Common Mistakes Managers Make With Their Recognition and Appreciation Programs

Being a manager at a company of any size is a daunting challenge, being one part art and one part science.  There’s a lot you have to get right in order to truly be successful, and a lot of different ways things can go very wrong.

If you’re relatively new to utilizing employee recognition and appreciation programs, it’s easy to make mistakes that can blunt, or even completely reverse the effectiveness of your program, but being aware of the most common pitfalls goes a long way toward helping you avoid them.  Here are a few key things to watch out for:

Impersonal Rewards and/or Impersonal Delivery

These are technically two separate things, but they’re so closely related, we thought it best to talk about them together.  Here’s the bottom line:  If you’re going to give a reward or recognize an employee for his or her accomplishments, it’s got to be personal. 

That means you can’t outsource the duty, and you’ve got to know a little something about the employees you have working for you.  What do they like?  What are their interests?  What are their preferences?  Do they have any allergies?  These are key questions, and the answers matter. 

Imagine for a moment that you decide to recognize an employee by giving them a box of quality chocolates that include some coconut filled candies, and unbeknownst to you, the person you’re giving them to is allergic to coconut.  How well do you think that gift is going to be received?

In a similar vein, just handing out random gift cards is cold and impersonal, and such an “award” is likely to fall flat and be quickly forgotten.

Not Having Clearly Defined Reward and Recognition Criteria

Unless you spell out in details the kinds of things your program measures and recognizes, you run the very real risk of any rewards you give out feeling random at best, or arbitrary in the worst case.  If your rewards feel arbitrary then it will inevitably lead to feelings that you’re playing favorites and handing out goodies to the employees you “like best” rather than the ones who have met specific benchmarks.

Collaborating with your employees and defining those benchmarks together will virtually eliminate this problem.

Using Your Program Too Infrequently

For a reward and recognition program to work and for it to truly be a vehicle your company can use to express appreciation, it’s got to be used on a regular basis.  Handing out awards and recognizing employees once or twice a year isn’t going to cut it.  The time interval between the recognition events is too long and the effect of the first has worn off long before the second rolls around.

Monthly rewards and recognition is a good middle ground but there are companies that leverage their programs even more frequently.  It falls to you to find the right balance for your team, but in general, at least where frequency is concerned, more is usually better.

There are, of course, plenty of other missteps a well-meaning manager can make with regards to his or her reward and recognition program, but these are the Big Three.  If you avoid these pitfalls, you’ll be miles ahead of the game, and that’s a very good place to be!