mistakes in rewards and recognition program

5 Mistakes to Avoid in Employee Rewards and Recognition Programs

Did you try out employee rewards and recognition programs at your organization and it collapsed face-first? Here's what's wrong.

Disha Goel
Disha Goel

Employee rewards and recognition schemes of organizations are meant to celebrate the efforts and achievements of the staff and make the employees feel valued. Certainly, the vast majority of corporations use some sort of program intended to motivate employees by tying compensation to one index of performance or another.

In fact, it is difficult to overstate the extent to which most managers believe in the redemptive power of rewards: increased productivity, a happier and more loyal staff, lower turnover, and even reduced sick days and employee theft, to name a few. But one striking issue, which needs a mention here is the rare examination of the belief that is the employee rewards and recognition program working?

If you’re like most business owners and managers, you probably offer your employees bonuses at the end of the year to reward their hard work. You might also have an Employee of the Month program where you celebrate your best worker — or even an Employee Appreciation Day where you celebrate your entire team. Maybe you send out group emails to congratulate individuals on a job well done. But are these methods effective?

Employee Rewards and Recognition Programs: 5 Common Mistakes

The answer is while these more common types of formal employee recognition programs can help motivate your team, they often fail to achieve the results they are intended to. Here’s why:

1. No clear goals

Lack of clear goals is the most common factor (37%) behind project failure. - PMI Pulse of Profession Survey

The findings suggest that the failure of any given incentive program is due less to a glitch in that program than to the inadequacy of the psychological assumptions that ground all such plans. When you ask- do rewards work? The answer depends on what we mean by “work.” Research suggests that, by and large, rewards succeed at securing one thing only: temporary compliance. They do not create an enduring commitment to any value or action. They merely, and temporarily, change what we do.

Effective management is all about setting clear expectations. In this respect, it’s best to treat employees like little children: make goals and expectations extremely simple and transparent. The more clearly you outline the behaviors you want to see, the more likely your employees will reach those goals. To gauge the success of your efforts, you can look at whether employee retention rates improve after you enact your recognition program.

2. People get left out

Most employees don't get recognition even once in a month. - Harvard Business Review

Awarding an employee for the contributions they make is crucial, but rewarding only one employee for their sterling contributions is one big mistake. By singling out and rewarding one employee as an achiever, you're subtly implying that others who weren't recognized aren't achievers. This can be worse for engagement than having no awards at all. On the other hand, awarding a team for their work fails to recognize each member's individual contributions. So how do you avoid these pitfalls? Increasing the volume of the recognition given to your organization and spending time understanding your employees, can improve employee’s experience.

3. The timing isn't optimal

Most employees don't get recognition even once in a month. - Gallup

Recognition is most effective when it's given at the moment when the behavior, achievement, or contribution are still top-of-mind. Rewarding your employee, a year after the fact makes some impact, but it fails to make any positive impact throughout the weeks and months between the contribution and its award. Also, on the other end, if you give your employees free lattes and bagels every Friday, excitement turns to expectation. If you save the reward for a Friday when employees have reached an important milestone or overcome a difficult obstacle, the prize becomes much more significant and effective. People are happier and more fulfilled when they earn their rewards – make the prize an achievement, not a gift.

4. Management doesn’t ask for feedback

Imagine you’ve just put an employee recognition program in place — great job! But what if your employees aren’t interested in the incentives you’re offering, there’s a good chance your employee recognition program won’t work. Employee recognition programs are designed to motivate the workforce and keep the employees engaged. Since that’s the case, what better way is there to build a successful program than by asking employees what, precisely, motivate them? If you want to design your recognition program on your own, that’s fine. Just be sure to solicit feedback from your employees from time to time to improve it.

5. They aren't meaningful

If it's not effectively expressing recognition for an employee's contributions to an organization, keeping them on staff, or motivating them, what can you actually do with an employee of the month award? Depending on its construction, it could be a useful paperweight or a great way to fill an otherwise empty spot on the wall. Employee motivation and employee engagement are the cornerstones of happy work culture. It's crucial for any recognition award to provide a true sense of value or meaning. That value doesn't need to be monetary, but any award that doesn't will only become disregarded desk clutter. Think about ways you can recognize great work, and provide meaningful rewards for it.

So, what should you do next?

Although the old style of recognition awards may be a relic, there are a number of ways you can modernize your employee recognition program, and make it more effective. Now that you know the 5 mistakes to avoid in employee reward and recognition programs, start by analyzing yours for any of these employee rewards and recognition program mistakes, and improving those elements in meaningful ways with the help of Empuls. It's time your leaders and managers get recognition right!

Rewards and recognition made easy with Empuls. Increase employee engagement manifold with Empuls as your platform. Want to know more? Book a demo or start for a free trial.

Implementing a reward & recognition program: An HR guide

Disha Goel

Disha Goel LinkedIn

Disha Goel is a Data analytics and Business Intelligence professional from the Greater Seattle Area currently working at the intersection of financial services products and business.