by Roy Saunderson | May 17, 2010
Few organizations plan recognition well enough to get it right the first time. Recognition is an amazing motivator, which produces business results and reinforces exemplary people-practices. To make recognition happen correctly, there are essential things you must do. Here are the top 10 steps to ensure that you get recognition right.

1. People come first. Ask your people how they want to be recognized. Often, it can be the simplest of things that makes a difference to an employee. Even the most sophisticated recognition systems can benefit from employee suggestions.

2. Principles are universal. Our actions and behaviors stem from what we believe. Along that vein, recognition principles steer work behaviors. Universal principles like specificity, consistency, and personalization help make recognition palpable for each recipient.

3. Practices always reign. Recognition improves when people improve their recognition-giving. What we say and do demonstrates how we appreciate people. Each of us must practice better courtesy and respect, as well as use positive words and perform acts of appreciation.

4. Recognition programs are tools. Abraham Maslow is attributed with the saying, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.” Recognition programs must be designed to help managers and employees practice delivery of meaningful recognition.

5. Philosophy drives strategy. An effective recognition strategy, which drives your programs and practices, must itself be driven by clearly articulated recognition philosophy. This makes tangible the company’s beliefs about recognition and recognition’s contribution to employees, customers, and the business.

6. Purpose explains the reason. A recognition strategy spells out what you intend to accomplish through programs and practices. Is it to create a new culture? Improve morale? Increase sales? Whatever the goal is, managers need to know it in order to understand the purpose of the tools and training given to them.

7. Plans produce action. Assess current recognition practices and programs and determine focus points to improve upon. Create measurable goals. Plans should improve your practices and programs, whether by training, communications, or refining program criteria and functionality.

8. Performance is measurable. If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. Recognition needs to be measured quantitatively from typical program outputs like nominations, usage, and redemptions. It also needs to be analyzed qualitatively, from measures such as employee perceptions and pride.

9. Perceptions are real. Never think you have recognition programs all wrapped up and perfected. The proof of recognition impact lies in the performance results and whether employees actually feel recognized and valued.

10. Priorities provide direction. Prioritize specific actions and plans so that recognition can help you achieve your business and people goals. Otherwise, recognition will run wild and become ineffective and relegated—rather than the powerhouse tool it ought to be.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Real Recognition Way and president of the Recognition Management Institute,, which consults companies on improving employee motivation that leads to increased productivity and profit. He can be reached at [email protected] Also, tune in every Tuesday to his radio show, Real Recognition Radio.