How to Implement an Employee Recognition Program in 3 Simple Steps

Editor's Note: This article has been updated with the latest trends and insights in the industry, as well as more recent sources to support the information presented. 

Employee recognition programs can be an essential part of an organization's culture. They help to make employees feel valued and appreciated, leading to increased morale, motivation, and engagement. 

This is especially important when you consider that low employee engagement costs the economy $7.8 trillion globally. However, learning how to implement an employee recognition program can be challenging without the right guidance. 

In this blog, we will discuss three simple steps to help you implement an employee recognition program effectively: 
  1. Facilitate Internal Communication
  2. Find Your Champions
  3. Train Management and Leadership

We will dive into each of these steps in detail, providing practical tips for a successful implementation. So, whether you are a startup or an established organization, join us in exploring the world of employee recognition programs, and get ready to see the positive results they can bring to your workplace.


Step 1 - Facilitate Internal Communication

Now that you’re ready to launch your new strategy, you may be wondering how to implement an employee recognition program. The first step is to begin with the way you communicate it to your team. 

So, where should you start?

First, start with executives and managers, since you already have them on board. Build their confidence and commitment by sharing details about the new program so they’re well-informed and can answer any questions employees have as they begin utilizing it. When employees see their manager and executives are excited about this program, they’ll be more likely to use it.  

Second, have an executive introduce the recognition program to your employees by sending out company-wide message celebrating the program. We recommend holding a Q&A session to address any questions and build excitement. 

Always start by explaining why the program was started and why it’s important for the team. If your employees know the mission behind the program, they’re more likely to participate. Don’t forget to include announcing the launch date!

Third, send a follow-up email prior to the launch with any additional details and instructions, such as taking the onboarding survey. Sending this message right before launch and reminding managers will ensure it is top of mind for your team and will keep the enthusiasm fresh!

Wondering how workplace expectations have changed the past few years? Take a look at our 2023 Workplace Report!


Step 2 - Find Your Champions

Implementing an employee recognition program requires a team effort. For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to the members of your organization who are passionate about this new initiative. These employees will become your team of Champions.

Have you ever considered the importance of the captain and co-captain roles on a sports team? These people have a deep understanding of the game and are invested in the success of the players. They are there to encourage and help you along the way and want to see the best possible outcome.

The same reasoning applies to having a team of champions during this process. Selecting members of your organization who are excited about the implementation of the recognition programs and who will serve as leads on the team makes an enormous difference.

These people are instrumental in rallying the rest of the team and encouraging greater user adoption. Make sure these champions are selected from every area of the organization, with different backgrounds, experiences, and expertise. Diversity is key!

Fun Fact: Being selected for this new role is also an excellent recognition opportunity!


Step 3 - Train Management

One crucial aspect that often gets overlooked in implementing an employee recognition program is training the management team. It's essential to ensure that they have a thorough understanding of the program and its features. 

After all, if managers are unsure of how to implement an employee recognition program, how can they expect their team to use it effectively?
While there might not be a formal guide to effective recognition in your organization, it's still vital to have a recognition program in place. In fact, highly engaged teams bring in 21% greater profitability. 

Where’s the disconnect?

Often, leaders are eager to improve workplace culture, but they might lack the necessary preparation to do so. A dynamic recognition program takes the legwork off your plate, leaving you free to focus on using the tools to improve your employees' wellbeing – and the resulting boost in productivity.

Embrace a culture of recognition! A recognition program will help you personalize your approach to each person but it’s important to weave it into your day-to-day lives as well, and don’t forget the 3 ingredients needed for effective recognition:

  • The Right Time
  • The Right Way
  • The Right Reward

Want to see real-life stories of the recognition moments that capture these 3 elements?

Effective recognition moments leave a lasting impact and knowing just how to personalize your approach makes a difference.  As soon as they hear about the lasting impact true recognition has left on these employees, your leadership team will be racing to create similar moments.

Another way to help your leadership team understand the importance of personalization is by seeing how unique each person on the team truly is. The Sparck Appreciation Style Quiz effectively pinpoints how each person feels most appreciated. Being equipped with this information helps leaders make the best choices in the recognition they give to each individual. 

For instance, if Alex's appreciation style is "Tell Me," she'd appreciate verbal confirmation of her contributions' impact more than a gift card to a restaurant. In contrast, Sam's appreciation style might be "Show Me," making the gift card a more meaningful recognition for him.


Now You Know How to Implement an Employee Recognition Program!

A personalized recognition approach is essential for retaining employees. It is the only way your organization can maintain a competitive edge in this employee-driven market.

Now that you know how to implement an employee recognition program, remember the purpose behind this strategy. Last month, we explained the difference between recognition and appreciation. While similar, appreciation is more of the “attitude of gratitude” and tends to be more informal. Recognition is often tied to a specific achievement. Both are crucial as you begin to create an amazing organizational culture.

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As you begin to recognize your employees in meaningful ways, you will quickly see changes in their attitude and performance. 


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