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4 Critical Steps to Encourage Employee Adoption of Your Recognition Program


Ensuring your employees are actively engaged with your recognition program is key to creating an equitable and successful culture of recognition. If you succeed in getting your team on board and recognizing each other consistently, the returns for your organization will be incredible. Not only will your employees feel more fulfilled, recognized, and connected to their teammates, but your managers and team leaders will gain invaluable insight into the impact each member of their team is having on the company and culture.

1. Build the Muscle of Recognition

Centralize Rewards

In order for your program to become an ingrained part of your culture, recognition needs to become a habit. All rewards should be centralized into a single platform, so submitting a nomination becomes the first instinct rather than an afterthought.

To make recognition habit-forming, all kinds of rewards should go through your program, with the exception of bonuses and commissions. That includes individual and team accomplishments, of course, but it also includes personal milestones, such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, new parents, and retirement.

You can also use your recognition program to celebrate the launch of a new product or feature, or the attainment of customer acquisition or sales targets. And remember that whole teams can be nominated, not just individuals.

Your social committees should be using the recognition program as well. They can use it to give prizes for team games and corporate events, and for social recognition to reward volunteer initiatives and giving back to the community.

Remind, Remind, Remind!

And then remind again. Constant reminders from managers and HR will help employees get into the habit of nominating their peers for recognition. Whenever an employee shares positive feedback about a co-worker, remind them to use the program to submit a nomination. You should also set up “Nudges” — automated, if at all possible — to remind team members who are giving the least recognition to step up and nominate colleagues.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Setting deadlines for nominations, even if those deadlines are artificial, will create a sense of urgency around recognition. Nomination deadlines related to company outings, team days, quarterly meetings, etc., will allow you to use those events to highlight team members for further recognition. Someone, or multiple people, can be randomly selected from the nominations to be publicly acknowledged and given an additional reward.

Rinse and Repeat

Create fun holidays or events as a way to celebrate each other. Give your employees a small budget to recognize each other on Co-Worker Appreciation Day, or to try a new cuisine on International Dish Day. Finding fun, unique ways to celebrate something different will help your team get into the habit of using your recognition program.


2. Showcase Recognition

Finding formats to publicly showcase those who have received recognition will provide important visibility into the program. Be sure to showcase team members in a variety of roles, from across the organization, both to celebrate those individuals as well as to publicly demonstrate that the program is fair and equitable.

Showcase Peer Recognition

Use all-hands, town hall, quarterly, or other all team meetings and celebrations to showcase peer recognition. You can further reward those who have been recognized through gamification, such as a random draw for an extra reward. You can also have your managers showcase peer recognition in manager or exec meetings.

Spotlight Top Receivers

Set up a cadence of spotlighting top performers, monthly or quarterly, for example. Highlighting those who are receiving the most nominations, and rewarding them even further, will inspire their co-workers, encourage them to cheer each other on, and perhaps even foster a bit of healthy, fun competition.

Share the Love

Create an internal channel for employees to share the impact of their rewards. How are they using any monetary rewards they have received? Celebrate the positive effect rewards are having on employees’ lives and share those employee stories on company social media, showcasing your culture and how your teams are coming together to lift each other up.


3. Simplify & Empower

Make the Program Easy

Give everyone the opportunity to recognize their peers with easy-to-use tools, unencumbered by roadblocks or complex approvals. If the process isn’t simple and straightforward, no one will use it. Make sure managers are notified when their team members are being recognized so they can boost those rewards and recognition as well.

Empower Everyone

Everyone within your organization should receive a reward budget. It doesn’t have to be huge, but even a small budget of say $20-50 per month (or quarter) will empower your team members to recognize and reward their peers in a meaningful way. This means managers won’t be the only ones giving out rewards, employees will be rewarding each other. And even when the dollar value is small, peer recognition can have a significant impact.


4. Get Involved and Lead by Example


The old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” never works, not as a parent not as a boss. Actions speak far louder than words, to paraphrase another old saying, so if you’re not leading by example, you’re simply not leading. If you don’t recognize and reward your managers and employees then you have no reason to expect them to recognize each other. Give yourself deadlines and quotas to get started. By forcing yourself into a cadence you will build your own recognition muscle, and it will start to feel more and more natural until it eventually becomes a habit. Enforce the same cadence for your execs and managers as well, and hold them accountable.

Supplement Your Program with Additional Rewards

Use your top peer-nominated lists as a way to give out additional rewards. Got an extra pair of tickets to a game or movie? Randomly select someone from the top 10 peer-nominated list for that month. If your CEO is doing site visits to different locations, set up a lunch with the top 5 peer-nominated employees at that site. Your CEO, and other execs, should be meeting with your top performers and getting to know them. These are your key employees, the ones you want to nurture and grow within your company.


Employee Adoption is Critical for Success

In order for your recognition program to succeed, employees must be engaged and invested in the process. The program should remain top of mind for everyone, centralized in a single, easy-to-use system with no competing priorities, to help keep everyone aligned, from executives to managers to employees. Check out our blog post on Manager Adoption for more tips on encouraging manager buy-in.

Your Culture, Your Style

Every company and every team has unique values and priorities, so it’s important to build a recognition program specific to your culture rather than trying to force someone else’s program onto your team. A successful recognition program is one that works for everyone in your organization. You can solicit feedback through surveys and by talking to people, then make adjustments to ensure you are building the muscle of recognition throughout the company.

We hope this article helps you create a recognition program that will engage and inspire your employees. If you have any ideas we didn't cover, feel free to share them in the comments below.

Guusto is every HR professional's dream come true. Simple and impactful recognition meets performance and budget tracking, and best of all, a day’s worth of clean drinking water is donated for every gift you send.

Get in touch with our team if you’re interested in learning more!


What's Next?

In our last three posts we focused on getting everyone on your team involved, championing, and loving your recognition program. 

Now that you're an expert in getting your team aligned around your recognition program, let's take a look at what trends are coming up in 2021 around employee recognition. Look out for our Employee Recognition Trends in 2021!

Thanks for reading our post and we hope you found it helpful. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as well. Let us know in the comments if we missed anything or connect with me on LinkedIn, I always love talking all things people and HR!

Muucho Guusto,


Culture is the Ultimate Advantage

Set yourself apart using the power of company culture. Stand out to new applicants and motivate your team to do their best work.

Noah Warder

Written by Noah Warder

Noah is the Head of People at Guusto and loves sharing his insights, experience and knowledge when it comes to HR and People practices. He is always up for a conversation on how best to support employees to make safe and inclusive work cultures.

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