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Consortium for Service Innovation

Technique 8.6: Recognition Programs

First, based on what we just discussed in the Internal Motivators technique, we have to recognize that recognition is far more powerful and effective than rewards. By rewards we mean tangible things like cash or prizes. We want to create an environment where we leverage the things that motivate knowledge workers to contribute to the knowledge base.  The two most powerful motivators are a sense of accomplishment (how we feel about our contribution) and recognition (acknowledgement of our contribution by others).

The impact of the recognition is dependent on the value the organization places on it. If the organization puts high value on having a KCS Publisher license or being in the role of Coach or KDE, that makes those a high impact form of recognition.  There are lots of ways and opportunities for leadership to recognize knowledge workers and their contribution.

Is there a place for rewards and prizes?  Maybe. First, it depends on the culture of the organization.  In some environments it can be an effective way to create awareness, excitement, and fun.  The same program in another environment may be seen as silly or elementary.  Second, the program has to be thoughtfully designed.

To motivate the right behavior and promote KCS adoption early on, many companies implement reward and recognition programs. Historically we have seen that these programs are hard to get right. In addition to frequently misunderstanding what really motivates people, the programs are often based on activities, not outcomes, and end up driving the wrong behaviors. They become outdated as the organization progresses on the KCS journey, but the programs seldom have an end of life plan.

KCS rewards and recognition programs aimed at getting started must have an end date. If they continue too long, they send the signal that knowledge sharing and reuse are not part of the job, but something "above and beyond" to be specially rewarded. In fact, the opposite must happen—KCS practices must be integrated into all participants' job descriptions and formal job evaluation programs. At this point, the primary reward and recognition for doing KCS well is the same as it is for doing any other part of the job well: continued employment, good reviews, and career advancement.

We have learned a tremendous amount about what works and what doesn't. Some of the design principles of successful programs include:

  • Legitimate metrics—tied to independent feedback and requestor input, most often done through satisfaction or effort surveys
  • Alignment to organizational goals—measures directly link to and reinforce desired outcomes and the strategic framework
  • Time constraints—clear beginning and end, and a plan for what is appropriate for the next phase of the KCS journey
  • Balance of individual and team rewards—consider virtual teams as well as geographical and subject matter teams
  • Compatibility with the individual—tailored to the values, interest, and styles of the person or team (don't embarrass an introvert!)
  • Equal opportunity for participation—include recognition for different positions, roles, and responsibilities
  • Recognition of diversity of skills—good generalists are as valuable as good specialists; recognition for each of the skills needed for success
  • Promote collaboration, not competition—measure and recognize each individual's own progress and achievements 

Given these guidelines, most organizations develop programs to appeal to different motivational factors. Here are some motivation and reward examples:

  • Challenge—Set new records for key outcomes (often a team recognition)
  • Attention—A visit with/from a senior level executive 
  • Affirmation—Add meaningful job opportunities or new roles, like membership in the KCS program team or trips to industry conferences or events

One key to using rewards and recognition programs effectively is to view them as part of the communications plan. These programs are an effective way for leaders to draw attention to new practices and priorities.

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