Recognizing employee achievements in organizations

In today’s business world, senior managers are under continuous competitive pressure to boost company performance. Leaders, is it key to note that while so many questions are being asked to improve business, the answer may also lie in recognising achievements towards attaining that goal?

Employee achievement recognition is an important management skill. It involves identifying achievement, communicating it and at times rewarding it. This skill goes beyond (or comes before!) the structured performance evaluation systems. Here managers do not have to wait for the annual performance appraisals to recognise achievements.

There are several ways to recognise achievements and these include worker of the month programmes based on top sales, or any other goal related standard, rewarding personal accomplishments and professional advancements. Programs like employee anniversary recognition schemes are very effective as everyone know that their anniversary date will come. The whole idea of employee recognition systems is to reinforce and ensure that as the employer, you will see a continuance of the positive behaviour that is recognised. For these systems to work, senior management needs to establish the criteria for what performance constitutes rewardable behaviour or actions. Tell the human capital the behaviour you want to see and set employees up for success and accomplishments. As another requirement make all employees eligible for the recognition and never should you exclude an employee or group of employees. The more clearly you design and communicate the criteria for eligibility for the award, the easier it is for employees to perform accordingly. Achievement rewards need not be costly to the company. They can be a certificate, lunch voucher, discounts on company products, grocery hampers and or in monetary form etc. Studies show that rewards need to occur as close to the occasions as possible in order to have greater impact.

An organization that periodically rewards its staff for being the best dressed down, they select on the very day and are awarded their recognition on the day. In this way behaviour gets to be reinforced. It is best practise that such systems that do not require managers to select the people to receive the recognition and neither should you use random selections, otherwise employees may see this as a process of managerial favouritism. Let the staff pick the eligible colleagues. If it’s the best dressed Manager program, let staff where possible identify the deserving manager.

In one organisation, the Chief Executive Officer traditionally bought lunch for all employees every Friday. The challenge with this system was that the incentive was turned into an entitlement. Such traps can ensnare your employee recognition efforts. Have your ducks in a row, and come up with systems that wow your staff and avoid those that sap their moral and make them fail to understand the criteria needed for competition and winning.

Recognising personal achievements in the workplace actually benefits organisations. The second home notion of the workplace is reinforced, staff certainly will belong and be motivated to achieve the organizational goals. To buttress your systems you may also want to consider use of inspirational quotes about rewards and recognition. These you can put in your newsletters and even during business presentations. For example you can quote some of Jackson Brown‘s quotes like, “Don’t work for recognition, but do work worthy of recognition.” With employees being human, they may take a job for more money but often leave it for more recognition. Communicate with them continually that they need not worry if they are not recognised but strive to be working for recognition so that the concept becomes clear to all. Such education encourages employees to stretch and set new challenges to maximise their ability to contribute.

Today there is an approach in business known as Open-Book Management (OBM) which rests on the idea that in addition to caring about quality and efficiency, leadership needs to care about the success of the business. Though not much of a program but a coherent system that promotes financial and operational information sharing with employees to ensure success. It underlies some innovative rewards systems such as profit sharing and employee stock ownership plans. However, such plans are but only half of the measures needed. Owning a few shares does not magically enable employees to think like owners. As leaders you need to do more around sharing all business information, making employees accountable for profits as well as compensating them for success of business.

In terms of rewarding performance, define the real accomplishment as negotiated in the performance development system and ensure a consistency application of the criteria. Employee recognition systems work well if they are coordinated through an HR department. Where anniversary salaries are done, HR is better placed not to leave any one out as well as the system to use. Make use of your HR departments to provide that pivotal role in the employee recognition process which is fast becoming an imperative in modern business.

Leaders always bear in mind that even top achievers suffer insecurity until they are recognised!

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at