Using employee recognition to encourage positive behaviours in the workplace

Jamie King, Xexec

For most employers, reinforcing their core values is part and parcel of any staff recognition scheme. But more and more organisations are thinking more innovatively, not just about the interaction between recognition and core values, but also about how recognition can reinforce other positive behaviours in the workplace, particularly those relating to health, wellbeing, learning and development. Here are four examples of ways in which forward thinking employers are achieving this:

1. Use recognition tactically to support the launch of new initiatives 

Launching an employee recognition scheme can be very well timed if it coincides with a rebrand or the launch of company core values. For most employers, the challenge with launching initiatives such as these lies in communicating them effectively, making them meaningful and ensuring that employees understand how they are applicable to their day-to-day work. Without doing this, the risk is that they end up as a bunch of words which nobody really understands and which won’t really make a great deal of difference as to how people act on a day-to-day basis. By linking a reward directly to one of your core values – e.g. rewarding an employee for doing something innovative, if ‘innovation’ is a core value – recognition can help can help make such values part of the day-to-day conversation from the outset.

2. Make the most of your management information (MI)

The wealth of data that can be easily and automatically collected in relation to reward and recognition schemes is huge, particularly given the increasing use of online portals. Organisations are now starting to use this data to give them new insights into the effectiveness of their core values. Most MI reports will track how many awards have been awarded per core value, so organisations can use that to see which core values are resonating, or being misunderstood.

For example, if only 10% of all awards relate to one value – for example “integrity” – what does that mean? It might mean that employees don’t understand it, or how it applies to their role, or it might mean they’re not performing it. Having this kind of insight opens up to ask these questions and look into the issue further. The response might be as simple as including some examples of what the value means in practice, or perhaps even changing the name of it. In fact, we have worked with organisations where MI data from our recognition scheme has led them to changing the name of one of their core values.

3. Don’t just focus on core values

Some employers are looking outside of their own core values at different behaviours that can be reinforced via recognition, both in terms of how these might benefit the organisation and also how they can foster greater employee engagement. ‘Health & wellbeing’ and ‘learning & development’ are two areas that are front of mind for most organisations – the benefits of both to an organisation are widely accepted as is the belief that employees value employee benefits relating to them.

If an employer wants to encourage learning and development this can be done through a recognition portal by, fairly simply, recognising activities that are related to learning and development. If someone engages in, say, an evening course in accounting, or a workshop in some kind of software application, then organisations can ensure that this is the sort of activity that people are recognised for. At the same time, if an employee goes above and beyond what is expected of them in their regular job you can reward this behaviour with a learning, or health-focused award e.g. enrolling them on a part time MBA, or giving them a free gym pass. This can be a very effective use of your award budget.

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4. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition 

Many people would consider peer-to-peer recognition as a tool, yet it also another positive behaviour that many organisations are trying to encourage via their recognition schemes, because of the impact that it can have on workplace culture. There’s a lot of data to suggest that getting recognised by one’s peers is as effective a motivator as recognition from a manager or team leader, so designing a programme that encourages this is something that many organisations are doing. This can work in different ways, from allowing employees to nominate their peers directly, to nominating via a manager. Automated technology means that, if appropriate, awards can be made almost instantly online.