Employee Engagement Employee Retention

How to Build an Impactful Employee Recognition Program

Last week, I shared our story about a 1-star Glassdoor review that made us realize we were failing to properly recognize employees at Guusto for all their efforts. I've compiled everything we learned from that experience, and the many conversations with clients about similar experiences, to put together this blog article to help you rollout an effective recognition program at your company.

Want to hear something shocking? In the last year, 65% of employees received NO recognition for good work. The Millennial workforce is growing, and they expect immediate rewards when producing results.

Other companies are dangling all sorts of incentives to steal your best people. To compete, you need to make sure your people feel truly appreciated for their contributions, or they will bounce. Companies within the top 20% of “recognition-rich culture” have 31% lower turnover rates. Think what that could do for you bottom line!


Build Your Program


1. Develop your case

You know why it is important to create an impactful culture of recognition at your company, but it's time to convince your executive team that investing in a culture of recognition can lead to significant company-wide growth.

Communicate how much you plan to invest in recognition and the projected return on investment. What is the estimated reduction in turnover? How much will productivity increase? Addressing these questions will help you convince the decision makers. 

Access our ROI Calculator to help build your case.

2. Build a team of champions

You can’t do this alone! You will need support from all levels of the organization to roll out a successful program. Make a list of the key stakeholders in your company and how the program will affect them: 

  • Leader: oversee program and results
  • Admin: operate the program
  • Manager: access to budget for sending rewards
  • Employee: receive rewards and nominate colleagues for rewards
  • Finance: manage financial reports (eg: expenses, taxable benefits)

You’ll then want to reach out to a few people from each group to show them the benefits of the program, learn about their concerns, and garner their support.

3. Structure program around 5 key principles



Make it easy, so your employees are more inclined to participate and don't feel burdened by the program.

Don't wait for performance reviews that are months away. Reinforce desired behaviours as soon as they happen, and reward results in real-time.

Every employee has different preferences. Offer rewards that are flexible so everyone gets something they want and value.

Give every employee the opportunity to participate in recognition. If some people feel left out, the program can actually have a negative effect. If you're offering an online program, make sure there are offline options available. 

Ad hoc programs don’t work! Make sure your employees understand that the program is not a fad. Create a consistent program with longevity to ensure your employees will continue participating.


4. Tie recognition to core values

The company’s core values provide a guideline for making decisions and identify the behaviours that drive success for the organization. By recognizing employees that demonstrate core values, they will be much more likely to repeat those behaviours.

As such, it can be very effective to set the company’s core values as the possible reasons for recognition. This way, your managers and employees know WHY to formerly recognize team members and colleagues.

Recognition data can then come in very handy during performance reviews, as it will identify which core values employees are demonstrating and where they could focus on improving.


5. Communicate with all stakeholders

To make your program a success, it's critical to have a successful launch. Make sure all stakeholders are aware of the program, its objectives, what is expected of them, and why their participation will be beneficial for them. Your program will not achieve the desired results if your employees are unsure how to participate.

Anticipate objections from each stakeholder (other leaders, managers, financial team etc.). Everyone will have different concerns about the program, so be sure you have a solid response to each objection, and lean on your Team of Champions to communicate benefits.

Paperworld Frankfurt Future Office


6. Measure the results

Finally, your recognition program must be measurable. To understand the effects of your program, you need a way to measure two main areas:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
  • Behaviour
You can measure KPIs like improvements in turnover rates, conversion rates (marketing), close rates (sales), productivity (e.g. rooms cleaned per hour), etc.

Behaviour is harder to measure but can be done through employee surveys and pulling data from the actual recognition program (how many nominations are being sent? What are the most common reasons for nominations? etc.).

Before launching, make sure you have a plan on how to measure the effectiveness of your program, then tweak things over time to see what works best for your team.


Get Started and Scale-Up

Making sure employees feel recognized for their efforts can increase employee engagement, productivity and retention. Still, only 14% of companies give managers the tools they need to reward their team members in a timely manner. Use the steps above to rollout a recognition program to set your company apart.

That said, you don't have to do everything at once. Too often we've seen companies paralyzed by endless strategy meetings that never actually do anything. Start by piloting a simple program with a small group or department, then roll it out to the whole company once it's proven and working well. After a few months, try adding new components to the program. This is Agile HR!

If you're still looking for a bit of help with your program, feel free to reach out to our team anytime, recognition is what we do! Hit the button below to book some time with us, or watch our video guide that will walk you through building a culture of recognition.



Book a Time to Chat

What's Next

The next post will look back to when we launched Guusto and one thing we did get right out of the gate - Integrating Purpose. It will cover the following:

  • Our pitch on Dragons’ Den
  • How a TED talk put us on the right path
  • Partnership with One Drop to donate water
  • Tips for adding purpose

Hope you’ll join us for the discussion. Have something you want to learn more about? Let me know in the comments below or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Muucho Guusto :)



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Skai Dalziel

Written by Skai Dalziel

Skai is the Co-Founder of Guusto. He leads the Customer Success Team, and loves helping HR leaders build workplace culture by sharing his experiences from working with thousands of companies.

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