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Ingrain and Sustain Recognition

Rewarding employees without recognition is counterproductive. Put recognition first and use rewards to amplify its effectiveness.

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  • Cherie Smith, Enterprise Engagement Manager, CalPERS
  • Chester Elton, Apostle of Appreciation, Founder, Author, Speaker, The Culture Works
  • Fady Makar, Employee Recognition & Engagement Manager, University of Toronto
  • Ilia Maor, Senior Director, Info-Tech Research Group
  • Joel de los Santos, Compensation Expert, Bayer
  • Kevin Cronin, Director, Corporate Event Awards, O.C. Tanner
  • Kristin Claudy, Manager, Leadership and Engagement, CalPERS
  • Mark Nagy, former Director, Recognition Programs, RBC
  • Michelle Preston, HR Director, Kira Systems
  • Peter Hart, President & CEO, Rideau Recognition Systems
  • Scott Russell, Director - Client Services, C.A. Short Company
  • Tina Gunn Weede, President & CE, Peerless Performance
  • Voke Ararile, Talent Acquisition Manager, Auto Capital Canada Inc.
  • Expectations are rapidly changing about how, and how often, employees should be recognized.
  • Rewards and recognition programs are often too focused on the tangible reward element, ignoring the more important, but intangible, recognition element.
  • Recognition programs are created in an ad hoc manner that does not align with organizational or individual needs.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Recognition is impactful independent of rewards (i.e. items with a monetary value), but rewarding employees without proper recognition can be counterproductive. Put recognition first and use rewards as a way to amplify its effectiveness.

Impact and Result

  • Design a recognition program with the three keys to recognition in mind: customization, alignment, and transparency.
  • Ask employees how they want to be recognized. Customization will make the program more effective.
  • Discover key strategic and cultural behaviors that the organization wants to drive, and align recognition criteria with these behaviors.
  • Create transparency with a fair and open recognition selection process.

Research & Tools

1. Assess current recognition landscape

Gather feedback on employee perceptions of recognition, and select key recognition criteria.

2. Design the recognition program

Identify the structure of recognition program and design recognition initiatives.

3. Implement the recognition program

Engrain recognition by selecting metrics to measure the program’s impact, designing an action plan, and training managers.

4. Launch LMS training

Instill learning throughout the organization. Import an interactive eLearning module into your business’ existing learning management system.

Guided Implementations

This guided implementation is a ten call advisory process.

Guided Implementation #1 - Assess current recognition landscape

Call #1 - Discuss formal and day-to-day recognition, the three keys to recognition, key data sources, and customization of the Employee Recognition Survey Questions.
Call #2 - Review results of the Employee Recognition Survey Questions and identify themes to discuss in focus groups.
Call #3 - Identify key criteria based on organizational objectives.

Guided Implementation #2 - Design the recognition program

Call #1 - Discuss methods of calculating the recognition budget, select method, and identify if the program will consist of both formal and day-to-day recognition initiatives.
Call #2 - Review formal recognition initiatives.
Call #3 - Identify day-to-day recognition initiatives.
Call #4 - Discuss relevant recognition technology.

Guided Implementation #3 - Implement the recognition program

Call #1 - Identify key metrics that will be used to measure the impact of recognition. Discuss the HR Action and Communication Plan.
Call #2 - Review completed HR Action and Communication Plan and discuss manager training.
Call #3 - Discuss tactics to ingrain and sustain recognition.


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Course Information

  • Title: Recognition
  • Number of Course Modules: 4
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1.5 hours

Learning Outcome

Learners will be able to identify the three keys to building an effective recognition program and how they impact the design and rollout of a recognition program.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Identify the three keys to recognition.
  • Navigate the decision points in designing a formal or day-to-day recognition program.
  • Design a rollout plan that sustains the program past launch.
HRPA Certification Pre-Approved Logo

1 to 1.5 CPD hours per course.

SHRM Certification Logo

McLean & Company is recognized by SHRM and can award Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®.

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The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.

Course Modules

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Module 1

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Module 2

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Module 3

Onsite Workshop

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Onsite workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Gather Feedback on Recognition

The Purpose

  • Make the case for a sustainable recognition program.
  • Gather feedback from employees on what they would like to see from a recognition program.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Use McLean & Company’s process to build a recognition program.
  • Uncover employee needs and wants for recognition.




Conduct focus groups.

  • Focus Group Guide
  • Focus group trends and insights

Module 2: Design a Customized Recognition Program

The Purpose

  • Build a recognition program aligned with organizational strategy and culture.
  • Design recognition initiatives that target key behaviors.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Identify behaviors to be recognized.
  • Establish program structure and selection criteria.
  • Select appropriate types of recognition.
  • Document a communication plan.




Develop insights from focus groups and/or survey results.

  • Insights gathered

Select recognition criteria.

  • Recognition criteria selected

Define the structure of the program.

  • Program structure designed

Design the formal recognition process (optional).


Design the day-to-day recognition process.

  • Recognition Program Guide

Build a rollout and action plan.

  • HR Action & Communication Plan

Develop a sustainment plan.