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Looking at recognition through a DEI lens

The majority of companies in the UK have a strategy that addresses diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and are investing in programmes to drive awareness and change in this important area. But let me ask you a question, have you done this when it comes to your recognition programmes?

For many companies the answer to this question is no, and because of this many recognition programmes create a divide or wedge between your workforce, with the haves and have-nots based on location, department, manager or function, to name a few.

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If this is to change we need to look through a DEI lens as we design and deliver our recognition programmes, doing so in the following three ways:

Remove limits in who can give recognition

The first thing to consider is who can give recognition. Ask yourself ‘am I being inclusive in who I allow to give it?’ When companies limit it to just managers a few things can happen.

First, it creates a ‘them and us’ situation as employees miss out on the opportunity of giving recognition, which has been proven to be just as important as receiving recognition.

And second, it limits the number of recognition moments that are given as it reduces the number of people involved, which can directly or indirectly lead to feelings of exclusion.

For this reason, more and more companies have adopted a peer-to-peer approach to recognition, or what I call a ‘crowdsourcing’ approach, as it encourages your people to work together to create and have collective responsibility for recognition.

Crowdsourcing recognition means that you have eyes, ears and hearts looking for and capturing recognition moments.


Remove limits in who can receive recognition

Next it’s important to consider and address who can receive recognition. At many companies there are limits that are put in place, e.g. only one person can win employee of the month, or only six people can win employee of the year, etc.

This can lead to others feeling excluded, creating what I mentioned earlier with the haves and have-nots, closing the door on recognition for many of your hard-working employees.

For this reason, more companies are challenging traditional ways and thinking when designing their recognition programmes. One example is Chelsea Football Club, which for its quarterly ‘Pride of Chelsea Awards’ have no set number of winners, being flexible based on the achievements of those being nominated.

Another example is HomeServe, which for its quarterly ‘Shining Star Awards’ have 11 categories to cover a wide range of situations and people. These include six that represent their values plus additional ones such as ‘HomeServe Hero', ‘CEO Choice award', ‘Community Contributor’ and ‘Career Developer'.

We need to practise equal opportunity recognition, looking at recognition through an inclusion lens, making sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be noticed, appreciated and recognised.


Remove hurdles and barriers that prevent participation

And finally, for recognition to truly be inclusive it needs to have the opportunity to be used in a consistent way. Far too often we put up hurdles or barriers that prevent some of our people from participating and engaging with recognition. If recognition is to be fair and inclusive, these barriers must be removed, so that everyone can use recognition in the way in which it was intended.

An example of a company removing barriers is Burton’s Biscuit Company, which goes out of its way to make sure bakery employees don't miss out on recognition since the majority don’t have access to a company phone or laptop.

One way they do this is by having a live feed of the recognition awards from the social recognition wall to the TVs located across the bakeries so they can be a part of recognition even while baking cookies. This not only gives them the opportunity to celebrate recognition moments, but it encourages them to recognise one another.

Another example is Atlantis Resorts Dubai, which goes out of its way to give all of their employees an equal chance when it comes to nominating one another for recognition awards.

With 87 different nationalities, for many of its employees English is not their first language.

So for every nomination that is received for recognition awards, the HR team ‘beautifies’ them, making sure that they all read well and thus all have equal chances for being selected as a winner.

Let me end by encouraging you to put on your DEI lens as you look at your existing recognition programme, making sure that you have one that aligns with all of the other great work you are doing to create an inclusive culture and workplace.

Debra Corey, is founder of DebCo HR