Cheap Recognition is Worse Than No Recognition

Recognition programs are used by employers to drive performance and achieve certain goals that are important to the overall success of the organization. Done correctly, a well-defined recognition program can drive extra effort from employees who love recognition, and see it as a way to track their personal performance. Set a high watermark and watch in amazement as your team’s competitive spirit reaches new levels – to win! It actually makes the day-to-day work much more enjoyable when there is a “pot of gold” at the end. Even a simple and inexpensive plan to publicly recognize employees for a job well done can make a huge difference in performance and morale. It creates and ignites that competitive spirit that pushes us hard to win. It’s a good thing. We love to win!

Unfortunately, it works the opposite way as well. Recognition plans with no specific performance metrics yield, well, nothing. In fact, a lousy recognition plan or the absence of any plan just sends the wrong message to the troops. Poorly defined plans that are loosely tracked create distrust, loss of productivity and just sends the wrong message. Let me help translate the unspoken message:

NOBODY CARES!

That’s not the outcome any organization wants to experience. I’ve seen examples of both and know firsthand the importance of a well thought-out, easy-to-understand plan. Recognition plans need to be clearly written and easy to understand and track. I especially love plans that are specifically designed to accomplish a goal that promotes encouragement by management and by peers. And yes – the actual award and the way it is given needs to mean something. To get the best return for the organization and the award recipient(s), it needs to be a very big deal.
So the next time you think about giving some cheap low-value award to an employee who outperforms your expectations, wins and makes a difference in your organization, don’t be surprised the next time you try to implement a similar plan and get the same message:

NOBODY CARES!