Many companies (including vendors) don’t distinguish between rewarding and recognizing. The difference though is vital to the success or failure of your Employee Recognition Program. So what is the difference and how much does it matter? Let’s compare.

Recognizing is all about the story. It’s defining values and celebrating (ideally, in front of your entire company) individuals or teams that put them into practice. You see, it’s all about context. It’s letting your employees know what you believe in, and sharing the real-life stories of the heroes that have gone beyond the call of duty and lived by those values. When everyone sees that these stories are celebrated, they are more likely to understand and become part of your corporate culture.

On the other hand, receiving a gift, having a pizza party, or getting a plaque are all ways of being rewarded. There is no doubt that people love to be rewarded as well, but the emphasis shouldn’t be on the reward. You don’t want a culture where rewards are what spur your teams on to do more; you want them to do it because it’s ingrained in your culture. It’s your foundation. Your employees know that it’s what sets you apart from your competition. It’s those values that your business lives by, and that keep your customers coming back.

Are you using recognition to create a culture of value in your organization, or are you just dangling carrots in front of your employees? The difference does matter… a lot!