Employee recognition is often misunderstood as just offering a monetary reward or a benefit like vacation to employees for job well done. In reality recognition encompasses a variety of practices and experiences that expand and enrich employee and organizational capabilities. Successful companies understand that recognition is a powerful way to develop and retain employees, enhance organizational performance and build a vibrant, value-based culture.
The importance of meaningful feedback as part of recognition programs has been part of multiple scientific studies as psychologists studied the impact of motivation on workplace productivity. Such feedback has been analysed simple behaviourist stimulus response approach to a humanistic perspective that includes perceptions experienced by the one receiving such recognition. The science of recognition has made significant progress by establishing co-relation between positive workplace recognition practices and employee motivation and productivity.
However a well-designed and more importantly an effective recognition program also includes certain artistic aspects like branding of such program, the communication and the stories one weaves around recognition programs and its recipients; amongst others. The success of a recognition program will not necessarily depend only on the scientific tenets but also on how this science based program is being delivered. After all if the recognition is delivered in a cold fashion without any emotions it is less likely to have the desired effect.
The Importance of Science
We recommend that you start design of your recognition program from science. Here your focus is on understanding various psychological models and theories about workplace motivation including the most famous Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Here you may also study about aspects like developmental psychology to understand how age groups have an impact on what people expect from their lives and how the recognition program can be aligned to such internal drivers aligned to different age groups.
In the science of recognition, you can also look at past recognition related data and analyse the same to ascertain which recognition programs delivered specific results and how the same was measured. You may also run a survey with your employees to capture their aspirations and desires to ensure that the program you design is aligned to their expectations. Here you may make use of behavioural economics theories which believe that high performance organizations recognize the need to understand and accept human nature at the individual’s level and to leverage it to drive performance. Behavioural economics allows for the efficacy of extrinsic rewards but also emphasizes the intrinsic, thus providing many more arrows in the quivers for the design of recognition programs.
If your recognition program is designed on sound theoretical background and models it’s easier to design a program and show its impact and effectiveness through pre-defined parameters that can be captured as the program is implemented.
Don’t Ignore the Art
While designing a recognition program based on solid theoretical foundation is the start, its most definitely not the end. In our experience we strongly recommend then spending time on the recognition program so designed to ensure it’s aligned to your existing organizational culture and communication style. Branding the recognition program and giving it a personality is one such aspect that many organizations have used successfully for such scientifically designed recognition programs to be accepted and sustained.
Recognition is about building and sustaining an emotional bond with the organization while ensuring recognition of behaviours that align with sustained performance and values of the organization. It is thus as much an emotional process as it is an economical one. By ensuring you spend sufficient and necessary time on various design aspects of the program you would ensure that employees start to like the program and adopt the program quickly. If you are using technology to deliver the recognition program then art becomes even more important as it corresponds to ease of use or user experience of the said technology platform. Its well known that a well designed program can fail due to a poorly designed user experience via technology platforms.
With diminished trust and falling engagement at workplace, organizations the world over are struggling to retain their key talent. In this process many organizations have to focus on rethinking and redesigning their recognition programs primarily anchored on fairness and trust. It is thus imperative that organizations make use of advances in scientific research about human behaviour at workplace and combine the same with technological advancements while delivering a unique employee experience of recognition programs. We all have to remember that at the end of the day we are working with humans and the program is designed for humans and hence need to have certain human elements in its execution and design. By ensuring that the recognition program states very specifically the behaviour demonstrated and its effect on individual, team or organization before acknowledging the individual for the same; helps in creating a positive ripple effect on the organization.
The science or art of a successful recognition program is hence in its balance of the two.