by By Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP | April 27, 2017
More than 90 percent of organizations have at least one and often two or three recognition and reward programs in place. Like buying a new appliance for the home and reading all the instructions to start it up, the most important thing is making sure your recognition programs are effective and not just turned on. Check out these Top 10 Ways to Develop an Effective Recognition Program and see how you stack up.

1. Commit leaders and managers to drive programs. Provide your C-suite leaders with data, information and full-proof evidence of the ROI and performance benefits of recognition whenever you can. Get their personal commitment to use the programs to honor employee contributions

2. Develop a clear recognition purpose and strategy. Work on crafting or facilitating a recognition purpose and philosophy statement that answers your company's "why" for recognition. Make the link so people will know how recognition aligns with your people and business strategies.

3. Set specific and measurable recognition objectives. Establish objectives for each recognition program so you can quantitatively set expectations for participation and usage. Also, set qualitative measures so programs are truly effective and meet your employees' expectations.

4. Differentiate what recognition and rewards are. Too many people think recognition when they mean rewards and vice versa. Define each item clearly so everyone knows the difference, and develop guidelines that spell out what you need to use and when, to get their maximum value.

5. Determine all the program rules and criteria. When recognition crosses into using tangible acknowledgment and rewards develop program business rules, set up very clear criteria for what behaviors and outcomes need to occur that constitutes a certain recognition or reward level.

6. Create powerful branding and program design. Employees will definitely judge a recognition program by how it looks. Create the right program name and visual image. Show people the benefits of what you want your programs to do for them and how the company will benefit too.  

7. Allow the IT folks to develop the programs. Most of the program design work and set up is going to be done by information technology or by your vendor. Humanize as many program design and development elements as possible so recognition is seen as genuine even when sent online.

8. Always be communicating and promoting programs. Programs will just sit there and never be used unless you create messaging, tutorials, email blasts, posters and videos to encourage people to use them. People will need multiple points of reference before they become engaged.

9. Continually educate and reinforce program usage. Education is giving people the why behind your recognition programs. Training is showing your employees how to use your programs. You need both elements of learning to make your programs easy to understand and used effectively.

10. Measure every aspect of recognition program outputs. Gain baseline data to show the difference your program is making. Track participation and behaviors recognized. Analyze recognition metrics and correlate with business results to adjust and optimize your programs as needed.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is the author of Giving the Real Recognition Way. The Vistance Institute chief learning officer at Rideau Inc., Saunderson provides consulting, learning, and thought leadership services focused on helping leaders and managers give real recognition the right way. He can be reached at RoySaunderson@Rideau.com and followed on Twitter (@RoySaunderson) and at his AuthenticRecognition.com blog.