6 Ways to Really Screw Up Recognition (Guest Post)

wind up tired manA short while back, Matt wrote a terrific blog post over at Globoforce on how to make your company values sticky. As the saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.” So we’re reciprocating by giving his audience (you) six sure-fire ways to screw up recognition.

So with that said, here are six ways you can really louse up your business results, lose your best employees and demoralize the rest of your workforce—all in the name of recognition:

1. Run Multiple Inconsistent Recognition Programs

If you really want to cripple yourself out of the gate, make sure you hold onto every legacy “employee of the month parking spot” program and every random department-only perk. Whatever you do, do not create a single, centrally-managed, global program that is accessible to all employees, in all departments, everywhere in your organization and everywhere in the world. A universal program with a single focus and brand will cut costs and connect your entire workforce around common values and business objectives. It will also be measurable and manageable, which is sure to spell dreaded success.

2. Limit. Limit. Limit.

Make sure you confine recognition to a strict hierarchy and implement departmental silos, to assure failure. Make managers the only distributors of recognition, only able to appreciate their direct reports. Making recognition “social” and peer-to-peer just allows people to easily see their coworkers’ awards and add their own congratulations—which amplifies the experience and positively impacts business results. Don’t empower and inspire all employees to recognize peers, managers and subordinates—across departments and geographies, or you run the risk of encouraging a true culture of recognition.

3. Give vague, delayed recognition.

Stale recognition is sure to be ineffective. For the worst possible, try to give it once-a-year or even once-a-quarter, only. Gallup reports that employees who received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last seven days had 10% to 20% higher productivity results. A study by Stanford’s business school of effective recognition programs found that recognizing of 5-8% of employees per week with substantive, specific recognition is a good benchmark for success. Avoid great stats like that by ignoring your employees and then mis-remembering what they did in the first place.

4. Do not connect recognition with core values and objectives. 

This one is critical. There is a strong connection between recognition, core values and business results, so you’ll have to work hard to keep them apart and render your recognition useless. Research from Deloitte has shown that managers of higher profitability companies were 12% more likely to have a strong focus on core values and corporate culture.  Connecting company values to recognition gets your values off the plaque in the hallway and injects them into actual employee behavior. Keep your values confined to the wall by making recognition random and not tying it to corporate values.


5. Spend nothing.

A common question we are asked is “what should we be investing to make recognition successful?” According to a World at Work survey, 2.0%+ of payroll is the mean average for recognition spend, but experts agree that you should dedicate at least 1.0% of your payroll for recognition. A SHRM/Globoforce research, has shown that companies who spend at least 1% on payroll have higher engagement and better overall business results. To ensure failure, stay under 1%.


Obviously, this is tongue-in-cheek, and the real best practices for recognition are the ones in blue, above.  If you’re interested in finding out how your program really measures up to industry best practices—based on a lot of independent statistics and a long track record of double-digit engagement increases, check out the 10-question Recognition Grader Assessment.


Guest post by Darcy Jacobsen. Darcy is content marketing manager at Globoforce, the world’s top provider of SaaS-based employee recognition solutions. Contact her or follow her writing at www.globoforce.com/gfblog.

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