People First HR Services

On-the-spot job appreciation goes long way to motivate

Colleen Coates

Last column covered the use of recognition as a strategic advantage to assist in the attraction, retention, engagement and motivation of an organization’s workforce. Today, we will look at how to turn that knowledge into an actionable plan.

Strategic recognition ties sincere appreciation to an organization’s other people management practices (such as recruitment or performance management) and ensures programs are aligned with the organization’s shared values and objectives. Recognizing behaviours that align with the company’s values helps reinforce those values, fostering greater trust and cohesiveness.

The following steps can help you develop a solid recognition strategy:

1. Set tangible recognition goals. Determine if the recognition program will be based on corporate values, key business objectives for the fiscal year, or some other criteria valued by the organization.

2. Establish desired behaviours. The organization needs to determine the employee behaviours that are most important to the organization and then reward people for demonstrating those behaviours in order to achieve the goals of the program.

3. Review employee survey data. Refer to employee engagement survey results to gauge employees’ feelings about being recognized and appreciated. This benchmark is helpful to determine program success and to guide the development process.

4. Agree upon recognition methods. Decide which recognition methods will be utilized and identify who can distribute recognition and how it will be done (e.g. top-down, peer-to-peer, bottom-up, etc.).

5. Choose a tracking method. Whenever possible, a method of tracking and measuring success needs to be captured so that the program can be assessed regularly for continuation, elimination or replacement.

6. Provide training. Once the strategy is in place, the organization should provide training for its leadership team on the types of employee behaviours that warrant recognition.

In addition to these steps, it is also important to determine which methods you will use to recognize employees. To successfully incorporate strategic recognition throughout the corporate structure, an organization might consider choosing from these four categories:

1. Day-to-day recognition (going the extra mile, extra creativity).

2. Above and beyond recognition (new idea, cost savings, providing exceptional service).

3. Career recognition (successful attainment of a professional designation or completion of a degree/diploma/certificate).

4. Team recognition (successful completion of a big project, exceeding monthly goals).

Within each category are different programs to help the organization achieve its goals. There are many opportunities to recognize and appreciate employees, but having a few programs in place is the beginning of a healthy recognition culture. For example:

Long Service Award Program: Provides a framework to help staff realize that their company values loyalty, and shows that the company expects to be around for a long time. Don’t wait the traditional five years for the first milestone award.

Peer-to-peer recognition: Empowers employees with the opportunity to recognize each other. It often focuses on the demonstration of company values and goes a long way in reinforcing good behaviours.

Recognition event: A celebratory occasion that shows appreciation for all employees and can be used to honour long service award employees or recipients of other company recognition programs. Consider hosting additional “mini” events throughout the year.

On-the-spot recognition: By far one of the most important forms of recognition, a genuine “thank you” in person means the most when it is least expected.

Through the development and implementation of a recognition strategy, it is important to remember that recognition only occurs if the person feels valued and appreciated. Leaders must believe that engaged and motivated employees drive business success and realize that behaviours that get recognized, get repeated.

— With reporting by Barbara Chabai

Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at


The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton

Winning with a Culture of Recognition by Eric Mosley & Derek Irvine

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2011 I2