Workplace Culture

Five Ways to Revamp Your Rewards System

By Meg Breslin

Dec. 17, 2012

Based on interviews with Achievers, the San Francisco-based rewards and recognition company that advised the DuPont Co. Washington Works plant with its new program, and insights from other top consultants, here are five important considerations when crafting rewards and recognition plans:

1. Ensure that your rewards tie directly to your business objectives. “It’s critical to align employee interests and company interests so it’s a win-win for everyone,” says Razor Suleman, founder and chairman of Achievers. “Identify what behaviors positively impact the business, and design your recognition program to recognize and reward them. It will drive repeat positive behavior. … It also helps employees understand how their actions affect the big picture, which also helps make their jobs more meaningful.”

2. Include peer-to-peer recognitions. A recent study from WorldatWork, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based human resources association, found 43 percent of organizations today have some kind of peer-to-peer recognition program. “It’s the third highest form of recognition now,” says Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader at WorldatWork. “It’s the silver bullet of any recognition program,” Suleman says. “This creates a democratic system and builds a culture where all employees are appreciated and feel valued for their work every day. When you empower people with a vote to recognize who is doing a great job, driving results or going above and beyond, they take it seriously.”

3. Implement user-friendly software, allowing managers and employees to actively engage in a recognition program without a lot of extra time. One glaring finding from a recent study from HR research and advisory firm Bersin & Associates was the importance of a solid technology program for implementing the rewards system. “We went into this [research] knowing that technology was important, but what was really surprising was just how important it was,” said Stacia Sherman Garr, a principal analyst for the firm. “We’ve found that one of the top reasons employees don’t recognize each other is it’s not always easy to do.”

4. First focus on senior leaders buying into the new goals of your recognition program. If senior management doesn’t believe in the importance of rewards and recognition to drive business objectives, the message won’t trickle down through the organization in a very effective way, Garr says. “We help [companies] understand that the first focus should always be on the senior leaders,” she says.

5. Give employees a nice range of rewards to cash in on. Rather than just a gift card to Starbucks, let them pick what they want from a catalog.

Meg McSherry Breslin is a writer based in the Chicago area. Comment below or email

Meg McSherry Breslin is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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