What should your criteria be for employee recognition?

The saying is, that what gets rewarded is what gets done.

If you manage a team and want to really ace employee rewards and recognition, you need a few strategies in place. Your criteria needs not only to be known to you internally, in whatever position you sit, but also be understood by all your employees.

So that they can achieve what you want, and meet your business goals, while also boosting morale. But what criteria is best?

Before we jump into some areas you can reward, let’s look at some of the housekeeping areas around an excellent recognition programme.

Be fair

Two of the reasons employee recognition programmes fail are:

  • Managers don’t recognise consistently, and;
  • Employers give the total power of choice over who deserves to win to other employees

Neither of these strategies are fair, and it will soon demoralise teams. When it comes to recognising employees, timing is everything.

If you only acknowledge and reward employees quarterly and try and ‘catch up’ or ‘think back’ you only get a partial benefit of recognising that you would if you did it every single month, or even sooner.

If you have a current programme or plan where employees can pick the winners themselves or vote for the winner, and this is the final say, you might need to change this, fast.

While peer to peer recognition has incredible results when used in conjunction with an overall culture of reward and recognition from a higher level of business, when it comes to overall recognition, you need to do all you can to prevent it ever becoming a competition around popularity.

Know what you want

You need to know what you really want your business to stand for and to work with that. It can be beneficial to remind your managers and supervisors of your brand vision.

Perhaps let’s say you are a start-up with a big charitable ethos. You have values of being open, honest, going the extra mile at any cost, and being seen as friendly.

You might then want to reward someone for getting a customer their product on a next day delivery, just because they needed it – even if this was a monetary loss.

Or you might reward someone who suggested a different item, even if it cost less, just because that built trust. A range of great tweets might mean the world to you.

On the other hand, perhaps you are a business that is all about growth, challenging norms, breaking down ways of working and failing fast.

In this business, you might want to reward someone who worked overtime to get a release out or someone who called out a manager in a meeting over a strategy or a concept, or someone who refused a client based on a specific value unique to you.

In short, your business is unique. Reward what you want your employees to do, and you will likely get more of the same.

Recognise by division

It is also key to ensure that you are rating employees within their departments and then selecting an overall winner. If your business is large, you might have a sales employee competing with a customer care advisor or the tech department.

How could you rank or compare their performance? You simply can’t! By making recognition divisional, you increase your understanding of each area. And you get a vast array of achievements you can highlight.

Criteria ideas

Being told ‘hey, great job’ isn’t great recognition. You need real criteria, but that doesn’t just have to be numbers.

As well as sales, achieving KPI’s and meeting targets like time on the phone, seeing customers, responding to issues, beating speeds you might also choose to showcase examples by asking

  • How helpful are they ?
  • Have they committed to the company recently (overtime, new ideas)?
  • If they have cross-trained or learned new skills
  • Are they positive and collaborative?
  • If they have developed something that changes the company
  • If they have had positive feedback externally
  • If they are engaged and interested in providing ideas for growth

Whatever you pick, make it a policy that is company-wide, and make it easy for employees to know what matters to you and who won and WHY. Consistently mention what matters, whether that’s sales, attitude or ideas and celebrate the greatness that you see with a ceremony or announcement.

As Pareto’s law shows, 80% of the results come from 20% of the employees. If you can move this just a small percentage, you can see results across the whole business, so treat your programme with the seriousness it deserves.

About the author:

Elaine Keep is the owner and director of Incentive & Motivation, among the longest standing titles in the employee and customer reward space catering to HR pros. Elaine is also the founder of Your Marketing Managed,  offering marketing management, content production and copy writing services.

Time for HR pros to embrace their inner marketer

One of the key responsibilities of HR teams should be to persuade employees to buy into the organisation, its vision, values and culture. But to achieve this, HR needs to get to grips with many of the fundamentals of Marketing. After all, Marketing and HR are not that different – whilst Marketing is responsible for consumer communication, HR owns employee communication. Both are key to organisational success.

Often employer branding is considered the responsibility of an HR department alone and that marketing takes care of the corporate brand. This should not be the case.

HR and Marketing: The Perfect Partnership

HR teams understand what matters most to employees, but marketing pros know how best to capture their attention. They also understand how to deliver purpose-driven messages and create engaging experiences with a brand at every touch point. 

HR can learn much from marketers’ finely-tuned approach to winning and retaining consumers, but where to start?

First Define Your Goals

Any marketing plan or tactical communications activity will have clearly defined objectives. Without this, there can be no measures put in place to determine return on investment. Gone are the days where HR teams needed only to tick a box, stating that they had introduced so many initiatives in a given year. Budgets are tight, and employers want to know that the money they invest in people-driven initiatives is being spent wisely.

