5 Common Mistakes in Employee Recognition Programs

The main objective of employee rewards and recognition programs is to appreciate and celebrate the efforts and achievements of the members of the workforce and make them feel valued. The failure of recognition systems is often due to mistakes that organizations make while developing and implementing them. The 5 most common mistakes in employee recognition programs and the best ways to avoid them are discussed in this article.

What are the most common mistakes in designing and implementing Employee Recognition Programs?

1. Adopting the one-size-fits-all approach

Most organizations feel that when it comes to recognizing and rewarding the employees, having a single uniform approach is the best strategy. However, such an approach often doesn’t work since the workforce comprises of different individuals with varying demographics and motivational factors.

The “one-size-fits-all” approach tends to turn even the most effective reward systems into a mere formality and fails to generate the desired results.

The best way to avoid this mistake is to focus on developing a flexible reward system that can be customized as varying employee needs and expectations.

2. Focusing only on cash rewards

Cash rewards are often viewed by organizations as the best way to motivate employees across all levels. However, focusing only on the cash without actually appreciating or praising the efforts or achievements of the employees may not prove as effective.

While employees might appreciate the additional amount they receive, it might not keep them motivated for long. Moreover, cash rewards tend to lose their novelty after some time and may fail to generate any excitement among future recipients. On the other hand, non-monetary rewards tend to have a deeper impact and are generally more relevant and effective over time.

Organizations can create an employee recognition system that includes both cash and non-monetary rewards as per the preference of the recipients.

3. Offering rewards only for performance and efficiency

Organizations that base their reward systems only on the performance and efficiency shown by the employees are likely to get poor results. While it is important to reward these aspects, they should not be the only criteria for the nomination or selection of an employee.

This might result in the creation of a system where the same people get rewarded and recognized repeatedly simply because they are more efficient and better performers than their peers.

Organizations should consider other aspects such as the initiatives taken by the employees, improvement in their performance, specific behaviors that boost efficiency and even innovative ideas should also be considered for recognizing employees.

This can help in making the reward programs more inclusive and ensure greater participation from a majority of the workforce.

4. Limiting recognition only to a specific level of employment

One major mistake made by organizations with respect to their recognition programs is to limit it only to employees within a specific level of the organizational hierarchy.

Such organizations tend to overlook the need to reward and appreciate mid and senior-level managers and supervisors for their efforts, believing that they are self-motivated and not require such incentives. They might not understand that senior professionals crave for recognition and appreciation, as much, and sometimes even more than their juniors.

It is important for organizations to develop a comprehensive reward and recognition system that is applicable across all levels of the organization. The system can have various categories of recognition to include different levels of employees, ensuring that the employee reward system is more efficient, appropriate and satisfactory for everyone involved.

5. Keeping rewards and recognition as a private affair

Many times the organizations choose to make reward and recognition a low key affair and avoid having a proper presentation ceremony for the recipients. This conflicts with the very basic idea of appreciating and acknowledging the efforts and contributions of employees and often makes the system ineffective.

Employees feel elated when their employers choose to appreciate and reward them publicly and the entire organization aware of their hard work and achievements. That is why organizations should make every effort to spread the news about their employees being rewarded and for what, as it can help keep them motivated and inspired for a long time.


Being aware of the above common mistakes in employee recognition programs and the best ways to avoid them can help organizations get the most out of their workforce through enhanced productivity and a greater sense of commitment and loyalty.

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