Recognize This: If you build it, they will come. But you better update it, or they won’t stay.

Ann Bares on Compensation Force wrote a great post on a commonly ignored best practice of employee recognition and incentive program design – “a relentless commitment to continuous review and improvement.”

Ann wisely points out that too often people will invest time and energy in program design and deployment, then step back and “let the program run itself.” This is a sure path to recognition program failure.

Too often, people believe an incentive or recognition program is a "soft" initiative, throwing a program out there. They’ll “make it nice,” but they won’t worry too much about the details (like ensuring they aren’t incenting the wrong behaviors).

Truly strategic recognition programs require careful planning, consideration of details like metrics and measures of success, and well communicated launches.

But even more important are the tweaks and improvements made over time. A marathoner doesn’t run at the same pace at the beginning of the race as they do in the middle or close to the finish line. The same is true with recognition programs. People change. Companies change. Objectives change. You need the ability to flex with that. A strategic recognition program will easily flex with you, helping you realign employees to changing priorities and messages.

Do you have a recognition or incentive program in your company? How long has it been since any changes were made to it? When was the last time you heard anything about it? Are you even really aware of it in your day to day work? What actions or events would attract your attention?