Originally appeared in Premium Incentive Products Magazine on July 2018

By Vic Sawi, Vice President of Sales and Services:

Clients often ask, “How can we be sure we have a world-class recognition program?” Here are some things to consider if you really want to make your recognition program as effective as it can be:

Know What Success Looks Like

In our business, we work with many different organizations across a wide range of industries. Success is different for every one of them.

Whether you are launching a new program or looking to invigorate your existing one, it is essential to know what the goals are. If you’re in the middle of a merger, defining culture and brand values may be the most important component of the program. If engagement survey scores show that enthusiasm just isn’t there, concentrate on increasing participation and stressing to managers the importance of their role.

While employee engagement and recognition are long-term strategies, the shorter-term understanding of what the issues are right now will influence where you invest effort and resources in the program. And with communications, you can change your focus when you need to.

Know what you need to achieve today and be flexible enough to know when it’s time for a change. You will build a better program that lives in the real world of your organization.

Make It Easy for People

If your team is always on the road or includes remote workers, the program needs to be mobile-friendly. It used to be challenging to reach scattered workforces, since not everyone had access to a computer, but today 85 percent of adults from 18 to 65 have a smartphone.

Whether they are in the office at a desktop computer or on a repair call, it is important to be sure that every member of the team feels valued and part of the community. What’s more, most of your workers expect a user-friendly, intuitive experience. If you want people to participate in a program, it has to be at least as easy as placing an order on a retail website. That’s a baseline expectation of every single person in your company.

Never Stop Communicating

A steady stream of communications keeps the program front of mind.

Here at Next Level, we use our online Applaudit platform as the hub for company news, recognition and rewards of all kinds. We give our team reasons to keep visiting the site with automated e-mails and callouts by managers for special recognitions or updates. Managers are also given a pool of points to amplify the recognition experience with meaningful rewards. The platform is the home of our day-to-day and annual recognition, as well as a place to communicate about our company values and goals. It creates social buzz in the office when colleagues celebrate one another’s efforts and achievements, and has become an intrinsic part of our award-winning company culture. Our frequent and engaging communications bring people back to this recognition center over and over, giving us the momentum we need to keep people connected with their colleagues and their goals.

Consider integrating your communications, from internal newsletters to printed mailings to e-statements for the biggest impact.

Commit Time and Effort

It’s not enough to just turn on a platform and wait for it to take root in your company. You, and every senior leader and manager, need to be actively committed to the program.

Too often, program owners are frustrated that “it isn’t working,” only to find out that it hasn’t been adopted by company influencers. If a team isn’t engaged, is their manager using the platform? When was the last time they received recognition?

Giving recognition and awarding points isn’t something that should be left to the last minute and distributed in haste to meet some kind of deadline. Recognition should be in the moment, using the tools you provide, keeping everyone on track throughout the year. And that effort starts at the top, with company leaders championing the program day-to-day.

Take It Offline

Your online culture and your in-office culture must align to be authentic. And recognition has to be authentic to be meaningful for program participants. It’s great to have recognition on the platform, but how do employees feel if no one ever says anything about it person-to-person? Managers and peers alike need to get up, go down the hall, and say “thank you” or “congratulations.” Nothing replaces human interaction and the personal connections that are made as a result.

We know that employee engagement and recognition correlate to important business outcomes, including customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability. They also correlate to employee satisfaction and retention. Expressing appreciation for the work people do is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s vital to the health of your company.

Commit to a program that works for your organization’s goals, values, culture and environment goals. Consider working with a recognition or engagement company that can help you stay on track. You’ll reap the rewards of a workforce that cares about the organization, and about their contributions every day. That’s what makes a world-class program.

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