From our guest author Annabelle Rigby!

The purpose of employee recognition programs is to reward ideas that further the mission of a company, particularly in a noteworthy way.

An effective program improves workplace morale, fosters employee motivation, and promotes company values.

Not all equal

Since not all employee recognition programs are created equally, the key is to develop one that makes the recognition meaningful, by focusing on employees who go the extra mile rather than giving constant praise for average work.

Bearing all of that in mind, here are four steps for creating an effective employee recognition program.

STEP 1: Determine a Clear Vision

Think about why you want to start a program, and make a list of the reasons. Are you trying to unify your employees? Improve workplace morale? Whatever your purpose, make sure it isn’t a self-serving reason like increasing sales. “There definitely needs to be a higher purpose for these types of programs,” says Carolann Jacobs, president of Vivid Epiphany, a consulting company in Plano, Texas. “If there isn’t, people will see right through them as self-serving.”

Think about the behaviors you hope to reinforce through the implementation of this program. Do you want to highlight great examples of leadership? How can you convey the importance of accurately representing your company’s values to the public and to customers? You must be able to communicate the goals of the program to your employees so they will have something to strive for.

STEP 2: Get Employee Feedback

Even though everyone appreciates being recognized for something, people enjoy recognition in different ways. Some people relish being honored publicly, while others may shy away from the spotlight and prefer to be recognized in private.

If your company is small enough, set aside time to sit down with employees individually to determine their preference. If your company is larger, or you just don’t have time for individual interviews, you could send out a short survey instead. Some of the popular survey forms include SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang.

You also should start to think about what type of award you’ll be giving out. Many companies give out gift cards, but others use programs like AnyPerk that allow the winners to select their own rewards.

STEP 3: Establish a Committee

An employee recognition committee’s role is to develop, customize, and implement the program for their workplace. Both employees and management should be included on the committee, as representation from both groups are necessary for the program’s success. Make sure that it’s considered a privilege to serve on the committee, instead of just another chore.

The committee’s job is to study the survey or interview responses, and come up with an appropriate method of recognition for each employee. They also are responsible for setting the criteria for recognition, which should be meaningful, attainable, and not arbitrary or favoritism. Going forward, their job is to select which employee should be recognized at that time. Will there be a nomination system? If so, look into developing a nomination form where employees can elaborate on their reasons for the candidate they’ve selected.

STEP 4: Announce the Program and Start It Up

Now it’s time to advertise your new program! Announce it at the next company meeting, but to really drive it home you need to send out a follow-up email laying out the details. Let them know things like when the first employee will be selected, and how often the recognition will occur. Get your coworkers excited!

If you’re looking for a more modern twist on recognition programs, look into virtual methods such as Achievers and 7Geese. These programs let employees give positive feedback to their coworkers that everyone can see. Employees then accumulate points that are used to redeem rewards.

If you’ve participated in an effective employee recognition program in the past, please tell us about it! And if you found these tips helpful at all, please don’t hesitate to share this article.

Annabelle RigbyAnnabelle Rigby is a writer from iActionable; a system that helps bring out the best in your employees through performance management and gamification.