Recognition needs to be Appropriate, Public and Timely by Tom Dupre

Recognition needs to be Appropriate, Public and Timely to be successful in its basic goal. And that goal is to promote behaviours you want to see repeated. Let us look at each of these attributes separately and then collectively.

Appropriate: This topic usually gets a polarizing argument of either money or non-cash rewards. Historically the predominant form of recognition was cash. When organizations benchmarked with those who had suggestion schemes/programs more often than not they would come away with the example of using cash as rewards. Usually the amount of the award was a percentage of the savings over a period of time.

Cash was challenged as a reward mechanism when the Quality initiatives of the 80’s became popular promoting team work to achieve results with no monetary awards. So began the Cash/No Cash debates that exist till today. Cash awards have been modified over the years by reducing maximum payments, percentages of savings and the time period for amount calculations. Note – if you do pay cash it is imperative that you publish your upper limit to be able to legally defend the cap if necessary. The other adjustment to cash include using a matrix instead of percentages, vouchers and creating “currencies” you can use in the company store or cafeteria. The argument for non-cash is that you will spend cash and forget about it whereas an item given as a reward will serve as a constant reminder of your successfully implemented suggestion. Many vendors push this approach as they have the items for recognition to sell you. Catalogues became popular with some to promote choice.

So, what is appropriate for one organization may not be for another. Ask yourself, “How does my company reward other professional behaviours?”. If cash is used, then cash in some format, would be the way to go. If successful projects, etc. are recognized with time off, reward items, etc., then these are more accepted by your corporate culture and should be favoured. Appropriate recognition needs to compliment and not compete with other existing forms throughout the organization. Appropriate recognition is the lynchpin of any successful employee involvement process.

Public: Having appropriate recognition can be squandered if it is kept a secret. Remember, recognition is used to promote behaviours we want to see repeated. If rewards are given behind closed doors, who beside the recipient, gets motivated? It is better to have people awarded in meetings of one’s peers and then published in company newsletters or websites.

It is best to celebrate both small and large successes. When an organization publically rewards people, it tends to motivate exponentially more than just the awardees. Public recognition is essential in reaching out to those not yet engaged in your process and increasing overall participation.

Timely: This is the attribute that, when ignored, causes recognition to fall flat. When do you like people to wish you a Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Merry Christmas, or a Get Well?

Not after your birthday or anniversary, not the 25th of June, and not when you have recovered. The same principle needs to apply to suggestion recognition which is to give that appropriate, public award as soon after it has been determined to be worthy of an award. Timely recognition does not, by itself, add much to the effort to promote repeatable behaviours. But a lack of timeliness will have negative effects proportional to their tardiness.

Collectively, they ensure that the recognition part of your process is secure. Appropriate needs to be reviewed every so often (every 2 – 3 years), but timely and public are constant values that just need to be maintained with minimal review. These attributes address the “how”, “when” and “what” of recognition, but has the “who” been addressed? No, I will do so in my next article.


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