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Why are Employees Not Happy with the Recognition Program?

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Why are Employees not happy with the Recognition Program?

Most organizations today realize the critical role that rewards and recognition play in boosting employee morale. However, not all employee rewards and recognition programs meet the needs and expectations of the employees. Hence, in many organizations, employees are not happy with the recognition program.

Rewards and recognition programs have evolved significantly over the past several years.

Integrate Reward and Recognition with Innovation Efforts

Today, rewards and recognition are no longer about just appreciating the efficiency of the employees.

Rather, it involves acknowledging the overall contribution of employees to the business growth.

The growing demand for a highly competent and dedicated workforce has driven these changes in employee rewards programs.  

Why are your employees not happy with the Recognition Program?

Almost every organization today has an employee rewards and recognition program in place.

However, in many cases, the employees are not fully or even partially satisfied with these programs.

Understanding the reasons behind this dissatisfaction is important. For this, we have put together a list of the common reasons that lead to the disappointment of employees with the rewards and recognition program in their organization:  

1. Ambiguity about Program Objectives

Impact of Fun @ Work Activities on Employee Engagement

It might be possible that you haven’t defined and communicated the program objectives as an organization.

The rewards and recognition being given might not be aligned with the business goals and the organization’s core values.

Hence, your employees are unclear about the program’s objectives and feel confused about participating.

Also, read 5 Steps to An Effective Employee Rewards and Recognition System

2. Delays in Recognition


One major reason your employees might be unhappy with the recognition program is the delays in actually being recognized.

If your recognition program lacks a spot or instant recognition component, your employees might have to wait weeks or even months to receive it.

Delays in recognition after the achievement or milestone greatly diminish its value, almost making it a mere formality.

Hence, your employees are likely to be dissatisfied with the entire process. Timely recognition is one of the most critical success factors for any employee recognition program.

Also, read Why Timely Employee Recognition Is So Important?

3. Lack Of Transparency and Fairness

Another reason your employees are dissatisfied with the recognition program is the lack of transparency and fairness in the entire process.

This can happen if the criteria for rewards and recognition and the process for evaluation are not clearly defined. It might result in supervisors and others nominating employees for rewards without proper business justification.

Such instances can create serious doubts and distrust among employees about the program’s fairness.

This perception of bias and favoritism in the recognition process can render the program irrelevant and ineffective.

It can also cause unhealthy workplace competition, eventually toxic to the work environment.

Also, read Culture Of Openness And Transparency Through Employee Recognition

4. Absence of Peer Recognition

Work from Home

Peer-to-peer recognition is a critical component of any successful employee recognition program.

When their peers recognize their co-workers, it gives them a great sense of pride and camaraderie.

Also, employees feel empowered when they can recognize their peers.

However, if only supervisors can recognize employees in your organization, then your program might lack those elements. Hence, it might result in a drop in satisfaction levels with the program.

Also read Peer-to-Peer Recognition – Understanding the Nuts and Bolts

5. Outdated Modes of Recognition

Types of Award Certificates

Your organization may be using methods of recognition that are out-of-sync with the needs and expectations of the newer generation of employees, such as millennials. These methods may no longer be relevant or appropriate today.

They may include reward items such as trophies, medallions, expensive pens, and other memorabilia that might have diminished in relevance over time.

Hence, your employees might have lost interest in the program as they find it obsolete.  

You must regularly update the methods of recognition, be it the processes or the reward items, to align with the changing expectations of the employees.

Also, read A Guide for Adopting Modern Employee Recognition Practices

6. Inadequate Variety of Recognition

Employees of your organization might perceive the program as dull as there is not enough variety in your recognition program.

The same types of recognition might be repeating over time; this results in monotony for the employees. They might feel uninterested in participating in the program.

Your program must include various recognition, such as Spot Awards, Monthly, Quarterly, Annual Awards, Peer Recognition, etc., with attractive names.

It would be best if you tweaked the recognition mix over time to include new categories and remove underperforming ones.

