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February 2, 2022

7 Ways to Reinforce Change with Recognition


Celebrating jobs well done and thanking employees for extra effort are common ways organizations motivate and recognize their people, but it could be time to up your recognition game. When change is a constant and employees are looking for more from their employers, it’s good to have a meaningful recognition strategy that can support employees and help advance change.

Organizational change often involves changing behavior – whether it’s adopting new technology, working with new processes, or even teaming up with new people or functions. Once people are trained and understand what they need to do differently, consistent repetition of the desired behaviors is critical to adopting and sustaining a change.

Recognition is Good for Your Team and Your Organization

Recognition can reinforce the behaviors you want to see more often, engage people in supporting each other, and help changes stick. It also has a positive impact on the employee experience, including spurring innovation and extra effort, according to an analysis of more than 1.7 million employee responses to The Great Place to Work® Trust Index™ collected by the researchers at Great Place to Work.

Whether it is informal—like a verbal shout-out or a personal note—or formal, such as an awards program or special event, recognition should be tied to the business goals. If you establish a recognition program to be used across the organization, be sure it is clearly explained, easy to deliver and consistently visible so it becomes part of the culture.

Here are some guidelines for effective recognition:

  1. Align with the mission, strategy and values: Recognize employees for demonstrating the values of the organization, advancing a key strategy and supporting the mission. This can help solidify the high-level priorities for the organization while it spotlights people who embody them.
  2. Reinforce desired actions and behaviors: Use recognition to spotlight desired behaviors and promote actions you want more employees to take, such as those specifically related to individual, team or department goals. In the case of organizational change, by recognizing people who are making an effort to adopt new technology or work differently you can reinforce progress and encourage others to take similar action.
  3. Be specific and timely: Recognition is most meaningful and impactful when it is specific and delivered in a timely fashion. Don’t wait weeks to acknowledge someone’s hard work or positive results. Always explain the reason for the recognition, referring to an accomplishment you want to celebrate and their specific role in achieving it. Describe the impact their efforts have had on your project and team as well as the larger organization.
  4. Match recognition to preferences and culture: Some people are more comfortable with public recognition than others, and in some cultures it’s best to recognize a whole team rather than spotlight an individual. Knowing your team members and trying to accommodate their preferences is a way of showing you care about them. Would they be more comfortable with a gift or personal note rather than a public announcement? Might they enjoy coffee or lunch with leaders? Tickets to a local event? Ask people directly or consider brainstorming as a team to get a better idea of what recognition might resonate most.
  5. Engage people at all levels in the process: While it’s important for leaders and supervisors to acknowledge their people’s efforts, peers are in a unique position to see colleagues in action and give credit where it is due. Recognition can be designed to involve team members, such as taking nominations or using apps that allow peers to share kudos with each other.
  6. Celebrate change milestones and successes to boost morale and re-affirm expectations. Acknowledge both big and small accomplishments along the change journey to help people feel good about their progress and show you appreciate their efforts. Incorporate recognition into every meeting or gathering and ensure managers and supervisors are on the lookout for things to celebrate.
  7. Be flexible and adapt as needed: When employees must adapt to new or challenging circumstances, recognition programs can support and encourage them when it’s needed most. Consider special recognition efforts to show appreciation for hard work during a busy season and spotlighting successes through internal communication. When circumstances require new ways of working, such as remote work during the pandemic or using new technology in a transformation, adjust where needed to continue recognizing good work in difficult circumstances.

How will you up your recognition game to support your employees and reinforce change?

—David Grossman

You can create an authentic culture that engages employees and inspires teams to drive the performance you desire. When employees advocate for their organization they deliver on the brand promise and drive business performance. Click below to learn more:
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