Reward and Recognition

In our work and research over the years, Key Associates has developed some best practices for designing and implementing reward and recognition (R&R) systems that work. Below are some ideas to help you be more effective and innovative in developing a R&R system:

Organization-wide Reward & Recognition

  • Be clear on the behaviors you are recognizing and make them something everyone can observe and understand; don’t recognize normally expected behaviors or the system can lose its power to reinforce
  • Everyone meeting the R&R criteria should have the opportunity to be rewarded and recognized  
  • Design a reward and recognition system that involves both ongoing recognition as well as special one-time events; for example, you might have an award for the employee or department that best models one of your company values each month and a one- time celebration which honors the most innovative ideas generated that quarter
  • Consistency, enthusiasm and fun fuel an effective organization-wide R&R system; look for creative ways to communicate what you are going to do, when you’ve done it and what happened; use ways of communicating that makes it fun and “in” to be involved
  • Have “ambassadors” throughout the organization that support the active implementation of the program; include managers with enough influence to enact changes that might be needed
  • Develop a simple design that can engage people; add to it and experiment
  • Provide education on the R&R system you have designed and enlist others to help you communicate and implement it effectively – short assignments can work well so consider involving new people for one quarter
  • Build in ways to evaluate the R&R system’s effectiveness; be willing to make changes to make it even better – even if some things you plan don’t work, your willingness to listen and make adjustments is what really counts in the long run

Team Reward & Recognition

  • Communicate to each team member exactly what is required for performance to be rewarded; this doesn’t preclude surprising team members when you see them display a high performance behavior or model the company’s values
  • Discuss how you plan to assess the value behaviors in action; reward collaboration (where you see joint goals and work on the goals as one), not just cooperation (where you might be respectful towards others and the joint goals set, but team members continue to have individual goals as a priority)
  • Assist team members in understanding the reality of teamwork by providing training on team development and effective team behavior
  • Consider conducting team based performance reviews and link performance to your reward and recognition system
  • Offer team bonuses for displaying the company values and use rewards that the team experiences together – like meals or trips
  • Identify the cross-functional or cross-platform teams and discuss their ideas on how they can incorporate value behaviors into their work; set up a system to recognize the team when they do

Individual Reward & Recognition

  • Match the reward to the person – one size doesn’t fit all
  • Match the reward to the magnitude of the act performed
  • Be timely and specific; catch people doing things right
  • Be simple – sincere praise in the form of a thank-you is still a powerful motivator
  • Find creative options for people to use – consider starting an R&R library
  • Reward people who nominate others for recognition
  • Consider things that may not seem like rewards – opportunity to head a project, additional training, and serving on a task force

What R&R systems have you tried that did or did not work?