Whilst there’s plenty of talk of green shoots on the horizon, it is still important to tread cautiously with spend until we can confidently state that we are out of the clutches of this downturn. With research suggesting that it has never been more critical to look after talent, how can companies recognise employees without doing more harm than good?

Banish the cynics

Empowering employees to thank each other directly in an official way is a recognition scheme’s best weapon against cynicism in the workforce. By giving employees and line managers a stake in the process, you will go a long way to banishing rumblings about management favouritism or recognition being dependent on what employees’ futures may be.

E-cards, an intranet Wall of Fame, or simply a sincere letter from a line manager are all excellent low-cost ways to achieve this.

Change the criteria

You must remember that you will not be the only company taking tentative steps with expenditure at this time. When it’s nigh on impossible to meet sales targets, is it fair to keep this as the main criteria for bonuses? I would suggest that, as long as it’s communicated clearly, it is perfectly acceptable to ‘move the goalposts’ to make targets more achievable and relevant. It is better to reward individuals for improved efficiencies, dealing well with an increased workload or proposing a moneysaving idea for the company, rather than not being able to reward them frequently – or at all.


If you do nothing else, make sure recognition can be delivered quickly and make it tangible. This means employees do not need to wait for recognition and they have something real and valuable they can keep, proving they have been recognised and thanked for work well done.

For a truly effective recognition scheme, even during times of economic difficulty, be consistent and have a long-term vision for where you want it to go. Aim to embed a culture of thanks company-wide through joined-up communications and enforce a policy of absolute inclusivity – don’t allow it to become a fad.

Research source:

The Time for Employee Recognition and Reward Programs is Now, Recognition Council, 2009

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