Create a Recognition Program everyone will love | Your Recognition Starter Kit

Recognition Program Starter Kit

In Recognition and Engagement, Recognition Awards by Lori McKnight

Recognition Program Starter Kit

Enhance your culture by focusing on recognition

Are you thinking it’s time to reboot your recognition strategy… but not sure how to get started? Here’s a 7 step starter kit all HR professionals can use to develop a strategic and actionable plan your leadership team will support and be excited to get behind!

Step 1 : Take Inventory

Identify your company’s formal and informal recognition programs. Find out from managers what recognition initiatives are being used outside of company-wide programs and what they’ve budgeted for these (likely informal) programs.

How? Talk to your managers or if you’re a large organization, you could create a simple multiple choice survey to uncover the ways behaviors, practices, and activities are recognized in the workplace. Consider asking about these common formal and informal recognition initiatives in your poll. SurveyMonkey (free) and Typeform ($) are easy survey tools that work well and collate results for easy analysis and reporting.

Creating multiple choice survey

Depending on your culture, you may want to offer an incentive (Amazon or Starbucks gift cards work well) for managers to complete the survey.

If you need help designing recognition survey questions, contact us for a free consultation.

Step 2: Evaluate Programs Offered

What’s being spent on recognition?

People sitting around a table
  • Do certain departments or managers have their own recognition and rewards budget?
  • Do some managers/departments recognize more than others?
  • Are non-monetary rewards such as flex time and perks consistent across departments?

You may uncover it’s more equitable, cost-effective and efficient to:

Step 3 – Look into Recognition Partners

It takes a team with a strong recognition partner to launch a successful new program. Consider these 6 criteria when evaluating recognition partners.

Step 4 – Create (ongoing) Leadership Support

Buy-in from your leadership team is critical. Present your findings along with a plan of actionable ways you will encourage more recognition and reduce administration. Follow the KISS principle; once you get approval, identify one program goal to benchmark success; perhaps it’s 2 recognition events/employee/month or 80% manager participation or higher retention.


Once your program launches provide regular reports on participation to your leadership team AND real-life recognition stories. For example, if you launch a recognition platform, send your leadership team a few of the kudos employees and managers sent that week. Stories resonate and show how your efforts are advancing a culture of everyday recognition. You might also suggest leaders book time in their calendar every week to show support for the program by “liking” and “commenting” on recognition events.

Step 5 – Build a Culture Club

Passion lead us here

A steering committee is needed to make things happen. In addition to HR, include influential employees from a variety of departments, a senior Communications person, IT champion and supportive Executive. You’ll want 8-10 ambassadors who will evaluate vendors, ID criteria, help with communications and decide on awards/rewards.

This group can also be instrumental in identifying the recognition scrooges in the organization and make it their mission to get them onboard. Set a regular committee meeting date to keep people engaged and plans on track.

Step 6: Communicate Strategically and Creatively

What are you going to call your new program? Give it a name and create professional, eye catching graphics to generate awareness. CSI STARS offers different mediums such as floor decals, banners, posters and website graphics to cut through the clutter and generate excitement. Some clients even create fun videos of leaders challenging employees to sign-up and recognize.

Education is paramount to success. Keep the message simple and show WIIFM. Incentives can be a great way to get employees to use the system. Points for signing up or fun non-monetary rewards like having boss clean your desk, a leave work early card or lunch with the President are out of the box ways to engage employees in your program.

The more creative and fun, the more buzz and buy-in from the start. Once the program is up and running, get your marketing hat on to perpetuate the momentum. Feature recent kudos in newsletter, run a holiday raffle campaign, start a friendly competition, offer donation matches, the ideas are unlimited!

Think out of the box

Step 7: Keep Recognizing

There will always be room for improvement and who better to ask than the people you designed the program for! Once your program has been running for six months, run a short poll to solicit feedback and incorporate some of the suggestions. Take a look at the data, benchmark against your goal and share with your leadership team.

These 7 steps will result in small acts of recognition being multipled by many enhancing your culture (and making you look like a HR rock star).

Check out more recognition ideas CSI STARS shared on SHRM’s HonestHR podcast


Author: Lori McKnight

Lori McKnightLori is the VP of Recognition for CSI International Inc. She has a MBA with a minor in Human Resources, is a Certified Recognition Professional and member of the SHRM blog squad. Prior to joining CSI STARS, she worked at Mercer Human Resource Consulting and Youthography, a youth market research agency. Connect with CSI STARS on LinkedIn to learn how we cultivate a workforce that loves coming to work.