Seek advice from third parties as to how well each of your initiatives should be going, attend HR focussed forums and events where case study evidence is given from other companies. Try to benchmark your offering against others operating in a similar field, and then put in place SMART goals (those that are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely).

Three key goals that I believe should remain on HR’s agenda year after year are:  

1. Improve Adoption of Benefits

Retailer marketers tackle market uncertainty and competition head-on, by promoting ‘deals’ and ‘special offers’ to drive business and retain existing customers. HR can do the same when it comes to retaining its customers – the employees.

A comprehensive programme of internal communications can drive uptake of any employee benefit. With typical benefits uptake hovering around 20%, and many ‘non-core’ programmes falling well below this figure, it is vital that HR align benefits to the individual needs of employees and communicate them accordingly.

Never rest on your laurels. Assuming that once a new benefit has been launched that the work is done is a sure-fire way to see uptake rates plummet. Employees must be constantly reminded of ‘what’s in it for them’. Attention spans are short, and the working day is filled with other things to worry about, so get to the point quickly and prompt often!

2. Reduce Attrition

High levels of staff turnover affect many industries. But it doesn’t have to be a given that because others in your sector suffer in a similar way that there is nothing that can be done to address this problem.

Seek ideas from other sectors and run trials with your own employee demographic to see what sticks. Layer different initiatives one on top of the other and measure against benchmark figures you can take today. Gauge audience appeal regularly through surveys and quick polls. 

Remember, if you do operate in an industry where retaining top talent is a challenge, then set realistic goals of reducing turnover by marginal amounts. Just as marketers invest heavily in customer loyalty platforms, with each new HR initiative introduced, the more likely it is that your customers (employees) will remain loyal. 

If you’re lucky enough to operate in an industry with low staff turnover you’re not off the hook! Just because your employees stay put doesn’t mean that they are engaged or productive. Be sure to measure engagement regularly to combat disengaged employees that aren’t really contributing to the success of your organisation.

3. Influence Employee Behaviours

Encouraging employees to display desired behaviours, perhaps defined through your corporate values, can be tough. Marketers continually attempt to drive customers up the value chain by undertaking small actions, one step at a time. It is no different for HR. Employees should be recognised for displaying positive behaviours to encourage them to repeat those behaviours and influence others to do the same.

A formal recognition process can aid this, just as a customer loyalty programme aids marketers.

Then Develop a Marketing Plan That Conveys Your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Your employer brand must do the hard work of being clear and consistent about its promise (EVP), communicating an authentic, meaningful brand experience across all touchpoints.

Only by treating your internal communications, people initiatives and benefits launches in a logical manner can you hope to make in-roads into this area. A clearly defined employee marketing plan can help you to build a strong EVP.

To get started, follow these steps:


1. Perform Competitor Analysis

Just what are you up against? With top talent more than willing to jump ship for a better deal it is essential that employers benchmark their offer against other organisations.

Be sure to measure your offer against both organisations in the local area and those operating further afield but with a similar remit. You may well be seeking out a healthy blend of local interest and attracting specialist talent from further afield.


2. Segment Your Audience

Support behavioural change and engagement using consumer-style segmentation of the workforce. It may be possible to tap into internal marketing expertise to help with this. 

Tailor reward and recognition initiatives to the interests of your employees. Take a leaf out of the retail marketer’s book and create personas for groups of employees. Retailers are the experts at this and commonly create multiple detailed personas of their customers to target them with products and services that will appeal. 

HR professionals may need to start small, perhaps grouping millennial salespeople or Generation X line managers, then designing rewards and recognition that might work for these groups, within each line of business. Cater for exceptions – such as skydiving 60-year-olds or young mums – by enabling employees to opt in or out of different reward schemes.


3. Translate Top Level Goals into Something Tangible

Work with middle management to define how corporate strategy translates to their department’s day-to-day workflow and objectives. Apply consumer marketing techniques to drive activity to meet specific targets, from increased sales to improved levels of customer service.

Often the vision of the organisation comes from ‘on high’. Without a meaningful translation of the operational goals of the organisation, employees can feel lost. You do not want employees on the shop floor not understanding how their efforts contribute to the wider goals of the business. Get senior management out there with the troops, delivering workshops, presentations, on video and blogging, so that the vision remains front of mind for everyone.


4. Feedback and Survey Target Audiences

Leavers’ interviews, employee engagement surveys and online polls all provide opportunities for HR pros to gather invaluable information about employee preferences. Just as a marketer would perform regular customer research, HR must do the same. 

Huge swathes of valuable feedback is just waiting to be tapped into through these mediums. Give employees the opportunity to voice their opinions and you’re on the right track to company-wide engagement.

