Top Employee Recognition Goals: How Many Does Your Company Embrace?

WorldatWork just released its 2013 Trends in Employee Recognition report.

The timing is ideal, as earlier this week I blogged about the importance of behavior-based recognition and WorldatWork’s press release about the new report proclaims: “For the first time in the survey’s 11-year history, programs to motivate specific behavior jumped to a top-tier goal, cited by 41 percent of organizations in 2013 vs. 25 percent in 2008.”

Indeed, four of the top five recognition goals for organizations across industries are the focus of strategic, social employee recognition programs.

Morale, motivation, and a positive work culture

The outlier (and still most popular program) is recognizing years of service. I believe this old standby remains at the top of the list because, even when companies find themselves in the toughest financial straits, leadership believes they must honor the loyalty of employees shown for years of service.

I, too, believe this to be important, but traditional years of service recognition alone will not and can not drive achievement of the other four goals of recognition as stated by respondents to the WorldatWork survey. It is truly an outlier.

Let’s look at the others:

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  • Create a Positive Work Environment – This is foundational to employee engagement. I often comment that leaders cannot engage employees. You can, however, create an environment and culture in which employees choose to engage. Which leads directly into the next goal.WorldatWorkTrends2011
  • Create a Culture of Recognition – A culture of recognition is very different from a recognition program. A strategic program that encourages all the right recognition behaviors and actions helps to create this culture by giving everyone the means and ability to easily recognize others for their excellence in a meaningful way (including in their local language for global organizations). Deep insight into the culture in action through detailed, actionable real-time measurement and reporting also helps management keep the culture on track while empowering all employees at every level to own the culture.
  • Motivate High Performance – Done correctly – meaning timely, specifically and frequently – recognition reinforces for employees why and how their efforts are meaningful and necessary in helping to achieve a bigger vision or strategic objective. Multiple research sources show this is the most motivating factor for employees to continue to achieve at high level – making progress in meaningful work.
  • Reinforce Desired Behaviors – The newest member of the “top five recognition goals” list is gratifying to me as I’ve spent the last 11 years of my career consulting with organizations of all sizes and industries on the importance of exactly this point. It’s a key tenet of strategic recognition as outlined in Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Your organization has already likely defined desired behaviors in the form of your core values or guiding principles. Those should be the factors every recognition moment reinforces across your organization.

I’ll be blogging again on additional findings in report, including consistency in budget for recognition (still 1-2 percent of payroll), international programs, and most desired rewards.

What are your top five goals for your employee recognition program?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


2 Comments on “Top Employee Recognition Goals: How Many Does Your Company Embrace?

  1. Hi Derek,

    As a fellow solutions-provider in the recognition space (we focus on companies from 50-500 employees), we can share a few of the main reasons our clients seek out recognition programs based on the hundreds of companies we’ve spoken with:

    1) Reward collaboration in remote teams – many companies today have employees working remotely. Great recognition programs remove the physical barriers of office walls by providing recognition online through email, mobile interfaces or in online communities.

    2) Capture peer recognition – managers continue to have more and more direct reports and cross functional teams mean managers often don’t work side by side with their team. Peers are best suited to spot great contributions by coworkers. HR and leadership teams can then review the peer recognition and spot those who are leading the greatest advances within their organization even though they may not have direct visibility into that individual’s contributions.

    3) Reinforce culture and values – as you echoed in your post, recognition programs are most effective when the recognition reinforces specific actions and behaviors. Human Resource professionals understand this and are looking for ways to drive company culture, values and goals in new, engaging and creative ways. Value-based and Action-based recognition programs can subtly reinforce key company initiatives without coming across as being heavy-handed.

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