The Role Leadership Plays in Employee Recognition

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Strong leadership is paramount to your recognition program and practices gaining traction within your organization. Unfortunately, leadership often lacks within many organizations, and recognition programs and incentive programs fail to take hold. The results in driving behavior within the organization are lackluster. The role leadership plays in employee recognition will make or break the program.

What is a leader when it comes to employee recognition? I can tell you that it is not about a person’s title but instead is a champion on your recognition strategy team. This person leads by example, stays on top of current and changing trends in the employee recognition space, and has the ability to collaborate with the recognition team and ensure that behaviors continue to align with specific performance markers set out by senior management.

A good recognition leader is going to drive results. Why? Simply because leaders understand that their role in an organization is to drive their specific team or department in the same direction as its strategic priorities. When looking at driving employee recognition, regardless of how high a leader is in the organization, a good recognition leader will be asking questions such as:

  • What is the optimal way to revamp an existing recognition program or launch a new recognition program?
  • How will the different facets of the recognition be rolled out, and in what order? Do we crawl, walk, then run?
  • What are the tools and vehicles in place already, or are needed that will provide the function of giving recognition?
  • There will always be early adopters, but how will we continually increase the participation of managers and employees to get involved with the program?
  • Who is the program targeted towards, and what controls for giving, receiving, and reporting recognition activities are in place?
  • Who can be program advocates?
  • What action around a particular recognition program needs to happen now, and what can be phased in?
  • Are all the resources, including person-hours, required to drive the program in place continually?
  • What measures are going to be in place to determine if the program is being successful?

Good leaders create action steps as part of an overall plan. These steps are measurable and can be verified through regular reviews of the outcomes. In addition, a good leader will know the strength and weaknesses of their team and will be prepared to provide the resources where gaps exist. In addition, a good leader will look to align themselves with other strong recognition leaders and draw upon their successes and make them your own.

Leaders are result-oriented. If mechanisms are in place to review the effectiveness of your recognition program, which they should be, everything can appear on the surface to be running smoothly and successfully with your program. You may be feeling elated at how well things are going, but do the employees participating in the program feel the same way?

If you can’t answer this question, then you likely do not have a feedback loop in place. Breakdowns in communication plaque every aspect of our work and personal lives. Effective two-way feedback is paramount in your recognition program. Getting feedback about the program is very important in keeping a program fun, fresh, and productive for employees. Create an environment where people feel comfortable about providing those ideas. A good leader will analyze these ideas and further evaluate the viability and potential of these ideas, discuss the ideas with the recognition team, and ultimately decide along with the team if an idea is practical and implement it into the program or discard and move on to the next idea.

Are you a recognition leader, or do you know others that can be great recognition leaders? There is no secret recipe or formula for being a great leader. People are good at doing different things well. Great leaders get into routines of doing certain things the right way. Is saying “thank you” a normal part of your daily routine? As a natural part of your day, do you find yourself saying “good job” to your team and peers? Do you get satisfaction upon seeing others succeed? These daily, probably unconscious routines, are what others pick up on and make them better at spreading recognition throughout an organization.

Whether you are the owner of your employee recognition program or are part of the recognition team, or are an influencer, continue to look for ways to innovate and keep your recognition program at the forefront of the employee experience.