Finally, Protect Your Brand Reputation

Websites such as Glassdoor offer employers a prime opportunity to convey the benefits of working for their organisation. If you’re not actively monitoring these then you could be losing the battle for talent attraction before you even realise it.

Encourage employees to be open with their feedback on such platforms and respond to each and every review of your company. If it’s positive, then you’ll draw the eye of readers to the good stuff. If it’s negative, then you have the opportunity to address any concerns and show that you are making in roads in that area. 

Remember, your online brand reputation precedes you when potential employees are doing their pre-interview prep!

A Final Thought

In a buoyant job market, talented individuals have their pick of companies to work for, so what makes yours so special?

If HR teams rest on their laurels then they will fail to attract and retain key personnel, to the detriment of their organisation. But by embracing some of these tried and tested Marketing techniques they can do far more to build an employer brand that they can be truly proud of.


Joanna Tracey is a digital marketing consultant at BeeBrilliant! Marketing.

Joanna has helped many businesses to develop comprehensive communications plans that improve benefits uptake, talent attraction and employee engagement.

Tactical campaigns that increase sales and drive engagement

Clare Bingham is Engagement and Operations Director of FMI, our brand engagement and incentives focused sister company. Here she writes about how FMI design and build effective tactical campaigns that increase sales and brand engagement.

To give you a clear idea of what this blog means by incentives, let’s define them:

Incentive, /ɪnˈsɛntɪv/ noun. A formal scheme using rewards and recognition to promote/encourage actions or behaviour. Used to motivate employees, and in sales to attract and retain customers.


For businesses, an incentive is a great tool to help increase performance among a workforce and channel partners. Or, to shift consumer preference in the market.

A study by the International Society of Performance Improvement shows: “If selected, implemented and monitored correctly, incentive programmes…increase performance by an average of 22%. Team incentives can increase performance by as much as 44%.”

But for how long should an incentive run and how often should they be implemented within a marketing plan?

Is it worth pursuing an incentive scheme if budget is limited?

There is a strong case for long-term programmes. They build ongoing brand loyalty within a business and often outperform short-term programmes.

We refer to long-term activity like that as ‘engagement programmes.’ Where frequent and regular interaction with participants creates brand advocacy and ambassador-like behaviour.

But is this reason enough to take short-term incentives out of your marketing plan?


The ‘tact’ of tactical

A quick search of the word tact in the dictionary displays: “a keen sense of what is appropriate, tasteful or proper” as one of its definitions.

We think this is the perfect approach to tactical incentives. Simple, tightly-focussed and hard-hitting programmes.

Launched whenever they are appropriate to inject a bit of energy and drive into a target audience.

This is what makes tacticals a great tool to enhance your ongoing communication with your audience.

We’ve used them to cause tactical disruption in the market place and effectively train staff on key product messages.

To help manufacturers increase brand loyalty during peak sale periods. And to drive product sales within channel partners.

Just as date nights are essential for a romance to work and flourish, tactical incentives are key to keeping things fresh in your business.

They are the perfect companion to product launches, ensuring that your sales staff are fully trained on the core USPs of the new range.

The short and punchy nature of tactical incentives makes them fun and engaging. They add the right amount of drama keep staff excited and intrigued about your brand.

Incentives can even overcome barriers in your business. Whether that’s negative brand perception, low performance rate or lack in brand confidence.

Incentive plans need not be expensive. Tactical incentives can meet and exceed your objectives without exceeding budgets.

In fact, high-budget programmes are often over-engineered. Tacticals ensure that your message remains simple. But without foregoing the fundamentals of an effective programme: easy implementation, versatility, and measurement. That’s what makes them an ideal fit for any marketing plan.

It is certainly worth pursuing an incentive scheme, even if your budget is limited. The return on investment speaks for itself.


Approaching your tacticals

Build your programme around what you want your incentive to achieve. A few days’ training, boosting engagement, or increasing sales. Keep the communication simple and straightforward.

Use creative messaging, and weave graphics and videos in for maximum engagement. Keep that up for the during of your campaign.

Speaking from our experience with tactical incentives, you’d be surprised what you can achieve in just ten days or within a few short months.

From a sales performance uplift of 225% to increased participant registrations of 83%, the numbers start to speak for themselves.

When it comes to incentive marketing strategy and effective programme delivery, we at FMI know that you don’t need spend your entire budget trying to reinvent the wheel.

Our incentive and engagement experts have considerable industry experience in employee and channel incentives, and extensive reward options to help you achieve greater successes in your business.

If you think a tactical incentives campaign would work for your brand and help to increase sales, get in touch with us today.

We’re always happy to provide ideas for campaigns which drive real ROI and results.