by Roy Saunderson | August 06, 2012
We’ve all heard it before: “If I could just get our senior leaders’ buy-in our program would be launched by now.” Why do C-suite leaders have such a hard time with rewards and recognition initiatives? What will it take to get their commitment to allocate resources? Grabbing the attention of the executive leadership team has become a seminal topic. Getting the commitment from any leader at the top requires a firm foundation of experience, insight, and communication skills. Put these top 10 steps into practice to get your executive leadership support.
1. Prove your competency and expertise before meeting with leaders. Senior leaders are smart people and know a professional when they see one. So, establish yourself as a leader in your field ahead of time so you will have earned the right to be heard and respected. Leaders value other leaders … so be one!
2. Show them a truth that will influence their feelings. Emotions rule in decision making. Don’t rely on surveys and statistics alone. Present real-life stories, perhaps portrayed through video, of employees and managers. Relate their feelings on how rewards and recognition affect people and performance.
3. Stop making recognition about parties, cakes, and balloons. It’s true; some leaders still think people responsible for recognition are simply party planners. Draw a line and make a clear distinction between the event organizing and the powerful leveraging strength that incentives, rewards, and recognition can have on business results.
4. Create a strategy for them that is aligned with business goals. Craft a concrete recognition strategy and recognition plan and get it down in writing. Formulate the reasons and purpose for using recognition. Establish clear objectives to be achieved with recognition and rewards and show how results will be measured.
5. Build a case for recognition and rewards and educate them. Some leaders may not understand the difference between rewards and recognition. There are wonderful academic studies and professional firm reports with economic and social science evidence that validates the impact that recognition and rewards can have on productivity and engagement.
6. Be passionately articulate about what you want. Leaders have lots on their plate and little tolerance for wasted time. Prepare your presentation well to get the message across succinctly and professionally, and ask exactly for what you need. Be sure to show how you can help them achieve the company’s goals.
7. Answer the big “why” question in the room. Why should your leaders invest precious monies from investors and stakeholders in your rewards and recognition initiatives? The reason many people don’t get the support from senior management is simply because they never came prepared to answer why this project and why at this time.
8. Prove it. Pilot it. Guarantee it. Remove the risk of investment. Take on a major critical point such as high employee turnover or increased injuries and apply rewards and recognition strategies. Project how the benefits will outweigh the costs associated with the current problem. Suggest they pilot your plan first and prove the results before establishing it company-wide.
9. Take the drip approach to communications. Start sowing seeds before you get to the major presentation. Identify and work with an executive who will sponsor your plan. Follow his or her lead on any pre-work communication that might be needed. Acknowledge leader communications promptly. Send detailed follow-up communications outlining the next steps and measuring accountability.
10. Demonstrate the business impact and ROI of recognition and rewards. Rewards and recognition programs, when planned and designed properly, will always have a positive business impact. Those outcomes may have a financial correlation that can produce a benefit-over-cost ratio or ROI percentage. Leaders love positive bottom-line figures so make sure you give them to them.
Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the 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.