4 reasons why your recognition program is falling flat

Recognition & Rewards
January 18, 2021

Organizations introduce employee recognition and reward programs with the best of intentions. Not only does celebrating employee achievements improve engagement and motivation, but simultaneously strengthen other areas such as culture and retention. In fact, recognition has been proven to contribute to higher employee engagement, performance, and to help boost other positive behaviors. 

We know that recognizing victories both big and small can drive organizational success. So why are so many teams still feeling less than jazzed about their work? It’s a problem that comes with a hefty price tag - to the tune of $500 billion dollars annually, actually. Uninspired employees can leave with you with high turnover, poor workplace morale, and cost you in time, money, and resources. 

Related Article: Benefits of positive reinforcement in the workplace 

So, implement any old recognition program and wait for the benefits to roll in - right? 

Not exactly. In order to see the best results, there needs to be a conscious effort to align your recognition process with your team and organizational goals, specifically. If employee engagement and performance remain at a standstill, this may be an indication that you have a lackluster recognition program.

While every program will vary slightly, here are some common culprits that may leave your team wanting more : 

Not approaching employee recognition holistically 

Let’s move away from the traditional notion that recognition can only travel from management downward. Peer recognition can be just as powerful! Encouraging positive interactions between employees at all levels improves transparency, relationships, and culture. This also means that your team has more to celebrate - like work anniversary milestones and birthdays. 

Inclusion is now more important than ever since remote work has become the new norm. A company-wide recognition program streamlines internal communications by bringing team members together and keeping everyone on the same page. We all know that staying connected has been a challenge this last year, and a full-circle recognition program is an effective way you can bridge the gap.  

Not letting people choose their own rewards

We’ve all been there - unwrapping a present someone gave you and pretending to love it. They’re sitting right next to you and you don’t want to hurt their feelings, but you're also mystified as to their thought process behind the gift (which will never see the light of day). 

Employee rewards aren’t that different. People are motivated by different things, and there’s nothing particularly inspiring about the same cookie-cutter rewards for every employee and every milestone. Opting for a program that allows employees to choose from a selection of rewards or prizes adds an extra personalized touch that will leave your employees feeling even more valued. Not only does this enable you to truly discover what motivates different team members, it also allows you to keep a pulse on employee engagement in real time. 

Related Article: Customize your rewards and recognition program with Qarrot 

Doesn’t support or reflect your team's unique needs

The ultimate goal of any recognition program is to drive both employee and organizational success. Keyword here, ‘success’ - which looks different to every employee, team, manager, and company. Is your current recognition program effectively taking those measures of success into account? To truly make waves, recognition programs should be customizable. This can be anything from integrating your branding into the recognition platform to launching incentive campaigns based on specific team performance metrics. However you choose to use a recognition program, ensure it can accurately capture your specific needs and goals. A good rule of thumb is to relate how the program feeds into your mission, vision, and values. If they’re in sync, you’re on the right track. 

...it just isn’t that fun 

Employees are only going to be responsive with a recognition program if they enjoy using it. Getting employees excited about celebrating each other doesn’t have to be complicated either. Ever thought about exploring gamification? Something as simple as a points based system - where employees receive points alongside recognitions to redeem for rewards - can easily raise the stakes. Although adding gamification features will instigate friendly competition, everyone comes out a winner. Employees will feel supported and empowered by their peers while managers will reap the benefits of a motivated team. Ironically, fun and games are a serious solution to an uninspiring recognition process.

Related Article: Spice up your employee engagement with gamification

To improve the effectiveness of employee recognition programs, companies can take the following steps:

Define Clear Objectives and Metrics

Companies should define clear objectives for their recognition programs, such as improving employee engagement or increasing sales performance, and develop metrics to measure their success. This will help ensure that the program is aligned with the company's overall strategy and values.

Involve Employees in Program Design

Companies should involve employees in the design of their recognition programs, gathering feedback on what types of recognition they find most meaningful and what behaviors and accomplishments should be recognized.

Make Recognition Personal and Timely

Recognition should be personalized to the individual and delivered in a timely manner. This means that recognition should be specific to the employee's accomplishments and delivered as close to the time of the accomplishment as possible.

Provide a Variety of Recognition Options

Companies should provide a variety of recognition options to meet the diverse needs and preferences of employees. This could include verbal recognition, public recognition, monetary rewards, or time off.

Train Managers on Effective Recognition

Managers should be trained on effective recognition techniques, such as providing specific and timely feedback and delivering recognition in a personalized manner. This will ensure that recognition is consistent and aligned with the company's objectives.

Regularly Evaluate and Adjust the Program

Companies should regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their recognition program and make adjustments as needed. This will help ensure that the program continues to meet the needs of employees and achieve the company's objectives.

Related Article: Building a business case for employee recognition

Here are some examples of companies that have implemented effective employee recognition programs:


Salesforce has a recognition program called "The Power of Us" that allows employees to recognize their peers for their accomplishments. The program includes both public recognition and monetary rewards, and employees can earn badges for their achievements.


Cisco has a recognition program called "Connected Recognition" that allows employees to recognize their peers for their accomplishments using a mobile app. The program includes both monetary rewards and non-monetary rewards, such as extra vacation days or access to training and development programs.


Google has a recognition program called "gThanks" that allows employees to send thank-you notes to their colleagues. The notes are delivered both publicly and privately, and employees can earn points for their participation that can be redeemed for rewards.

Don’t be caught empty handed - a recognition and rewards program is one of the most powerful tools a leader can wield when it comes to employee engagement. Uncover how your team can benefit by fostering a recognition rich environment with Qarrot - book a demo today!

Jamie Doyle