How to design an awards programme

Author: PM editorial | Date: 31 Aug 2016

Getting it right can help tap into the best energy and efforts from your people, says reward expert Ty Brown

There’s nothing better than climbing the podium to pick up a glittering award, the acclaim of your peers ringing in your ears.

But designing a successful, HR-led employee award programme isn’t as straightforward as it seems – from choosing which channel to use to avoiding disengagement among those who don’t win, the importance of proper planning can’t be underestimated.

Getting it right can help “tap into the best energy and efforts from your people”, says Ty Brown, managing director for India and APAC and VP international at employee reward and recognition company O.C. Tanner.

“Study after study confirms that appreciation affects employee engagement and how they feel about their managers and the organisation. Engaged employees and teams work harder, dig deeper and reach higher.”

To get the best out of a company award programme, Ashish Ahluwalia, a Korn Ferry Hay Group consultant, says it should be aligned with business objectives: if your firm encourages corporate social responsibility, for example, it makes sense to have an award that recognises effort in this area.

Ahluwalia suggests those who miss out on awards needn’t feel hard done by: “If the criteria for the recognition are well understood, and the organisation maintains transparency and fairness in the programme, employees who do not win an award will not feel they’ve been unfairly treated.”

But one way to increase the feelgood factor from awards (and spread the right sort of culture of appreciation) is to supplement them with peer-to-peer recognition. This can be done through ‘thank you’ programmes, or by giving department heads the authority to award small gifts for a job well done. “Recognition is social. It’s about connecting. When done right, it drives innovation, ignites energy and unleashes the best in everyone,” says Brown.

This also removes the focus on a single winner-takes-all awards night, which might not always be feasible. Instead, says Ahluwalia, concentrate on providing a personal touch – having a business leader make a presentation to an award winner, even at a local level, helps bring their achievement to life. Company intranets and social media can help amplify it.

The actual award, he says, could be anything from a physical trophy or memento to cash, vouchers or gift ‘experiences’ such as hotel breaks. The key is how you contextualise it – and how you ensure the good news is shared by as many people as possible.