Rob Catalano writes on recognition, engagement, alignment and forward-thinking methods for helping organisations focus on employees to drive business success. He leads global engagement and expansion at cloud recognition and engagement company Achievers. Rob is a Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) and a popular speaker on the HR circuit, having presented on best practices and trends in over 30 cities. His writings include a ‘wisdom of crowds’ approach leveraging his work with hundreds of organisations globally.

When it comes to employee recognition strategies, most organisations still use principles from the 1900s that focus on rewarding employees for long years of service.  But employees don’t work in years and in quarters – they work in days and hours. 

Problems are durable. Solutions Change.

Engaging and retaining employees will always be a focus, but the approach must change with the modern workforce. Just as newspaper help wanted ads dominated how HR found talent and employees found jobs for a century, that was quickly disrupted by online job boards in the late 90’s and social platforms in the new millennium.  Moral: finding talent has always been a business challenge, but technology is disrupting previous approaches quicker than ever before. 

This also applies to recognition strategies.

I’ve had the privilege to work with hundreds of global companies that have implemented modern approaches. In a ‘wisdom of crowds’ approach, I share four trends that these companies have deployed in developing recognition strategies that deliver positive impacts on employee engagement and overall business performance. 

2015 Trends in Recognition

1.  Embrace peer-to-peer recognition in every direction

Breakthrough the mindset that recognition is a top-down process – it must flow in all directions. Management only sees a small percentage of employee work daily, so the best way to amplify the key behaviours, company values and results you want to see is by involving every employee. By making your strategy inclusive, you will build trust and the right culture of recognition from the ground up. 

2.  Don’t just recognise presence

Quite simply, recognising your staff at five years of service will not be successful as your only recognition strategy. Companies realise that employees are staying fewer years (76% of UK workers have left in the last three years according to Reed Consulting) and that frequent recognition impacts behaviours.

Recognition must also focus on behaviours and performance that drive results tied to your company strategy. This can include customer service, employee referrals, innovation, cost-saving, safety, and so on.  Coupled with peer-recognition, this aligns employees to enact important company strategies. What gets recognised, gets repeated.

3.  Leverage the power of social recognition

Recognition is traditionally viewed as an act of appreciation that is a one-to-one interaction, but technology now enables companies to make it more social (one-to-many).  By making recognition public on a newsfeed and having employees interact with existing recogintions (think ‘liking’ and commenting), it helps amplify the behaviours and results companies want to see more of.  The concept of ‘social employee recognition’ is now a category of HR technology according to Gartner.

The trend doesn’t end there. Organisations are encouraging employees to share recognitions outside the company in employee’s personal networks. Scary? I don’t think so. These forward thinking organisaitons are leveraging positive interactions in their business to help drive an authentic employer brand. After all, your career page isn’t on your website anymore. It’s on social networks and sites like Glassdoor.

4.  Use data for better employee insight

A 40,000 employee organisaiton I recently worked with hit their millionth recognition after only nine months of enacting the above trends.  The amount of data companies are collecting is staggering and exciting.  Not only who is giving and receiving recognition, but also what specific skills and company values or competencies they’re being recognised for.

The power is in using the data to garner insight and make better people decisions. Insight into who are top performers and high-potentials, or potential future leaders that are recognising colleauges often (that is a good leadership trait, after all). I’ve seen examples of using this data to build teams based on associated skillsets that they’ve been recognised for, or find people who work and are recognised across multiple departments and locations versus their own department when creating cross-functional teams.

So, I do all of these things and I’m good, right?

Not exactly. Below is a model visually illustrating that our goal is improving employee engagement which in turn impacts business performance.  You can invest time and adopt all of these trends, but the first step is identifying the foundation for your recognition strategy.  Ensure that your company defines the behaviours, corporate values or competencies that your company will structure a recognition strategy around.   I can’t stress this enough – it’s the foundation of a successful strategy.

Click on the image to view it full size

Why even consider recognition in the first place?

Recent HBR research found that recognition given for high performers is the most impactful employee engagement driver. And we all know the added benefits of having engaged employees. The impact recognition has is real.  It is a powerful strategy that impact the intrinsic motivators of your employees and behaviours of your workforce.

Ignore all these new trends at your peril, but as the battle for talent increases and it becomes more important than ever to engage and retain key talent, businesses will need to find new ways to positively impact their employee and business success.

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