Connecting People: How to Build a World-Class Rewards and Recognition Program That Works

A well-designed rewards and recognition program can impact the way a business operates and scales. It’s no surprise then that top-tier companies have adopted a system that acknowledges and rewards their staff. When used correctly, it can improve employee retention, enrich company culture, and boost employee satisfaction, leading to better work habits and increased productivity.

In a study by Reward Gateway, results showed that ⅗  of employees would rather work for a company that regularly praised and thanked people for doing good work, than for a company that paid 10% more but offered no recognition. The study also showed that over 50% of employees would be inclined to leave a company that didn’t recognize and value their work.

What does this mean?

It means that it has become imperative for companies not only to develop a rewards and recognition program, but ensure that managers and employees are able to deliver and sustain it.

Designing an Effective Recognition Program

Whether a system for valuing employees is already in place or establishing a new one, company leaders need to tailor their recognition programs to their unique environment so that it delivers the expected benefits.

Here are four crucial things to build into your rewards program:

1. Measure your organization’s reward and recognition pulse

A great way to do this is with a quick survey. Not only does it open the lines of communication, but it also gives you an insight into what your employees think about a system of rewards and recognition. Getting their feedback can really engage them in the process, making them feel valued and connected to the organization.

Ask questions like, “Do you feel valued in this company?” “Does your manager recognize you when you’ve achieved a goal?” “Do you think the company has tools in place to recognize people and their good work?” “How would you like to be recognized and rewarded?”

You can use the results to identify areas to improve or to include in your rewards program, and influence perspectives within the organization.

2. Name your rewards program to make it unforgettable

One way to make sure that your rewards and recognition program speaks to the people in your organization is to make it fun and engaging. The goal is to make it memorable, enduring, and able to grow along with your business.

The simplest way to start is to name your program. 

But what’s in a name? It could be everything. A study showed that more than 70% of employees in an organization believe that an attractive program name is also an indication of how interesting it’s likely to be. The wrong name can generate a negative opinion about the program and make your employees lose interest.

Therefore, when you’re choosing a name for your program make it relatable and easy to understand. It should represent what your company is about or depict your workplace culture. Select a name that will urge employees to strive for it.

One key tip: keep it easy to spell and pronounce for a more positive impact. This is especially helpful when you’re working for a company with a global workforce. A great example of this is the Starbucks Total Rewards. Simple, easy to remember, and succinct.

3. Develop your rewards and recognition framework

Reward Gateway suggests using this Recognition Pyramid model to build the different components of your recognition and rewards program.

Source: Reward Gateway 2021

Like any structure, we start building our program from the bottom up. The base layer of the pyramid is that part of your program designed to acknowledge the greatest number of people in your organization. 

These rewards will be distributed most frequently and can even be given daily. Recognitions in this level, such as results- and values-based eCards and peer-to-peer messages, have no monetary value attached and are mostly celebratory and fun. However, it could be beneficial to the mental health of your workforce.

As you go up the pyramid, it gets narrower, each level representing a type of recognition that’s limited to a smaller group of your employees. As staff demonstrate success at these higher levels, you will need to elevate your actions or recognitions in kind. You might need to define and allocate a budget for your rewards, which could start from something as small as a $20 gift card.

As you build your reward and recognition program, think about your organization and what kind of rewards system will work for you. Go back to the survey form. Then think about the different levels of the recognition pyramid above and make it your own.

4. Keep the flame alive

The success of your R&R program depends on how well it is accepted by the organization. Make sure employees are aware of the program and that they understand how to use it. 

Keep the interest by ensuring the program is highly visible within the organization. Create a platform where employees can get updates and see where their peers are recognized. It could be through an application or website, a newsletter, or a virtual bulletin board where everyone has access — even those that work remotely.

Enhance the visibility of your recognition program through advocates. Find people who can support you with the program and who have influence or access to the different departments of your organization to spread the word.

Final Thoughts

Knowing now that recognition in the workplace significantly impacts productivity and retention of talent, it has become crucial for companies to build a program that rewards and praises employees for their efforts. It has emerged as a vital tool for organizations to increase motivation, improve performance, reduce attrition, and drive organizational culture.

Hear more from Alexandra Powell, Director of Client Culture and Engagement at Reward Gateway in this video.

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

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