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Future-Proof Your Recognition Programs for Flexibility

Recognition is a powerful tool at the disposal of every organization, but it must be utilized properly to achieve the desired result of motivating and inspiring your workforce.


Now more than ever, quality recognition programs are needed as the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the overall health and well-being of employees. This is why employers should evolve their programs to go beyond traditional length of service or “superstar” employee recognition, said Debra Corey, chief pay it forward officer at DebCO HR.

During her week-two session, “Moving from High Fives to Claps: Recognition in Today’s World” at WorldatWork’s “Total Resilience Virtual Conference & Exhibition” on Wednesday, Corey emphasized the need for more frequent forms of recognition and gratitude to aid in organizational resilience. Corey said that in a world where everyone is looking for some good news, recognizing even the small wins is necessary.

“The world is so challenging right now,” Corey said, “so we really want to savor the small wins.”

Corey, who has been in the rewards profession for more than 20 years, including a stint at Gap Inc., said this mentality should extend to mistakes made by employees in the pursuit of achievements. This is part of being an empathetic organization, she said.

“If we want innovation to happen, we need to recognize people for being human and understand that mistakes will happen along the way,” Corey said.

Corey introduced 10 ways recognition needs to pivot and change in the future, which started with the “why” of your recognition program. She noted that many programs might not have any vehicle to recognize gig workers, which could constitute a good proportion of a company’s future workforce.  

Recognition programs should also be more inclusive in who is doing the recognizing, Corey said. Whereas recognition has traditionally come from managers or team leaders, allowing employees to call out the good work of their colleagues is a trend that should continue.

“Recognition can actually increase chemicals in your brain to make us happier and more productive,” Corey said. “The more people who are out there capturing the recognition, the better results you will have. Recognition will never be successful if it’s not more than just manager to employee.”

Corey said it’s important to weave recognition in everything you do as an organization and this can take different forms. One an example of this is allowing a high-performing employee to run a meeting. Ultimately, however, there can be a perception of over recognition, which might promote an “everybody gets a trophy” culture, which is why it’s important for it to be genuine recognition, Corey said.

While recognition is known to promote employee well-being, engagement and productivity, it can also be negatively received by employees who don’t enjoy the spotlight. Employer HR systems or program administrators should capture this data on each employee so as to cater the right form of recognition for everyone in the organization.

“Everyone doesn’t like recognition in the same way,” Corey said. “Know your people well enough to know what’s going to work for them and make sure you’ve got the flexibility in your program to do this.”  

About the Author

Brett Christie Bio Image

Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.

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