Some say that continuing to do what we have always done and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Certainly, that could be true when it comes to recognizing staff.
Staff recognition practices become stale. They pass their “best-before” date. They don’t work as well as they once did—or we think they once did. Change is required.
It’s time to apply one of the 4 As of staff recognition: Abandon staff recognition practices that don’t work or have become stale.
Retiring long-serving staff recognition practices is easier said than done. They become engrained in the fabric of the organization and are difficult to remove. You need to consider why you are changing “how things have always been done.”
Recognition practices may be based on values that no longer reflect the organization’s purpose or culture. They no longer help boost morale, increase engagement or improve retention.
Cost may be another factor. The resources needed to recognize staff in ways they have been recognized in the past are simply no longer available.
On the other hand, the need to change may be less about cost and more a belief that you could get a better bang for the same staff recognition spend.
It also may be that enthusiasm for a program is fading.
In Thanks! GREAT Job! I described a client’s service awards event where no one who had reached their fifth- and tenth- year service milestones attended the banquet and awards ceremony, and attendance by people who had reached the other anniversaries was spotty.
It was a program due for an overhaul.
Before continuing to host service awards, consider conducting assessments after any of those events, asking participants why they choose to attend and non-attendees what drove their decision to stay away.
What you learn may point the direction ahead.
Sometimes programs disappear organically, such as an employee-of-the-month program that falls into disuse because no one remembers to identify recipients for several consecutive months and no one notices. Some may wonder why the name of the employee-of-the-month from last February is still displayed a year later, but no one asks. Likely no one ever really cared who became the employee-of-the-month.
Other programs will be less easy to abandon. Some employees may notice if you simply no longer hold service awards events. Decisions about the future of staff recognition programs should involve staff representatives and be announced to everyone.
The program could be ended cold turkey, with a rationale for doing so, although a statement that “we can no longer afford it” is unlikely to be greeted with enthusiasm or understanding.
Even if few are attending an awards program, a decision to abandon it without presenting an alternative might give staff morale a hit.
Some who were due to be acknowledged at the next event may feel they are being cheated out of a free meal and award to which they feel entitled. Other will interpret the decision to end the program that cannot be afforded as evidence that management does not care about staff or value them for what they do.
There should be a plan for how to retire the program and how to introduce its replacement. In lieu of a formal organization-wide event, the money could be redirected to departments within the organization, with an expectation that the leaders of those departments use the money to celebrate all their staff as they reach service annual anniversaries and for other contributions and achievements.
As an alternative to going cold turkey, consider a gradual phase out of the program. Perhaps announce that only staff with 10 or 15 years and more of service will be invited to an organization-wide event and that the money saved will be redirected to recognition initiatives at the departmental level.
Or, the banquet could be replaced with a reception for those reaching service anniversaries.
Once new ways of recognizing staff are identified, those who will have added responsibilities related to recognition should be prepared to fulfil these expectations In addition to money in their budget for recognition, they should be offered tips and training to prepare them to recognize staff.
Once ready for this added responsibility, they should be held accountable for ensuring that staff receive recognition when it is deserved. During one-on-one meetings with front-line leaders, their supervisors should ask what they have done to recognize staff and what is planned.