Even the best recognition program doesn't last forever. To keep your program fresh and the energy for it high, you need to periodically review what's working well and what's broken with the program. Indicators that your program might need a check up or complete overhaul include:
• Loss of excitement. If energy for the program has seriously waned so that no one ever talks about the program, the honorees, their achievements, the awards or merchandise (if any) that are distributed, then a reassessment may be in order. Good recognition programs get people talking, thinking and acting in ways you are trying to encourage.
• Dwindling participation. If fewer and fewer employees (including managers) are participating in the program as it goes on, it's a sure sign that the thrill of the program is quickly diminishing. A good recognition program gets stronger over time. Employees truly feel honored by the program and the recognition is highly valued.
• Jokes & complaints. If instead of being a source of pride, employees make fun of the recognition program and those who participate or are honored by it, it's definitely time to reevaluate the purpose, credibility and mechanics of the program. Program awards should be an honor--not a joke--in order to be effective.
Reassessing the Program
Any program overhaul needs to start with data collection. Who exactly is using the program (and why) and who is not using the program (and why not)? What elements of the program are well liked and effective? What elements of the program are unpopular and ineffective?
You can obtain this information from a simple employee survey, a focus group discussion of the targeted employee population or even through individual input. This collected data then becomes the starting point for program revisions. Has the program merchandise lost it's appeal? Would participants like a broader selection or more items that they can share with their family? Does it take too long to earn points for any program incentives? Make the changes that make the most sense.
Keeping the Program Fresh... and Effective
Once reenergized, what can you do to keep your program fresh and effective?
Use variety & mix it up. Change how you communicate about the program, the specific incentives that are used, the top managers who play a role in supporting the program and so forth. Have program surprises, such as something extra for the 500th person honored or a department award when everyone in a single department has received an award. Or in the midst of the program, have a special recognition focus on those managers who take the time to recognize others and consistently continue to use the program.
Keep expectations realistic. Don't expect a program to last forever. Most recognition program tend to run their course in 12 to 18 weeks. It's possible to have an effective program that runs longer than 18 weeks, but it will require more ongoing focus and effort to keep the energy high and to keep administration and mechanics from becoming the most prominent program elements.
Keep top management involved. To sustain a recognition program over time throughout the organization requires active top management support and involvement. This does not just mean having letters about the program written over a top manager's signature or having top managers at recognition events. More importantly, top managers need to use the program on a daily basis to show that they really believe in it. They need to point out recognition opportunities for other managers to consider and encourage those managers to use available recognition programs.
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