Leaders often ask me “what makes for a sustainable employee recognition program with consistently high participation?” Of course what they really want to know is “How can a recognition program help me make my company be more profitable. I already pay employees – isn’t that enough?” Regardless of their motivations for asking the question or their opinion of recognition as a management discipline, the simple answer I always give them is… “conversation.”
Conversation creates an exchange of ideas that impact human perception and ultimately human behavior. Consider the last new restaurant you ate at – most likely you tried it because someone told you about it or you read about it in the local paper. Both of which I consider part of an overall public “conversation” about the restaurant.
Recognition programs are just like new restaurants. The initial “buzz” about the restaurant brings customers in the door, but the experience and the stories that people tell about their experience keep new and old customers coming back. Recognition programs need the right amount of upfront marketing and communications to build awareness and interest. But they also need an amazing user experience where recognition “stories” can be shared and talked about in an ongoing “conversation” within an organization. This means that it important to create conversation not just ABOUT the program but also sustained conversation WITHIN the program.
- Good recognition programs create conversation between employee and manager.
- Better recognition programs create conversation among employees within an organization.
- The Best recognition programs create conversation with customers.
Imagine a recognition program at an organization of 1000 employees. Each month 100 recognitions or “stories” are written by employees – one employee recognizing another employee. Each story is strategically written, tied to a company value clearly indicating the impact on results. Each story is the start to a strategic conversation that positively influences employee behavior toward company goals. Imagine:
- Recognized employees read their story as captured by a peer, feel appreciated, and discuss further with their manager or the employee who recognized them.
- Managers collect stories for an employee and discuss them as part of his or her annual performance review.
- A selection of stories are printed in a weekly news summary sent across the organization – creating a sense of cultural connectedness.
- Stories prompt informal conversations in the hallway where co-workers congratulate the employee(s) being recognized that week.
- Leaders choose stories that directly impact their department and share them with their in their weekly meeting.
- Employees read stories and add comments to re-enforcing the story’s impact or elaborate on how the story has affected them.
- Prospective or new employees read the stories and immediately feel part of the conversation and know how they can help make a difference.
- Customers participate by submitting stories of great experiences they have had with an organization – they share with their friends.
- Prospective customers read employee stories decide to do business with this type of organization.
The most successful recognition programs create thousands of sustained strategic conversations that influence employee behavior, customer perception, and impact your bottom line.
Talk is cheap…and very profitable. What are you waiting for.