The most successful companies today have a workforce that is aligned behind a company’s strategic objectives and core values.  As companies continue to alter their strategic plans to succeed during a challenging economy, this kind of training on values and objectives becomes even more critical.  In fact, the Corporate Executive Board recently released this result of a survey of 50,000 employees, from more than 50 companies across multiple industries and geographies:

Simply put, almost two-thirds of all employees are 33% as productive as they can be because they don’t understand what they are now asked to do.”

Training and educating employees in company values and objectives in a way that makes sense to them – through their daily work – is a mission-critical goal for organizations today. Strategic employee recognition is the most effective method for achieving that goal.

Unlike traditional, tactical recognition, strategic employee recognition is a sound management method that moves employee recognition from anecdotal morale-booster to data-driven business discipline. As such, strategic recognition delivers three key benefits to training professionals.

Benefit 1: Strategic Recognition Aligns Employees with Changing Strategic Objectives

Strategic recognition encourages frequent, timely appreciation of any efforts by employees that contribute to achieving a strategic objective. Through this positive reinforcement, employees come to understand precisely what those objectives are and how they can, personally and individually, contribute to those objectives. This ensures the strategic objectives are clearly understood by everyone, in the way the CEO intended because the message is not lost in translation as it is communicated down the ranks.

Employees also choose to become more engaged with their work because they now see the meaning and purpose in it, not to mention the collaboration that results from peer-to-peer recognition. They are reminded regularly of the importance of their efforts to the company’s success. As a group, employees become united together behind these commonly understood goals, functioning together to achieve departmental, divisional, and company goals. Mutual dependence develops trust, encourages learning, and fosters the sense of belonging to something greater than oneself.

Management encourages this teamwork by directly rewarding it and by demonstrating its importance. Doing so can be as simple as a director instructing all employees, “Spot all the good behavior you can and recognize it – call it out, because I can’t be everywhere.” In a consistent culture, this is manifest in a thousand person-to-person moments.

“Recognition is about acknowledgment and appreciation for a contribution, improvement, innovation, or excellence – a message to employees that they are valued. The act of recognizing an employee affirms the values and spirit underlying the achievement. It’s also about reinforcing desired behaviors and increasing their occurrence. Attitude and performance are closely linked; the appropriate recognition at the appropriate moment will create a positive attitude that, in turn, will lead to improved performance. Communicating this to the rest of the organization creates role models and sets the standards of desired performance.”

                            –Ascent Group, Reward & Recognition Program Best Practices, 2009

Benefit 2: Strategic Recognition Ensures Values Are Understood & Demonstrated in Daily Work

There is great value in company values – but only if they become so “real” for employees, they know what it means in their daily work. This Summer, Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kantor wrote in the Harvard Business Review the “Ten Essentials for Getting Value from Values,” pointing out: “Actions reflecting values and principles – especially difficult choices – become the basis for iconic stories that are easy to remember and retell, reinforcing to employees and the world what he company stands for.” The process for getting these iconic stories shared and
discussed across the organization is easy with strategic recognition. All employees, at every level, are encouraged to notice and appreciate the efforts of their colleagues that reflect and demonstrate the values. Requiring a detailed message to highlight these points and sharing the messages of recognition broadly throughout the company also helps others learn “what the
values look like in the work” as well.

Taking the company values off the plaque on the wall and making them real and tangible for every employee also makes it possible to impose clear consequences for actions or behaviors that violate the values. By creating an understanding of company values in their own, personal work, you give your employees a positive context for understanding and repeating those values on an ongoing basis.

Benefit 3: Strategic Recognition is Measurable & Reportable

Recognizing and sincerely appreciating the efforts of employees whose performance and behaviors align with  your company’s strategic objectives and values is simply the most effective way of solidifying your company culture around your strategy. Proving this to senior executives is now possible with strategic recognition.

As you train employees on your company’s objectives and values through a strategic employee recognition program, you can measure every interaction to report on multiple critical factors:

  • Values recognized and objectives achieved: Since a value demonstrated or an objective achieved is required as a reason for recognition, it becomes easy to track (by individual, team, division, department, or the company as a whole) what values or objectives are recognized less frequently. With this information, the training organization can glean best practices from areas of high recognition to intervene and train on areas of low recognition.
  • Performance impact: By combining recognition and performance management data, the power of recognition to reinforce desired behaviors and performance improvement can be proven, along with the increase in performance on targeted objectives.
  • Retention Impact: Training new employees to bring them up to speed is a costly endeavor. Recognition of effort and providing employees with insight into the meaning and purpose of their work is proven to reduce turnover. Combining retention and recognition data shows the validity of this approach and its impact on the bottom line.
  • Engagement Impact: Employees who feel appreciated for their efforts and know their work is helping the company succeed become more engaged with their work, their teams, and the company as a whole. Gallup found in research reported in September, “We find that the path from the individual engagement elements to financial performance is tronger than the path from financial performance to engagement.”

That means engaged employees create financial success, not the other way around. Combined with all the other benefits of strategic employee recognition, the benefits of recognition as a means of training on and reinforcing company values and strategic objectives is clear.