3 Do’s & Don’ts for Your Recognition Program

Who among us doesn’t crave recognition for great work? The key is figuring out HOW to do that in a meaningful way for your team members.

In another job, the team I led designed and managed a global reward and recognition program for the IT and business transformation function at a Fortune 50 consumer products company. The function had approximately 2,500 employees, and the global CIO wanted to send signals to the employees about how the culture was transforming. Rewards and recognition programs always reinforce culture very publicly.

During my years of responsibility for that program, I learned many lessons. The ones below stand out:


  • Don’t assume it’s all about the money (aka the “rewards” aspect). Whatever monetary value you select will translate very differently in various geographies. $500 has very different buying power in India than it does in Mexico, for example. Then come the taxation issues and currency exchanges … The recognition aspect alone goes a LONG way!
  • Don’t expect everyone to be comfortable on stage. I have a great tool (20 questions) from a consultant named Glenn Parker called, “How Do You Like Your Recognition?” (If you email me or contact me on Twitter and ask for it, I’ll be happy to share it with you.) It points out how only some people love a literal spotlight. Our program winners were featured in a live broadcast Town Hall receiving their awards from the global CIO and his leadership team. Some handled this with aplomb. Others looked like they’d rather run for cover.
  • Don’t expect the process to be easy. Politics and personalities prevail. Also remember to set performance thresholds as eligibility criteria to ensure everyone can feel good about the winners as examples for others.


  • Do find very public and lasting ways to recognize the behaviors you want to encourage. This means multiple ways to celebrate your winners, ensuring everyone knows the criteria used for selection. Publicize your event(s) before, during and after. Winners must have something (a plaque, framed pictures, mementos, a crystal recognition piece, etc.) to take back to place on a desk or hang on a wall as an ongoing visible reminder for all to admire and associate with the desired behavior change.
  • Do ensure the leadership selects winners representing a variety of geographies and lines of business. If you have a global (or cross-border/cross-functional) reward and recognition program, then ensure all parts of the business can truly win. You set signals early on which impact your program for years to come.
  • Do incorporate ongoing ways to recognize employees every day – not just once a year. While the annual “big bang” is important for the selected few, the daily/weekly words of encouragement in a staff meeting or emails of praise (with a CC to all the right people) can mean just as much to the many. The best programs educate managers and equip them to combine all of these avenues regularly.

Betsy Winkler is Partner at PeopleResults and can be reached on email at bwinkler@www.people-results.com or on Twitter at @BetsyWinkler1.