Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D.

One of my recent posts, Employee recognition programs: What works, focused on the benefits of recognition and key points in choosing a recognition program. Now I’d like to address how to implement your chosen employee recognition program so that it becomes an energizing and integral part of your organization, rather than a short-lived promotion that fizzles after its initial burst of enthusiasm.

Here are some tips to ensure a long, useful life for your recognition program:

1. Establish a budget — Most companies spend between 0.5% and 3% of their payroll budget on employee recognition, with the average being 2%. Decide whether your distribution will be centralized, department-specific, or a combination of the two. Human resource personnel most frequently direct the programs (55% in a 2013 WorldatWork study, with a variety of staff taking responsibility at the other 45% of companies studied).

2. Determine how success will be measured — There are many ways to gauge the results of your efforts, including employee and resident satisfaction surveys, the level of participation in the program, and turnover rates. It also may be useful to have goal-specific measures, such as “number of infections” for a program designed to improve infection control procedures.

3. Train management staff on basics — It’s essential for the success of your program to have buy-in from senior staff members. Educate them on general recognition strategies such as when and how to acknowledge employees for best effect and the importance of their role in the project.

4. Design the program and get feedback — While you may have decided the broad focus of your program, now is the time to get specific. Exactly how will your program work? Who is eligible? What rewards will be offered? Who will be offering them? Try to create a simple program to provide meaningful, desirable rewards that are distributed fairly. Get feedback from your team to ensure the feasibility of the ideas and to increase their support for the enterprise. For example, survey* staff members to find out exactly how they’d prefer to be acknowledged for their efforts.

5. Test a pilot program — Consider a trial run of your recognition system, using your most committed champions to determine what works and what needs tweaking.

6. Create a rollout plan — Set a launch date, identify markers of progress along the way and when they’ll be measured, determine who is responsible for which aspects of the program, etc. Use a calendar to set up the time frame for training, communication and measurement efforts.

7. Train managers on specifics — Supervisory staff need to be able to understand the goals of the program and the details of how it will work so that they can enthusiastically inform their team. Whether the recognition platform is an award ceremony, a congratulatory note on a bulletin board in the staff dining room or an acknowledgement on a company-wide intranet, supervisors should have enough information so that they feel comfortable using these tools.

8. Communicate — Use various methods to educate your staff and generate support for the program, such as signs or posters, the company newsletter and social media. Use the message to consistently reinforce the goals of the program so that frontline staff members understand its purpose. Report frequently on successes and milestones to build and sustain momentum.

9. Monitor — Continue to assess the program and make adjustments as needed based on feedback from staff. Add new rewards, or individualize awards, to sustain enthusiasm.


Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D., author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is an accomplished speaker and consultant with over 17 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care. This blog complements her award-winning website, MyBetterNursingHome.com, which has more on how to create long-term care where EVERYBODY thrives.