Discover Effective Sample Recognition Programs That Work

In researching effective sample recognition programs, we discovered key attributes to ensure a successful campaign. We'll cover those in a moment, but first address why you need recognition programs in the first place. 

As the leader, it's your job to make certain that any new recognition program is sharply aligned with the company's values and goals. The key to a successful program will ultimately be whether the top performers demonstrate that by adopting the activities required by management they were able to produce the expected results. 

effective recognition programs

The employee recognition plan you adopt will in many ways define your organization. The program will become part of the corporate culture because it tells the world "This is what we value." This is why it is so important you take the time necessary to get it right

To be clear, "the world" means everyone, not just your employees but everyone, which includes your customers and any prospective employees you may hire in the future. Word gets around quickly. Top performing prospects will do their research before joining your team. If they believe your recognition program doesn't live up to their expectations, they may not be willing to come on board.

As for your existing team members, they must perceive any new recognition program as being achievable. For example, if the goals you set for people are viewed as unreasonable or "pie in the sky", team members will quickly dismiss the program.  Sure, they'll tell you what you want to hear, but inside you've just lost any loyalty or credibility you once had. So, ensure goals are viewed as reasonable, the goals should be a stretch so you can justify the costs of the program, but they must be attainable.

Effective sample recognition programs we are about to share with you also do one very important thing - they get people engaged.  Employee engagement is the one key measurement of any successful recognition program so watch that metric closely. 


"Recognition is not a scarce resource. You can't use it up or run out of it."

- Susan M. Heathfield

In addition, effective recognition programs that "get it right", provide the following benefits to an organization:

  • Improved teamwork and increased attendance due to increased job satisfaction.
  • Increased employee retention, which equates to lower training costs.
  • Increased sales production with NET GROWTH.

Key Attributes Of An Effective Recognition Program

As we researched effective sample recognition programs, the following checklist was developed to ensure the success of the program you choose. 

  • Clearly identify the goal of the program. What you are seeking to accomplish and how will you measure success?
  • Establish SMART goals. Ensure your goals are SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
  • Clearly identify what activities/behaviors it will take for your team members to be successful. Make certain your people are competent in the expected skills. Only once you have confirmed they know how to do what you expect, can you actually expect them to do those activities. 
  • Match activities/behaviors with an appropriate reward. (Hint: A great way to identify non-cash rewards that will be highly prized by each employee, is to utilize our Free My Favorite Things Tool)
  • Create a multi-facet communication strategy to motivate participants. Define how you will kick off the new program; how often results will be updated; how best practices will be captured and shared; and how will communication be directed to all program participants?
  • Plan a fun kick-off meeting to introduce the program to all employees.
  • Provide daily/weekly updates to keep the program on top of everyone's mind. (I.e., newsletters, email updates, etc.)
  • Add a personal touch by recognizing top performers with a phone call or hand written note.  Do the same to encourage those who may be struggling. (Hint: consider using our free Leadership Ecards to provide those special words praise and/or encouragement.)
  • Regular performance tracking reports should be provided to managers so they can effectively conduct performance coaching activities. Make sure managers are focused on the numbers and holding their team accountable for results. "No one gets the luxury of opting out. Everyone gets to participate."
  • Praise the TOP; Coach the MIDDLE; and Counsel the BOTTOM - Managers tend to focus their attention on either praising top performers or chastising those at the bottom. It's important to remember, however, that the best way to realize maximum results is to lift your middle up. The middle performers tend to be the largest group. Therefore, you maximize results by maintaining focus on moving the middle-dwellers up in the rankings. 
  • STAY FOCUSED! Provide continued Energy and Enthusiasm I.e., Leadership

"Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers."

- Stephen Covey

Effective Sample Recognition Programs

In our quest to provide you with some highly effective sample recognition programs, we discovered the following resources that will help guide you in creating a programs you can be proud of.

  • Octanner - this company is a leader in corporate recognition programs. While most of their clients are larger organizations, their website is packed full of ideas that you can create on a smaller scale. While they support large dollar awards, they also emphasize the importance of rewards that are low cost, or no cost at all.  These include recognition such as ecard, verbal thank you, written notes of appreciation, gift cards are buying lunch for the team. Read their Complete Guide to Building Successful Employee Recognition Programs. Here you will also read about effective sample recognition programs introduced by various companies such as General Electric, Taco Bell, Casino Niagra, and Centra.
  •  E-Corporate Gifts - this is a great resource for any size company. This site provides specific reward and recognition ideas, yet allows employers to be creative and remain in control what how they want to spend their limited dollars. 
  • Reward Gateway - let's make the world a better place to work! Reward Gateway is a full service company serving companies of all size. They provide this free guide that can help get you thinking about how broad you want your program be be - it's called A Step-by-Step Template to Build Your Ideal Recognition Program

Other low cost but effective sample recognition programs might include opportunities for lunch with the boss, parking space for a month, special designation on business card, days off or extra vacation time. Regardless of your budget, you can provide meaningful rewards.  

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