How to use recognition to support your organisation’s culture

It is hard to overstate the importance of company culture. It is a factor that can make or break a business and yet one that is perhaps too often overlooked or misunderstood. Contrary to what many believe, when it comes to corporate culture, simply creating a friendly working environment is not enough.

How to use recognition to support your organisation’s culture

One reason that many businesses get it wrong is because corporate culture is such a broad term, encompassing many different factors. But at its heart, it is the embodiment of your company’s personality, values and purpose. It defines the environment in which your people work, but also how they work and even why they work. Issues arise when these values are unclear from the outset. How can you create a cohesive and effective company culture when you don’t know what you stand for?

Defining your strategy and purpose

The first thing to do when establishing or redefining a company culture is to ensure that you have a clearly articulated strategic direction and purpose. Why does your business exist? What is it you are trying to achieve? Knowing the answer to these questions is crucial if you are to create a culture that helps you to realise your overall business aims. Your values, goals and ethics should be at the core of your culture; in many ways they are the very things that define it.

The more positive staff feel about the business, the better your external reputation will be – for, of course, culture is not just an internal issue. There have been numerous instances of toxic corporate culture hitting the headlines – unfortunately issues which all too often come from the top. If business leaders are behaving in a way that is at odds with the company’s stated values, the implications can be serious; there are inevitable reputational consequences that can affect everything from your capacity to recruit to your bottom line. We weren’t kidding when we said it is hard to overstate the value of company culture!

Linking company purpose with reward and recognition

Designing a reward and recognition programme that links directly to your organisation’s values ensures that your employees are engaged for the right reasons and in a way that will benefit the business and reinforce your culture. For example, if teamwork is important to your organisation, make sure people are recognised for it. Some companies choose a system whereby people can nominate colleagues via a portal, which can really encourage a culture of support and mutual recognition. But however you manage your reward and recognition scheme, the key is to make sure that rewards are very clearly linked to one or more of your core behaviours and culture, whatever they may be.

And it’s also worth remembering that linking your recognition strategy directly to your business objectives can help team members who are cynical about the effectiveness of reward and recognition to see its value.

For most employers, reinforcing their core values and a strong workplace culture is part and parcel of any employee recognition scheme. But more and more organisations are thinking more innovatively, not just about the interaction between recognition and culture, but also about how recognition can reinforce other positive behaviours in the workplace, particularly those relating to health, wellbeing, learning and development.

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, 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 in organisational culture. 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 provides the opportunity 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.

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 and wellbeing’ and ‘learning and 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. These are key areas when it comes to workplace culture.

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.

4. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition
Many people would consider peer-to-peer recognition as a tool, yet it is 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.

Reward and recognition programmes offer a really impactful way to encourage and foster a company culture. Organisations that acknowledge exceptional performance and encourage specific values or behaviours are often those that have the most effective culture. Ultimately, it’s about saying thank you – literally, or with a gift of award – to employees for exhibiting certain behaviours in the workplace, whether that be loyalty, hard work, showing integrity, or just doing a really good job.

Creating a friendly environment is definitely important, but it alone does not constitute a corporate culture that will really deliver value to your business.

Employee recognition can be one of the best ways to motivate your team. Download Xexec’s free e-book to find out more about how to build an effective recognition strategy.

This article is provided by Xexec.

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