Employee Recognition Program

We are a non-profit organization wanting to establish an employee recognition program. We are looking for ideas that would improve employee morale. We have money to use for this program. In your experiences implementing differently employee recognition programs have you seen a program that works well?


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  • Bullion, this topic has been discussed many times over the years and a search of the forum would provide some pretty interesting viewpoints for you to consider.

    Here is my personal 2 cents for what is worth:

    Employee recognition programs cannot fix fundamental issues in the workplace. For example, if there is a trust issue between staff and leadership, no amount of employee recognition will improve morale until the trust issue has been resolved.

    If morale is low, there may be a valid reason. Start there. After that issue has been addressed, the employees will be more open to a recognition program.

    Assuming there are no ongoing fundamental workplace issues, I think the best employee recognition programs are not programs. Instead, communicate to your supervisors that 1) you expect them to find personal, creative ways to recognize the accomplishments of their employees and 2) you have money for this.

    Rather than create a program, create an expectation that recognizing employees is going to be part of each supervisor's job description. Then, hold them accountable on a monthly or quarterly basis.

    I think individual recognition is best done in a private, personal setting. Organizational achievement can be a celebrated publicly.

    If your owner or executive director is a popular figure, do not underestimate the value of his or her time. Encourage a supervisor who wants to recognize an employee to set up a time for that employee to meet the boss or even have lunch. That's a big deal.

    Gifts and prizes should be personal. I would avoid those companies that sell you overpriced "prizes" for employee recognition.

    You are definitely smart to be thinking about this topic. Being acknowledged and recognized is HUGE. Affirmation, kudos, attaboys, recognition, etc.. whatever you call it, we are hard wired to seek it.

    Given you are a non-profit, your employees are probably mission oriented so plug into that. They aren't there for the big bucks. They want to make a difference. Be as personal and sincere as you can be and you won't go wrong.
  • I agree with everything Paul said except the part about it being personal and private. In some cases, it is a good idea to annouce recognition to the entire organization. For one thing, some employees like to be recognized publicly. But the main reason is that it inspires others. It just depends on who and why.

    Good luck!

  • Nae, I don't disagree with you but I think public recognition isnt as effective as we like to think it is for several reasons.

    - An employee gets recognized while the majority do not.
    - The recognized employee may or may not be respected by his or her coworkers.
    - Certain types of employees tend to get recognized publicly while others dont. The ones that don't are often steady performers who get lost in the shuffle.
    - Some individuals truly hate being publicly recognized. It makes them uncomfortable.
    - Public recognition can come across as PR or worse rather than genuine appreciation.

    I'd vote for parties and celebrations to recognize organizational achievements (high sales month, industry awards, etc) and then personal, private recognition by supervisors/managers for their staff.

    Patrick Lencioni's "3 Signs of A Miserable Job" discusses how one of the keys to a positive workplace is knowing your work matters to someone.

    When a supervisor takes the time to grab coffee with an employee or give them a gift certificate to their favorite golf course, it communicates that what they do matters and has been noticed on a more personal level than an Employee of the Month award.
  • I need to remember to sue the Evil HR lady for stealing my thoughts.

    Supposedly she posted that on May 20th. Time travel? Well played, Evil HR Lady, well played...
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