Why is recognition important? How can a recognition program help reduce turnover, improve the customer and employee experience, and lead to company growth and higher profits? This series shows how implementing a strategic recognition platform will address these and other concerns.


It is no longer enough to provide the best equipment, facilities, or even employ the best staff. To achieve business growth and customer loyalty, studies strongly indicate that it is an imperative to focus on the employee experience and align that to company growth objectives.

The competition is fierce and the best customer service equals the best customer loyalty. Driving customer loyalty starts with driving employee loyalty.

Enabling your employees to better serve your customers and provide an amazing experience can be supported by a strategically planned and implemented recognition program. Your recognition program does not require exorbitant investment dollars and may be achievable with already allocated funds.

This series of posts shows you why employee recognition is critical to reducing turnover, improving culture, improving engagement scores, and improving customer satisfaction. I also discuss how you can save your company money, improve profitability, and make the program earn its investment cost back in growth returns. Let’s first discuss “What is effective recognition?”

Part 1 – What is Effective Recognition?

Recognition is acknowledging and appreciating employees for their achievements. It is not just recognizing them for their presence in the organization. A great and effective recognition program helps to:

  • Align both the company and the employee’s purpose & values
  • Create objectives & goals that will drive positive behaviors
  • Provide tools for employees & managers to perform their jobs well
  • Provide opportunity for employees to develop, grow, & enhance their careers
  • Provide analytical data that can be used to improve & grow methods of recognition

From the employee perspective, recognition is no longer a “nice to have”:

  • 99.4% of employees expect to be recognized for good work (Nelson)
  • Only 22% feel they are recognized for such (Lowe 32)
  • But over 55% feel they are able to decide how to do their work and over 45% feel that they can take initiative in their jobs – Why would they take initiative if they never get recognized for it? (Lowe 32)

Imagine all of the unnecessary management, wasted time, and lost innovation that results from employees not feeling recognized. Alternatively, you can count on 57% more effort given by employees that feel recognized (Watson)!

To truly be effective in recognizing your employees, companies need to continuously track and manage the feedback and data from their recognition programs to improve the employee experience.

Traditional Recognition

Many traditional recognition programs reward employees for presence and not performance. This does very little to retain staff and reduce turnover when more and more people expect to be recognized for good work. Some traditional recognition programs can include:

  1. Years of Service Awards – Does not drive new employee engagement
  2. Employee of the Month – Becomes a turnstile award
  3. Holiday Parties, Birthdays, Retirement Parties – Not performance based

While fun and interesting, none of these traditional ways of recognition and engagement actually measure and drive performance. They all recognize presence. If you are spending money on these traditional forms of recognition, you might be better off by realigning your budget to more performance driven and effective forms of recognition.

Additionally, the data provided from these programs (if available at all) is not actionable in terms of improving engagement scores, driving performance, and therefore improving the employee experience.

Innovative and State-of-the-Art Recognition

To drive performance in meaningful ways, a recognition program needs to be based upon your organization’s strategic objectives, customer experience, and cultural values. These program objectives would define how all recognition is awarded. It should drive behaviors such as those highlighted below. These objectives should be aligned to both the organizations’ and the employees’ purpose and goals.

But, more often than not, organizations are determining the details of these objectives and core values in a vacuum. Many times, the objectives and values are based upon decades old beliefs. If you are not including employee focus groups, or a cross section of your employee base across the various roles of your organization, in the creation and planning of a new recognition platform – you run the very high risk of implementing a platform that will at best placate your staff and at worst fail miserably thereby negatively affecting profit, growth, customer experience, and reputation.

Imagine a program that drives the following behaviors and results:

  • Improved communication between executives, management, and employees about customer solutions
  • Improved responsiveness to customers
  • Improved innovation in product offerings
  • Improved rollout of new product lines or enhancements
  • Improved quality of your product or services
  • Improved staff retention
  • Improved employee engagement scores
  • Improved Net Promoter scores
  • Better teamwork and communications internally that streamline processes

Your recognition platform should drive these behaviors and provide these actionable metrics.

We live in a fast-paced digital world that is constantly moving forward. The focus across industries right now is in the following key areas designed to help improve experiences across the board:

  • Big Data – Organizations are now relying on hard facts and results to make actionable decisions that result in observable improvements throughout the organization
  • Design Thinking – Large organizations have started refocusing their efforts on design related principles to drive desirable behaviors as they see a positive impact in growth
  • Employee Experience – Organizations are realizing that by engaging employees and improving their work lives, there is a direct impact on customer satisfaction
  • Organizational Change Management – Organizations are constantly going through change to keep up with the competition and stay ahead of market trends. Ensuring that organizational change is adopted and embraced by employees requires planning, communication and management

Any recognition program that you implement needs to take into account these focus areas to be truly effective. It needs to be easy and fun to use, it needs to add value to both the employee and organization, it needs to provide actionable data to continuously improve and engage employees, and it needs to be flexible to both drive and adapt to organizational change.

Modern methods of recognition can take many forms and should be tailored to your organization’s unique needs. Some examples of more modern recognition strategies:

    Managers award based upon exceeding expectations in any of the defined program objectives
    Employees can recognize each other thereby building unity & camaraderie
    Employees can nominate coworkers for awards, thereby driving a culture of compassion, appreciation, & inclusion
    Employees can track their own improvements & scores as related to defined program objectives
    Responsibility for an employee’s growth & performance is self-driven & valued
    Some of the best employees can be referrals from current employees
    Employees that provide referrals generally consider their place of employment a great place to work!
    Publicly visible recognition through social media creates a culture of appreciation
    Responsive design allows interaction across devices and appeals across generations
    Combines multiple types of recognition programs under one umbrella to reduce costs
    Provides comprehensive & actionable analytics so recognition efforts can be aligned, redundancy is eliminated, & executive leadership can have a seamless view of recognition efforts across the organization
    Driving innovation in the employee base is helping organizations to advance, be more competitive, & increase their customer demand
    Employees that help drive innovation in their organizations feel involved, valued, appreciated, & fulfilled

In the subsequent series on The Value of a Recognition Program – Improving the Employee and Customer Experience I will discuss how recognition impacts tenure, culture, engagement, customer experience, and business outcomes. Stay tuned!


  • Nelson, Dr. Bob. Post Doctoral Researchwww.drbobnelson.com
  • Lowe, Graham. “How Employee Engagement Matters…” Healthcare Quarterly 15.2 (2012)
  • Watson, Towers. “Global Worforce Study.” 2012.