Let’s be perfectly clear. The point of implementing a strategic employee recognition program is not the “stuff” – the rewards employees choose. Sure the “stuff” is great as a reminder to the employee of the company’s appreciation of their efforts, extending the good feeling of the recognition moment endlessly. But that’s not the point.
The main point of a truly strategic recognition program lies in changing employee behavior – in proactively managing your company culture. As we explain in our book, Winning with a Culture of Recognition:
“Social architecture is to culture what a foundation, beams, and joists are to a building. Social architecture is the scaffolding of a company: communication, traditions, authority, privileges, and “ways of doing things.” It includes behavior cues like how people dress and how they talk to one another. It includes how excellence is recognized and rewarded because it’s a way of talking about the implementation of culture. …
“Three components of social architecture deserve special mention here. They are shared values, engaged employees, and united execution. Shared values, employee engagement, and united execution create a high-performance culture. Strategic recognition is the link connecting all three. …
“Strategic recognition adds the ultimate layer of value, which is culture management. Strategic recognition is linked to strategic goals such as engagement, employee satisfaction, or culture change. But also, because you have those tools, you get to then use strategic recognition to manage the culture. In other words, you can emphasize a single value that you feel doesn’t have the traction you need to meet your strategic objectives.”
It all comes back to your values. Are your company values just a plaque on the wall, or are they something your employees truly understand, living and demonstrating them in their daily work? If you want your values to come alive – if you want your employees to actually demonstrate those values in their everyday tasks – then you must recognize your employees, regularly and frequently, when they demonstrate those values. “Joe, great job dealing with Customer X yesterday. You were put into a tough situation with elements, like the product launch timing, out of your control. But you helped the customer understand our timelines and how we could help him in the meantime. The customer left happy and you fully demonstrated what we mean by Respect for Customer.’ Well done.”
If you can do this successfully – if you can bring your values to life – you will fundamentally change the behavior of your employees so they are in alignment with your company values, allowing you to manipulate your social architecture.