Guest blogs | 4 MIN READ TIME

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.