8 Employee Recognition Programs That Will Always Fail

No one can argue against the benefits 8-Employee-Recognition-Programs-that-will-Always-Failof employee recognition programs, but that doesn’t mean that any ol' recognition program will suffice.

Some recognition programs are great: they engage employees, motivate performance, and drive organizational culture. But some do more harm than good.


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When deciding what employee recognition will look like in your organization, make sure you stay away from these eight tactics!

1. Reward-Only Programs

Rewards might be appreciated by some, but more often than not, the flimsy plaque or cheap watch ends up in the trash. Employees don't want or need all "the stuff." 

Instead: Use your words. Authentic, detailed recognition is far more motivating and valuable.


2. Employee of the Month Awards

General awards (like Employee of the Month) include no context, no authentic praise, and really, no value.

Instead: Specify what went right. Awards that acknowledge specific behaviors will drive the same actions in other employees, and will mean more to the recipient.


3. One-Winner Programs

Don’t you want all your employees striving to be the best? Though one-winner recognition programs may work with employees who are inherently competitive, it can de-motivate those who don’t think they stand a chance of winning.

Instead: Encourage recognition for all. Make it clear that your program seeks to recognize everyone’s contributions.


4. Private Programs

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a thank you note placed on an employee's desk. But you know you could be doing so much more.

Instead: Shout it from the rooftops. If an employee did something fantastic, let everyone know. Publicly sharing recognition means more to the employee, breaks down workplace silos, and encourages the same behavior in others.


5. Achievement-Only Programs

You recognize employees when they reach formal goals and metrics. That's great. But aren't there more great things happening within your organization? 

Instead: Recognize achievement and behavior. Even if a specific goal isn’t met, recognize employees for the activities that make your organization successful: perseverance, generosity, or any other company value.


6. One-Time Awards

An award your employee can only win once? Might as well fire 'em after they win.

Instead: Reoccurring recognition programs are the way to go. If an employee knows they can no longer receive recognition at your organization, they’re going to find someplace where they can.


7. Annual Programs

When recognition occurs infrequently, you’re giving up your chance to motivate employees throughout the year.

Instead: Recognize all the time. Fuel employee performance all year long.


8. Supervisor-Picked Awards

One word: favoritism. How is that supposed to motivate your organization?

Instead: Support social recognition. So many good things are happening at your organization, but supervisors aren’t going to see it all. Enabling anyone to recognize anyone else showcases more awesomeness and breaks down department and hierarchy walls.


Now you've seen where recognition can go wrong. To see how organizations are doing it right, download our free ebook, Recognition in the Workplace.


Recognition in the Workplace


Published May 16, 2018 | Written By Libby Duong