Employee recognition strategies falling short

Speakers at an HR magazine and Achievers webinar discussed how sophisticated recognition strategies are today and how organisations can get this area right

Many organisations are missing a trick by not treating employee recognition as an important strategic activity, according to an HR magazine webinar on recognition held in partnership with Achievers.

When asked in an audience poll how extensive and sophisticated the recognition strategy at their organisations is currently 43% said not very and 36% said somewhat. More concerning still, 15% said recognition strategies don't exist at their organisations (with only 6% reporting that they are very sophisticated).

Speaking on the ‘Recognition for recognition: Why it’s important and how to get it right’ webinar panel, were Achievers’ senior director EMEA Denise Willett, Everton Football Club’s head of people engagement Clare Kearney, and Wealmoor’s former director of HR and talent and client partner at Let’s Talk Talent Chadi Moussa.

Moussa said that where many existing strategies fall short is that their return on investment (ROI) is not clear, and the organisation fails to ask workers how they would like to be recognised and tailor approaches accordingly. “Work is changing,” he said. “[It’s about] how you personalise the strategy so it has something for everyone.

“We’re in a period now where the psychological contract is changing. And typically an organisation is saying 'we think we know what employees want' but employees feel differently on that.” This creates a “mismatch” between investment in and the ROI of recognition strategies, Moussa added.

Another poll found that staff awards are the most popular type of recognition tool, with one in five (19%) respondents reporting that this is offered at their firms. Also popular are celebrations of career milestones (18%), recognition linked to bonuses and financial rewards (16%), and staff suggestion schemes (13%).

Kearney shared details of Everton’s staff awards – part of the football club's journey on recognition. “When we talk of recognition at Everton we want it to be authentic,” she said.

This includes linking the club’s motto Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (meaning nothing but the best is good enough) to the annual staff awards and the values employees must demonstrate to be recognised. “It’s about how people go about their jobs rather than just what they deliver – that is equally important,” Kearney explained.

The panel agreed that cultures of recognition can play a pivotal role in winning the ongoing war for talent. Willett said one of the key ways to create a successful recognition strategy is to empower managers and leaders.

“If leaders recognise their direct reports then their direct reports are more likely to recognise someone else,” she said. “So leaders are ambassadors of creating cultures of recognition.”

But despite the important role that leaders play in rewarding and recognising staff, an audience poll gave a mixed picture of how effective leaders currently are at this.

More than a third (36%) of respondents said that leaders and line managers are not very skilled at delivering positive feedback and creating a culture of recognition at their organisation currently, and 4% said they are not at all skilled. Only 7% said management is very skilled, and 53% believe they are somewhat skilled.

Willett recommended HR embed management training around how to effectively recognise staff. “Leading from the top makes all the difference,” she said. “When leaders live and breathe a culture of recognition it works best.”

Register here for a recording of this webinar if you missed the live event