Reward, employee benefits and recognition are all terms used for decades to describe different ways of motivating and engaging employees in the workplace. Rather than get too caught up in the terminology, it’s important you understand how each part can play its role in your wider strategy.

It sounds obvious but recognition is all about showing that you as a business remember to recognise and reinforce the efforts, behaviour or achievements of an individual or a team. For the majority of companies employees are their most important (and let’s not forget expensive) asset.  Creating a recognition strategy can have an enormous impact on your turnover – a report from Bersin by Deloitte found that companies with a ‘recognition-rich culture’ had 31% lower attrition rates.

The difference between reward and recognition

Recognition strategies should form a part of your wider reward strategy. However, there are a few core factors which separate an employee recognition strategy from the usual reward approach. For example:

Benefits and reward entitlements have eligibilities – employee recognition does not. 
The opportunity to be recognised should be freely available to all employees who go above and beyond, whatever role they perform in the company. 

Recognition doesn’t have to be results driven.
The great thing about recognition is that it can focus on the approach taken by an individual and recognise their intention and behaviour, regardless of the outcome.

Employee recognition can be delivered on its own and it doesn’t have to cost anything.
Of course, recognition can be complemented with an accompanying reward, but on the flip side a reward cannot be delivered without recognition.

If you do offer a tangible reward, make sure there is a clear sign off procedure internally and the system you have in place provides Management Information to pick up trends in your offering.

For example, you could enable managers to award points to their team via your reimbursement benefits software, which employees would then be able to spend immediately, wherever they are. A survey by Society for Human Resources Management found that when companies spend 1% or more of payroll on recognition, 85% see a positive impact on engagement.

The further advantage of this is that you would also be encouraging employees to visit and engage with your wider reward package, reminding them to make use of the other benefits they receive.

Recognition can be a social and public announcement. 
Reward is notoriously a private individual element of employment. This will empower and motivate staff even further. Receiving recognition is personal, permanent and cannot be passed onto another employee, creating a lasting impact on those who receive it. According to a survey by OfficeVibe, 78% of employees said being recognised increases their motivation.

Creating an effective employee recognition strategy

When it comes to recognition, clear guidelines are important. A defined structure that you can communicate to employees raises morale and encourages your workforce to go further and aim higher. So what are the essential elements of your recognition strategy?

Make sure you put in place an internal platform
Putting in place an internal platform to run the recognition strategy encourages an acknowledgement culture and allows visibility, social interaction and a way for colleagues to nominate each other. 

Expect the unexpected 
Make sure your strategy rewards only those who go beyond what’s expected of them, so recognition has an element of surprise and is meaningful. 

Keep it immediate 
With the average length of service greatly reduced, many employees are no longer motivated by the notion of receiving a reward in 5 or 10 years’ time for continuing to work for an organisation. Indeed, a survey by Forbes identified companies with a recognition-rich culture had 31% lower turnover. 

Employee recognition is about the ‘here and now,’ and should take place as soon as possible after the “event” that deserves to be recognised. This also means it is vital you keep your strategy fresh, relevant and quick to respond.

Make recognition an effective part of your wider reward strategy
If you do link your reward strategy make sure it is measurable and quantifiable – this will control costs and ensure rewards are fair. A successful method is running a reward “cupboard” with a selection of prizes employees can choose from if they accomplish an achievement. 

Communicating your employee recognition programme

Engaging employees and getting their buy in so the plan runs itself is the ultimate goal for a successful recognition plan. 

Putting in place a structure which rewards at different levels and is complimented by a fun communication strategy (such as badges, medals or tiers of recognition you can award staff through their recognition journey) will have a really positive impact. Think Recognition Guru, Captain, Connoisseur or even Cowboy. Yeehaw.