4 min read

Before I share with you my thoughts on how to get recognition right at your organization, let me share with you a quote by Stephen Covey. He says that “you have to water flowers if you want them to grow." What a great visual to introduce the topic of recognition, I can just picture my employees as lovely, thriving flowers, with my recognition programs being the water or nutrients which help them grow!

If you don't already have a recognition program in place at your company, it's time to start thinking about how to incorporate this important piece of engagement into your employee engagement puzzle. 

The importance of recognition

You might be asking yourself, why is recognition so important? Why do we need it, and just as important, why do we need to get it right? Continuing with my gardening analogy, without recognition our "flowers" (or employees) won’t get what they need to grow.

But why do they need to grow? Let’s turn to flowers again, what happens if they don’t grow, don’t they wilt away, with their lovely petals falling off of them?

This happens to our employees as well, for without their "petals" (which I’d relate to engagement) they aren’t able to positively impact your business and your growth.


As Glenn Elliott, Reward Gateway’s Founder & CEO says, happy, engaged employees build better, stronger, more resilient organizations. They do this for three reasons:

1. Engaged employees make better decisions because they understand more.

2. Engaged employees are more productive because they like or love what they are doing.

3. Engaged employees innovate more because they want their organisation to succeed.

We all know that recognition is important, but how can we get it right? You do this by answering the following two key questions:

1. Why?

The first question to address is why, why are you putting in place a recognition program and what objectives do you want it to achieve? Think of your flowers, you don’t just throw a bunch of random flowers into your garden, do you? You research the soil, the sunlight, and create a plan by looking at what you are trying to achieve. Likewise, depending on what you're growing, you can't do a one-size-fits-all approach. 


The same should be done with your recognition program — are you putting it in place to reinforce certain behaviours, drive performance, increase employee morale, recognize years of service... what are you trying to do with your ‘garden’?

Make sure that you discuss and agree on these objectives with your key decision makers before you begin designing your program, as you want to ensure you are all in agreement. Also, whichever objectives you select, go back to your business and HR strategy and objectives, and double check that they align and support these as well.

2. What?

Once you agree on these objectives, your next step is to begin developing the recognition program by answering the question "what," as in, what kind of program do you want to create to support these objectives?

For example, if you decide you want a garden full of color, do you plant perennials, having colur throughout the year, or annuals which need to be planted from season to season? Some of the things you need to consider when developing your recognition program are the following:

1. Do you want a formal or informal program?
2. Do you want to recognize with cash or non-cash?
3. Do you want to recognize individuals and/or teams?
4. Will all employees be eligible?
5. What will you name your program?
6. Will it be an online or paper-based approach?
7. Will it be global or local?

These are all important things to consider, discuss and agree as you develop your recognition plan. For example, at Reward Gateway we use our employee engagement platform, SmartHub®, to deliver a formal program which recognizes both through cash and non-cash. As a a global program, it drives the recognition and celebration of employees acting in a way which aligns with our eight company values.

This works great for us, but you need to determine what works best for you to ensure that the ‘flowers’ you have selected are planted in the right way, right time, and receive the right nutrients and water. Get this right and you will have an amazing garden... and a fantastic recognition program!

This blog post was originally published November 2015 and has been updated.

Debra Corey

Debra Corey is an author, world-class speaker and HR consultant, paying it forward by inspiring and helping others around the world to bring out their inner rebel and drive strategic and meaningful people and business change as the Chief Pay it Forward Officer at DebCo HR. Her career spans 20+ years developing and delivering HR strategies in a rebellious way, pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo to truly drive employee engagement.

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