some great turn-key platforms available.

2. Reward participation, but don’t force it.

Mandatory fun is self-defeating. Don’t waste your time trying to push employees to participate in an employee recognition program or employee rewards program they’re not excited about. Focus your energy on developing a program that is so enticing, so rewarding to participate in, they’re powerless to resist.

One of the easiest and most effective ways of achieving this is to include employee rewards as part of your recognition program. A pat on the back is much better than nothing, but data we’ve gathered indicates that when there’s a tangible reward attached to that piece of employee recognition, the impression it leaves on the receiver, and the engagement it inspires are both dramatically increased.

3.Tailor employee rewards to your unique team and values.

OK, so you’re on board so far — you’re ready to provide employee rewards as part of your employee recognition plan, but what do you offer?

Your organization is unique. Play to that strength.

Your team’s collective likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams—they’re all unique.

It’s important that the employee rewards you offer as part of this employee recognition aren’t simply carbon copies of some great rewards program you read about. In order to truly inspire your team, it’s important to provide employee rewards that speak to them and your unique organizational culture. Unique and experiential employee rewards are both great ways of achieving this.

For some companies, a ski day might be the perfect reward; for others, it could be a skydiving trip, a master class in their field, or an extra day off. The key is providing a variety of options and making sure the options actually match your team’s interests, goals, and culture. If you’re considering offering experiences as rewards, check out Blueboard’s offering here.

4. Solicit feedback and measure success regularly.

The success of employee recognition and employee rewards programs is often judged by qualitative assessments like, "Everyone seems to like it" or "Nobody’s complaining" at best, and "We’ve always done it this way" at worst. It’s one thing to infer the program is going well, and something else entirely to know exactly how well it’s going.

If you don’t have an objective way of measuring the success of your employee recognition program, you’re going to have a hard time reporting on its ROI. As the professions of HR and People Operations continue to evolve towards a more data-driven approach, this will continue to increase in importance.

One of the best ways to find out is simply to ask, and ask regularly. Leverage team meetings to ask for real-time feedback so the program doesn’t collect too much dust before validating its success.

There are some great tools available that make gathering and analyzing employee feedback quick and painless, and some HRIS and employee recognition platforms have built-in capabilities for making qualitative assessments of the program’s overall success.

No matter what path you take in designing an employee recognition program, these tips can improve its effectiveness, and help make it more authentic to your organization and the people who are a part of it.

Request a demo to find out how you can incorporate Blueboard at your company.

Written with love by George Dickson, Marketing at

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