Favoritism and Other Death Knells to Successful Employee Recognition

Recognize This! – Proper program design is critical to rapid adoption of employee recognition.

Earlier this week I wrote about a powerful culture of recognition built by the CEO of Proteus. He understood the importance of basing such a culture on core values and an ethos of inclusion of all employees through peer-to-peer recognition.

Creating and proactively managing a culture of recognition in which employees choose to engage is a critical point I discuss regularly. In response to a recent post on How to Treat Company Culture as Strategy, I received this question:

“Our company has an employee recognition programme to recognize people for their contributions beyond KRAs [Key Responsibility Areas].

“We have defined the criteria for recognition and employees can either nominate themselves or their supervisors can nominate them. The winners of the trophy are selected at the zonal level by zonal leadership based on certain criteria and their names are published pan India.

“We received many nominations when we launched the program but we hardly receive any nominations these days.

“Can anybody suggest ideas to drive it across an employee strength of 13,000 people and ensure there are more nominations? Should there be any change in the criteria for recognition?”

As I advised this person, there are several areas I would change:

  1. Winners” should never be limited. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to be recognized and acknowledged for their efforts and behaviors.
  2. All employees should be encouraged to recognize each other (not themselves) any time they see a peer or colleague demonstrate a core value and achieve an objective.
  3. Unless management has a major reason for disapproving such a nomination, there should be no “selection committee” for who gets that recognition. If someone is recognized by a colleague for their stellar efforts and behaviors, they should receive it. Full stop.
  4. This program receives so few nominations now because employees likely perceive it as a program in which the same few people are recognized again and again. Leadership is playing their favorites.

In Globoforce’s latest Workforce Mood Tracker (released yesterday), this last point was a key message expressed by employees on what they would change in their recognition programs: “Many people who should be recognized go unnoticed due to favoritism among those who choose.”

Unfortunately, the program described in the question above is geared to generate favoritism. Be sure to check out the Workforce Mood Tracker to learn more ways in which recognition done right can increase retention.

How would you have answered the question?

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