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5 Essential Steps for Launching an Effective Recognition Program

As more businesses focus on boosting employee retention and engagement rates, one strategy stands out among the rest: employee recognition. Recognition in the workplace is the act of showing appreciation for a specific effort an employee has made at the company. Recognition programs are the systems through which this appreciation can be delivered. Companies with strong recognition programs have been shown to improve employee morale, strengthen work culture, and even increase positive customer experiences. However, implementing a comprehensive recognition program can be daunting. Here are 5 essential first steps for any organization to begin their recognition journey on the right foot.

Step 1: Ask Why

Creating a recognition program is no small task. It requires planning, coordination, and consistent dedicated effort. The program implementation team should begin by defining what they would like to accomplish when developing the program. It could be multiple goals, such as lowering turnover and increasing safety awareness, but they should be clearly stated. By having these objectives clearly defined, the implementation team can refer back to them for guidance. These goals will act as the anchor for these large projects. For example, here at Dion one of our goals is to create a culture of continuous improvement through Lean Manufacturing practices. As part of this goal, we began rewarding employees who made incremental improvements to our processes. By publicly praising and rewarding these actions, we were able to support our goal of a culture shift.

Step 2: Define Behaviors

Once the goals are defined, the next step is to choose which behaviors the company wants to award people for. These could be milestones such as a years-of-service award, specific accomplishments like earning a special certification, or acts of kindness toward coworkers. When choosing which behaviors to reward, it should be easy to connect them with the previously stated goals and the company’s mission and values.

Step 3: Make a Schedule

It’s important to look back at the list of rewardable behaviors and sketch out how they would be awarded over the course of a year. Oftentimes organizations make the mistake of only recognizing large milestones. This leaves large spans of time where no recognition is taking place. People need more than an annual reminder that their hard work is valued. It’s important to remember that employee recognition doesn’t have to always be formal and grand. Quick and personal thank-yous from both management and peers can go a long way. Daily or weekly team meetings can begin with specific shout-outs to stellar employees. Monthly and quarterly awards can help fill in the gaps as well.

Step 4: Make it Trackable

Some award metrics can be easily compiled, such as years worked, miles driven, or sales made. Other metrics might not have been closely monitored and quantified by the company before. These could include positive customer feedback, client growth and retention, or professional development. It’s important to make an action plan to make sure the awards for these behaviors can be distributed in a timely, consistent, and equitable manner. At Dion, our Diamond Award is given to people who go above and beyond to help a fellow employee. We’re able to capture these good deeds through both comment cards and electronic submissions. This way, we’re able to celebrate positive actions that would otherwise largely go unnoticed.

Step 5: Create a Budget

Depending on the size of the company, there could be a wide range of funds allocated towards employee recognition. No matter the dollar amount, establishing a budget ensures that plans can be made in confidence. Price points can be established for specific awards so that they remain consistent among the recipients. It can also provide a reality check and prevent the recognition program from becoming too large and unmanageable.


Employee recognition is a powerful tool for enhancing workplace culture, driving performance, and fostering employee engagement. By planning and implementing a thoughtful recognition program, businesses can create a positive and supportive environment where employees feel valued, appreciated, and motivated to excel. With these five first steps, any program will be set up for success.

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