How Poorly-Designed Recognition Programs Can Negatively Affect Employees

How Poorly-Designed Recognition Programs Can Negatively Affect Employees

on February 20 | in Business | by | with No Comments

Performance recognition programs are designed to reward employee performance and create loyalty, but can have the opposite effect if not implemented properly.

Employees appreciate being recognized or rewarded for a job well done. Many organizations have some sort of recognition program in place to keep their employees happy, hard-working, and loyal. However, if the program is not well executed and applied consistently, it could actually spread ill will and result in a decrease of morale in the workplace.

Recognition Programs As Popularity Contests?

Although it’s important to reward employees for their hard work, it’s equally essential to make sure that every deserving employee is recognized equally.

For example, let’s say one employee doubles their sales quota and is rewarded with an extra vacation day. Then, the next month, a different employee doubles their quota, but instead of the expected vacation day, he receives a $20 gift card. That employee gets upset and starts spreading gossip around the office that the first employee is the “boss’ pet”. Morale is lowered all over the office, and the first employee might now get treated with contempt by  their co-workers.

This is especially true when it comes to monetary benefits and incentives, such as Pay For Performance programs. Every company has its own ideas of what rewards their employees will enjoy. The key is to be clear, consistent, and fair. Make sure that all employees understand the rewards program and what actions are eligible for which rewards.

Quick Distribution of Rewards is Key

When employees do something well, they want to see a reward immediately or at least within the week. This is why many organizations are turning away from extravagant bonuses that can take several pay cycles to appear on the employee’s check in favor of time-based benefits (such as an extra personal day or half-day) and/or gift cards that can be used right away.

In many organizations, the size of the reward depends on the action being rewarded. This is why it’s important to announce the different reward levels and criteria for earning those rewards before the week, month, or quarter begins. Another option is to post a detailed description of the rewards program so that all employees can benefit from this knowledge.

Public & Consistent Acknowledgement

Competition in the workplace is natural and healthy for employee morale and performance. One of the easiest ways for employers to encourage beneficial competition without sowing disdain is to publicly acknowledge top performers.

The key to successful public acknowledgement is consistency. If employees see that one or two employees are getting praised more than the others who perform at the same level, it lowers morale and endangers overall performance. If one or two employees get praised for something but another employee who performed just as well does not get recognized, it begins to look like a popularity contest and this perception of unfair treatment can quickly create negativity in the workplace.

Simple Rules for Running a Successful Employee Benefits Program

  • Decide what actions your organization wants to reward and what the reward will be, and make this information available to every employee.
  • Keep the requirements and criteria for completion simple and easy to follow.
  • Distribute rewards on a fair and equal basis, ensuring that employees know what to expect— and that they receive it.
  • Avoid any perception of favoritism in the distribution of rewards.
  • Deliver rewards in a timely manner—the longer employees wait to be recognized, the less likely they will make the extra effort in the future.
  • Acknowledge top performers in public, giving credit where credit is due.

One way to learn more about how your employees feel about your reward and recognition program is to implement an employee satisfaction survey. If you see low satisfaction with your current program, take the time to rethink and revamp the program so that you can get the best value from it.

Robert Gray is the President of Insightlink Communications, providing the most effective employee survey tools to organizations of all sizes and types. Since 2001 he has been committed to employee retention strategies, exit strategies and more.

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