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5 Key Steps to Increase Manager Adoption of Your Recognition Program


Even the best employee recognition program on the planet is doomed to failure without buy-in from those responsible for executing on it. When launching a new recognition program, manager adoption is vital to the program’s success.

Team members who feel appreciated are the bedrock of a healthy, vibrant culture. A successful employee recognition program will help keep that bedrock from cracking or even crumbling, but to do that, the program must be consistently applied across all departments, both horizontally and from the top down. The best place to start building that consistency is by bringing your managers on-side from day one.

The five steps below won’t just help you drive adoption of your recognition program, they’ll demonstrate its value and positive impact, so your managers will embrace your program enthusiastically.


Step 1: Build Awareness and Excitement
Your managers will be more invested in a program when it’s one they’ve contributed to creating.

Loop your managers in from the get-go by engaging them in a conversation, preferably in person, about the importance of a recognition program and the specific ways the program will benefit their departments and the company as a whole. Focus on the recognition program as a tool to help them be even better bosses by empowering them to recognize their team members in meaningful ways.

Ask them about their departmental goals, projects currently in progress, and any roadblocks they may be facing. Once you understand their priorities and challenges, you can highlight how consistent recognition can help motivate their team members to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.

Sharing data around the impact recognition can have on employee engagement and performance can also encourage buy-in. Quantifiable evidence of how recognition can positively shape behaviour can give your managers a deeper understanding, one that can spark enthusiasm for the program.

Finally, reassure your managers on two fronts:

  1. 1. Let them know the program will be easy to use and they’ll receive all the training they’ll need. And then follow through.

Make training materials easily available to all managers, including webinars and lunch and learn sessions. But training is about more than teaching managers how to use the tools — you should also provide clear guidelines on when and why they should issue rewards. This is a great opportunity to reinforce the company’s core values.

  1. 2. Answer the burning question many will have on the tips of their tongues: Where will the money come from?

Make sure your managers understand the cost of the recognition program will not impact their other budgets.

For tips on creating a budget-friendly program, check out our blog on giving recognition on a budget.


Step 2: Keep it Simple
To create a recognition program managers will be excited to implement, it has to be easy for them to use. The key to encouraging adoption is keeping it simple. To achieve this, give your managers the following:

  1. 1. Autonomy
  2. 2. Simple workflows
  3. 3. Clear parameters
  4. 4. Deadlines for recognition

Programs often require too many approvals or must adhere to too many restrictions before a recognition reward can be given. Empower your managers by providing them with guidelines, training, and the tools they need to recognize their teams. And then get out of the way!

Giving them the autonomy to recognize team members without jumping through hoops will result in much higher engagement.

Next, ensure the recognition workflow is simple and flexible. How many steps are there to recognize an individual? Can they recognize a group of people all at once? Can they give recognition from their phones when not in front of their computers? Wherever possible, cut back on unnecessary features that detract from your program’s ease of use.

When starting out, the only feature that is absolutely essential is the ability for managers to give individual rewards and recognition. As adoption increases, you can scale your program up gradually to include peer-to-peer nominations, bulk-gifting options, and other features.


Step 3: Lead by Example
Ensuring the program is consistently applied across the company means recognition must come from the top down, including from the leadership team and HR to managers. Managers who receive recognition are far more likely to pay it forward and recognize their own team members.

Leading by example will also encourage horizontal recognition, manager-to-manager. Managers who feel appreciated by their peers will pave the way for improved cross-team and inter-departmental collaboration.


Step 4: Build Consistency
To start building consistency from the moment your program launches, specify the number of people your managers should recognize within the first week, including a suggested gift value. This will allow you to immediately begin setting expectations around the volume of rewards, frequency, value, etc.

Once you’ve defined your recognition goals, you’ll need to establish processes for continuing the momentum and measuring the program’s success. Employee satisfaction and usage are great starting points for measurement, but your insights shouldn’t stop there. A few additional metrics you might consider include:

  • Total number of rewards issued per manager
  • Number of monetary vs non-monetary rewards
  • Number and value of peer nominations

Use these metrics to discover trends across your teams and departments. These insights will help you identify which managers are engaging with the program consistently, who is encouraging peer-to-peer recognition, and who may need more guidance.

To sustain momentum, schedule regular check-ins with your managers to encourage program engagement, solicit feedback on the program, and encourage them to continually reward their employees. Use the check-ins as an opportunity to provide your managers with feedback as well, to give them context on how they’re doing compared to other managers.

Regularly scheduled emails are a good place to start and many programs will allow you to automate these emails, making the program that much easier to administer.


Step 5: Share the Impact
Collect regular feedback from managers on how well they think the program is working, and feedback from employees on their level of engagement and satisfaction with the program.

Share the aggregated findings with your managers to demonstrate the impact of their recognition efforts on employee satisfaction and performance. Seeing their teams aim higher and achieve better results will motivate managers to commit to the program long-term.

And don’t forget to make time for sharing recognition at all-hands meetings. Giving on-the-spot recognition, in addition to highlighting recognition from the past week (or month), will further encourage program adoption while also helping to build community and collaboration.

With a well-defined recognition program, managers and HR leaders can set the tone for the entire company by showing their team members they’re valued and appreciated. Managers who themselves feel recognized, and who see tangible results from their efforts, will be more engaged and committed to ensuring the program’s success.


Manager Adoption for a Successful Program
As the people behind your recognition efforts, managers are the key to maintaining a successful recognition and rewards program.

Improving KPIs such as turnover, employee satisfaction, and productivity become easier when you set clear goals for recognition. Set your managers up for success by supporting their goals and ensuring that they have the resources they need to execute an engaging program.

We hope this article helps your managers adopt a recognition program that adds real value to your company. 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.

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What's Next?

In our last two posts we have talked about getting your executives and managers involved, excited, and championing your new recognition program. But what about the team, the people who will be receiving the recognition, giving peer recognition and giving you, as the HR leader, feedback on the program. How do we get them excited about a new recognition program? Subscribe to find out when we release our next post on Getting Your Whole Team on Board to build a culture of recognition.  

Thanks for reading our post and we hope you found it helpful. If there is something you want to explore further, leave a comment below or connect with me on LinkedIn. 

Muucho Guusto,


Culture is the Ultimate Advantage

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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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