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08 Aug 2022

5 ways to build a culture of recognition and trust

Are approval processes in your recognition programme sending the wrong message? How to mitigate the risk without the red tape

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If the recent UK political news cycle has told us anything it’s the importance of trust within an organisation. But it’s not just trust in leaders that’s critical, but also the leaders’ trust in their team that creates an engaged and empowered workforce.

Recognition is a critical component of levying a committed and inspired team. Numerous studies align a positive recognition culture with a productive business. Deloittes’ The State of Recognition report outlines that organisations with the most sophisticated recognition practices were 12x more likely to have positive business outcomes.

Passing it on

Our research shows that when an employee feels appreciated, they’re more committed (+31.6%), apply more discretionary effort (+22.7%), and work with greater intensity (9x more likely). What’s more, they’re more inclined to recognise their colleagues (employees receiving recognition within 60 days sent on average 0.96 recognitions a month vs 0.23 recognitions a month for those who didn’t receive recognition).

Recognition at all moments that matter is important. This means not just at major milestones, but in the everyday interactions that build culture and the employee experience of an organisation.

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Recognising a colleague is saying ‘I see you’, ‘I appreciate you’, and in that moment of recognition, no matter how big or small, it cements the moment and helps to perpetuate the positive behaviour.

Therefore, if a recognition is a lived experience between two people, isn’t all recognition valid?

Offering two programmes

It’s typical for organisations to offer two or more recognition programmes for employees. A non-reward based ‘thank you’ programme and a with-reward ‘above and beyond’ programme.

For many ‘above and beyond’ programmes, a common feature is a built-in approval process. Whether physically or digitally, managers or department heads have to approve a recognition before it’s delivered to the recipient. This may sound reasonable; after all, an organisation doesn’t want to waste budget on recognition for behaviours that aren’t considered exceptional or risk accusations of cronyism.

But what does this say to the employees? We don’t believe you can establish what’s worthy of reward?  We don’t trust you to be fair and make the right decisions?

Don't let process get in the way

In addition approval processes create a barrier to timely recognition, a key component to an effective recognition culture.

So, how do we balance the need to manage potential misuse and control budget with the need to build a culture of recognition and trust?

1. Tie into your values – Structure a programme around your purpose and values and use desired behaviours to guide recognitions. Not only does this re-emphasise your mission, it also provides a framework for what your organisation perceives as appropriate for recognition with and without reward.

2. Use examples – Reinforce desired behaviours by providing examples and sharing best practice among employees.

3. Provide a budget - Rather than setting blanket approvals across your programmes, give employees the freedom to make decisions within reasonable confines. For example, a quarterly budget they can use at their discretion, and/or a set limit on the value of a reward.

4. Digitise your programme – Not only does this improve transparency, accessibility and reduce management time, it should also provide real-time data and reporting of the recognition activity within your business, allowing you to identify programme strengths and weaknesses.

5. Leverage analytics - Track activity through your programme and use data insight to alert you to potential misuse by exception rather than as the rule.

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