Rethink Recognition: Do You Trust Your Employees or Not?

Recognize This! – Peer-to-peer employee recognition does NOT equal zero-value awards.

During the last few years, I’ve noticed an increase in an unfortunate trend. More and more HR Pros and employee recognition program managers are equating peer-to-peer recognition with zero-value awards. In other words, employees are able to praise, appreciate and recognize each other through formal systems, but not assign any economic value to those awards.

Structuring a peer-to-peer program in this way communicates three messages very clearly to all employees:

  1. We want employees to notice the good work of their colleagues. We get it. We understand the importance of employees noticing and appreciating each other’s efforts and achievements. So please, pay attention to what your colleagues are doing and thank them for it.

    Why you should rethink recognition: This is all good and appropriate. You need this attitude as a strong starting point for a truly strategic, social recognition program that can change and drive your culture.

  2. But we don’t trust you to give appropriate levels of recognition with economic value. We want you to notice good behaviors, actions and achievements, but putting any skin in the game… well, we’ll leave that up to the managers. We need accountability, after all. And who’s to say you and your buddy won’t just engage in a “You give me one, I’ll give you one” free for all.

    Why you should rethink recognition: A properly structured recognition program must include an appropriate approval loop and real-time, easily viewed reporting. With these features in place (along with training and communications), there is no need to fear misuse of the system. Stop telling employees you want to recognize them out of one side of your mouth, while telling them you don’t trust them out of the other.

  3. So we will undermine the program and ensure we don’t get the full benefits or bottom-line results by making peer-to-peer recognition only available as an eThanks. It wouldn’t cost much to open recognition to all employees (and it would certainly cost less than programs proven to be a waste such as Employee of the Month or Perfect Attendance), but we’re willing to sacrifice the added benefits of increased employee engagement, retention and performance rather than trust our employees.

    Why you should rethink recognition: A primary reason for implementing a strategic, social employee recognition program in the first place is to build a culture of appreciation. Kicking off a program designed and built on lack of trust undermines your efforts from the beginning.

What should you do instead? Implement a true everyone-to-everyone recognition program and structure so all employees are encouraged to express the value they see in the achievements and actions of their colleagues. Include mechanisms to guide employees to the proper award level choice, and perhaps restrict the highest award levels to management to give.

Are all employees in your organization encouraged to recognize and reward others?

Why you should rethink recognition:

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition, he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

10 Responses

  1. [...] to provide this validation and context through a strategic employee recognition program that encourages everyone to acknowledge and praise everyone else for the good work they do every [...]

  2. [...] and reward each other for living your values, which are the core of your culture. And remember, true peer-to-peer recognition gives all employees skin in the game by communicating you trust them as well. From the research: [...]

  3. [...] remember, true peer-to-peer recognition gives all employees skin in the game by communicating you trust them as well. From the research: [...]

  4. [...] the secret to a strong, effective, positive culture is giving all employees the opportunity to be recognized (and to recognize others) for their heroic efforts – whether those efforts [...]

  5. [...] what those values mean in their everyday work. Determine your values, then make them real by encouraging all employees to notice and appreciate their colleagues for demonstrating those values. As we got bigger, we were expecting a lot of our people — that [...]

  6. [...] Peer-to-peer award does NOT equate to e-thanks with no value. Make sure employees are empowered to reward each other with awards that carry value, or their enthusiasm and inspiration for appreciation will fizzle. [...]

  7. [...] core values) in their daily work. And since this is the responsibility of all employees,  then all employees must be empowered to recognise each other when they see someone living the values or embodying desired cultural [...]

  8. [...] this needs to come not just from managers, but from peers, too. That’s how you build a true culture of recognition – give everyone responsibility for [...]

  9. [...] types of recognition Kellaway describes (employee of the month, irregular newsletter articles, manager as the primary giver of recognition) are the only or primary types of recognition, then the benefits of public, positive praise can be [...]

  10. [...] Peer-to-peer award does NOT equate to e-thanks with no value. Make sure employees are empowered to reward each other with awards that carry value, or their enthusiasm and inspiration for appreciation will fizzle. This entry was posted in Featured, Program Owner Tips. Bookmark the permalink. ← HR Metrics that Smart HR Departments Track Leveraging Recognition Data to Keep a Seat at the Table → [...]

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