Where to Start When Putting Together an Employee Recognition Program

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Many companies do not know where to start when it comes to employee recognition programs. Often, they are unsure of what recognition program is – is it about rewarding staff or is it about employee recognition? It is about celebrating desired staff behaviour as well as motivating your workforce to continue to do the amazing work they do for your business by rewarding your staff. In order to achieve this, a well-designed rewards and recognition program is required to be implemented.

Ovation Incentives have 20 years of designing and managing employee rewards and recognition programs and we have gained enormous amounts of knowledge and expertise along the way.  We have helped many companies, big and small, to achieve their desired goals.

This article will provide you with useful information on what is important when looking at creating an employee rewards and recognition program and how to successfully implement it.

What is Employee Recognition?

Employee recognition or staff recognition is to acknowledge your staff in front of the whole company for what they do and what they have achieved over a length of time. Employee recognition is also known as social recognition and in its best form allows anyone within the organisation to recognise staff which makes it more relatable and inclusive.

Historically, only employers or managers were able to recognise employees, however in recent years the companies who show best results in employee engagement are the ones who allow all staff to recognise each other. 

Setting up the right employee recognition programme is one of the key factors in successful companies. Engaged employees create a positive, motivating and productive work environment. By recognising the value employees provide to the company, they feel honoured and are energised. Through the right engagement, they are more dedicated, focused and committed to the company which translates into driving the business forward with increased productivity and profits.

Benefits of an Employee Rewards and Recognition Program

Implementing an employee rewards and recognition program in the workplace promotes and helps to improve staff engagement. If employees are engaged, they would be more likely to give their best in what they do. This in turn improves staff performance.

Offering employees rewards to motivate for reaching targets or for good work in general will help to spur them on in their performance. It doesn’t matter if the actual reward is a dinner at a Michelin star restaurant or a desired gift card - the effect will be the same. With the promise of rewards, as well as some clearly defined targets, employees will undoubtedly be more productive. And we all know that more productive work force generates higher profits for the business.

One of the most common reasons companies implement employee rewards and recognition schemes is to reinforce their company’s values. This is achieved by rewarding a desired behaviour linked to a company value. This not only reaffirms the company’s values but also contributes to a culture within the organisation which embodies these values.

Employees like to feel included and appreciated and introducing a staff recognition program achieves this and more, it fosters trust in the company. If employees trust their organisations, then in turn this builds loyalty towards the company and employees remain there for longer. This reduces staff turnover and increases employee retention.

An addition perk of having implemented a successful employee recognition program for employers is creating a desirable place to work not only for existing staff but for any new potential employees, thus making attracting talent and recruiting them that much easier. 

Most Desirable Employee Rewards

Recognising staff is one of the two pillars of a successful employee recognition program, the other one is the rewards.  The most important feature about the rewards is that they have to be desirable, i.e., they have to be rewards employees would like to receive and be awarded with.

Another important element of the rewards is that employees like to have the power of choice. They would like to choose how they want to be rewarded. Not every employee would like to receive a watch or silver pen when they achieve a target. At Ovation Incentives, we offer the universal reward code which allows recipients to chose from a huge variety of locally desired digital gift cards. We cover 85 countries and have over 1,300 brands of gift cards.

Therefore, rewards need to be desirable, and choice of rewards needs to be available to the employees so they can decide how to get rewarded.

How to create an Employee Recognition Program

There are various steps involved in setting up an employee rewards and recognition program which if implemented correctly will result in a very successful scheme.

Senior management buy-in

The very first step is getting your senior management to buy into having such a program. You will need to demonstrate that there is a need for a recognition program and that the benefits outweigh their potential reservation towards it.


A certain amount of research is required into the different types of employee rewards and recognition programs as well as what your staff would like to see in these programs. This will inform your decision on what would be the best program and what rewards would appeal mostly to your employees.

Establish agreed measurable goals 

It is very important that the recognition program’s goals you set up are aligned with your overall business goals. It also crucial how these goals will be measured and assessed, and what the criteria for recognition will be.

Management education

Share the knowledge that you have gained through your research with the managers in your organisation, so they understand what a meaningful recognition is and how to weave recognition into their day-to-day tasks.

Design a roll-out plan

Implement a roll-out plan like with any other project. Ensure that you set up key milestones which will work towards your agreed launch date. 

Consider commencing with a pilot scheme

It is always a good idea to start with a pilot or a small version of your program so you can test and find out how it is received by a small team of your employees. This provides you with an insight of what works and what might not work, which you can then address and adjust if required prior to rolling it out to the whole organisation.


Make sure to communicate the launch in advance so an excitement is built up and everyone is looking forward to it. Once the program is launched, continue with the communication on how the program works, who has been awarded, and any other events that tie into the program in order to keep the engagement going.  

Tips for successful programs once your employee rewards and recognition program is up and running:

Continuously gather staff feedback as the program progresses

One of the biggest mistakes employers make is tick the employee rewards program off their list once it has launched. However, listening to staff’s feedback on how the program works is very important as this is how companies can find out if the program is achieving the desired goals.

Be prepared to make changes in response to feedback

Listening to staff’s feedback on the program is sometimes scary as it can result in a program which needs some changing. Employee recognition programs are not static, they are ever evolving, and employers should embrace this fluidity and use it to their advantage. If feedback indicates change then make it, employees would be even more engaged as they will feel valued and listened to.

Refresh the program once in a while 

Programs running over a long period of time can become stagnant and result in a loss of interest and a drop in employee engagement. Therefore, a regular refresh of the program is recommended. It could be anything from a change of look and feel of the program to introducing a new recognition program.

Employee Recognition Conclusion

Employee recognition is the driving force of employee engagement, staff retention and workforce productivity. Outstanding employee performance comes from sustained employee engagement that is supported by the right investment. Done correctly, employees provide a competitive advantage through improved performance. There is a wealth of studies and research that has shown how an engaged work force is much more likely to experience higher productivity, profitability, lower employee churn rates and absenteeism. Successful employee recognition programs are combined with rewards which must be desirable and attainable with the power on the employee to decide how to get rewarded 

Thinking about implementing an employee recognition program – get in touch with your requirements today!