Transform your Culture with Strategic Employee Recognition

Your culture plays an important role in attracting talent, retaining employees, and succeeding as an organization. So what do you do if it is described as negative, employees are fighting, and turnover rate is double the industry average? We recently worked with an organization with these symptoms and helped them implement a strategic employee recognition program that delivered dramatic improvements within 30 days.

The Transformation of Grace Haven
Grace Haven Assisted Living in St. John’s, Mich., was feeling powerless after watching turnover soar and morale plummet beginning in early 2010. The company’s nearly 200 percent resident growth in a few short months had clearly put pressure on all staff, but a culture of dissatisfaction had been developing over time as well.

To get to heart of the discontent, Grace Haven supervisors and staff took part in an evaluation process that included interviews, focus groups, and an employee engagement survey. The survey, modeled after one given by The Gallup Organization, helped set benchmarks, as well as identify the key issues that needed to be addressed to reverse the steady decline in morale.

After establishing the most critical issues, a comprehensive, customized employee recognition plan was developed, which set priorities to address them. Implementation included coaching sessions with management and informational meetings with all staff to help acquaint them with the new program.

The change in the organization was exciting! Within one week of the program’s implementation, the level of interest and optimism increased noticeably. An employee engagement survey revealed steady improvement in all areas, and the positivity continued to grow. After 60 days, 78 percent of staff had given recognition and 68 percent had received it.

Transforming Your Organization
The process used at Grace Haven to diagnose the problem, create and implement an employee recognition program, and measure results can be used at any organization looking to improve their culture, morale and employee engagement. We created a seven-step Prescription for Success that you can use to replicate the Grace Haven process.

1. Form a team
You may not be able to dedicate 100 percent of your time to the recognition program, so recruit some help. Build a small team with a mix of employees and managers from several departments. They will serve as your recognition liaisons and champions in their respective teams.

2. Get employee feedback
Gather employee feedback and measure employee engagement by administering an employee survey, holding focus groups, and conducting interviews with employees. Conduct the survey before the program starts and at 30-day intervals after implementation to create a baseline and measure your progress.

3. Determine recognition program goals
The data collection process provides valuable input into what areas your recognition program should focus on. Set goals to make improvements in areas that measured poorly or to maintain areas that performed well in your evaluation. Some example goals include:

  • Improving areas with low scores

  • Reinforcing specific positive behaviors

  • Encouraging innovation, creativity, teamwork, etc.

4. Create programs that align with goals
Your strategic recognition program should be tied to your goals and objectives. At Grace Haven, we created programs to help achieve the goals of increasing morale, building teamwork, and improving attendance. At this step in the process, determine what tools you want to include in your program. Use your survey results and input from your team for ideas.

5. Communicate with your team
Communication is key to a recognition program! Keep employees updated on your progress and make information readily available. At Grace Haven, we attended multiple meetings and held a kick off the day the programs launched. Take the time to explain how the programs work, and how employees can participate.

6. Implement your recognition program
Now, use the program! Your team needs to take the lead and be the champions by practicing recognition regularly and answering any questions from staff.

7. Encourage change
Your recognition program is never complete, so regularly seek feedback from employees. Tweak your program and awards as necessary to keep it exciting for employees. Your constant attention to the program and willingness to make changes will maintain momentum in the long run and ensure long term success of your program.

Get a Case of the Positives
You don’t have to be in a morale crisis to benefit from an employee recognition program. Simple day-to-day acknowledgements improve communication and make team members feel valued. Overall, staff members will feel more satisfied with their jobs, increasing both engagement and retention. With the right tools in place, you can transform your organization into a highly engaged, positive workplace where employees are proud to work.

Brad Darooge is President and CEO of Baudville, the Grand Rapids-based leading provider in day-to-day recognition and award solutions for schools and the workplace. He can be reached at [email protected].