Also, read 7 Best Hacks For Your Employee Recognition Program

7. Absence of a Digital Platform

Awards Event

The lack of a proper digital platform can be a severe handicap for your employee recognition platform. A majority of your employees would prefer a digital experience over offline methods.

Most employees would use digital platforms for almost everything in their personal and professional lives.

An offline recognition program might not be able to create the level of employee experience that your workforce would expect.

An excellent digital platform can enhance employee experience and help you automate and streamline the recognition process.

Also, read Key Reasons to Digitize an Employee Recognition Program.

8. Inadequate User Experience with Digital Platform

Why Employees not happy with the Recognition Program?

Suppose your employee recognition platform lacks critical features such as gamification, social media integration, user engagement, redemption module, etc. In that case, your employees will likely be unhappy with the program.

The usability and user experience are critical to the adoption of the platform by employees, both supervisors and others.

Also, gamification features such as reward points, redemption options, and leaderboards are critical to keep employees interested and excited about the program.

Your employees might not be happy with the recognition program if such features are missing from the platform.

Also, read How to Choose the Best Employee Recognition System for Your Organization.

9. Inadequate Integration with Other Platforms

Why Points-Based System Works Best For Employee Rewards And Recognition

Your employees will also use several other digital platforms at the workplace, such as Office 365, Google Workspace, MS Teams, Slack, HRMS, and the Intranet.

If your employee recognition platform is not integrated with these platforms, then employees might not be able to access the recognition platform easily.

Ideally, employees should be able to access the recognition platform from another platform through a single sign-on process.

Also, your employees should be able to view the rewards and recognition through other platforms. This, again, is an important feature that drives participation in the program.

Hence, your employees will likely be unhappy with the program and participate less if such integration is missing.

Also, read Integrate Your Employee Recognition Platform With Other Apps

10. Data-related Issues

How to Choose the Best Employee Recognition System for your Organization?

Notably, the employee data in your recognition platform should be in sync with the data in your HRMS or HRIS.

However, if that is not happening in real time or within a reasonable timeframe, then the data in your recognition system might be out-of-date and incorrect.

Employee details such as job titles, functions, teams, reporting managers, etc., might not reflect the scenario.

This may result in discrepancies and errors in the recognition process. Hence, employees are likely to feel unhappy about it.

11. Inadequate Value of Rewards


Whether it is a monetary or non-monetary form of recognition, if your employees do not perceive its value commensurate with their efforts or contribution, they will likely be unhappy.

Whatever the actual financial value of the reward, it is the perception of the employee that matters.

A good non-monetary award, such as personal interaction with the CEO or a skill development program, might be very valuable to the employees.

The perception of value might depend on the employee’s profile and other factors.

Also, read 10 Best Non-Monetary Awards for Employee Recognition

12. Inadequate Freedom of Choice

Gift Hamper

Employees today receive rewards and recognition that match their needs. Consequently, if your reward program does not offer this freedom of choice, it may fail to impress them.

If they receive the same rewards over and over again for different achievements and contributions makes the process seem more like a formality.

Items such as gift cards can give your employees the flexibility to pick and choose their preferred options.  

Also, read Freedom of Choice for Success of Employee Rewards Programs

13. Inadequate Communication/ Visibility

Social Distancing

If your organization has not promoted the program enough and made it visible, your employees might not be happy with it.

Employees like the social visibility around the recognition program such as prominent announcements, large award ceremonies, postings on internal and external social platforms, etc.

So, if your organization is not communicating about the program effectively, your employees will not likely be happy with it.

Also, read Communication for Successful Employee Rewards and Recognition

14. Inadequate Involvement of the Top Management

Top Management

When your top management does not actively participate in reward programs, it sends a negative message to the workforce.

They might start questioning the importance and credibility of the program in the absence of the top management.

The lack of the top management presence as part of the program communication, awards ceremonies, etc. can cause disappointment among the employees about the program.

Also, read The Role Of Top Management In Employee Rewards And Recognition

15. Inadequate Feedback Process

Since employee rewards and recognition programs aim to increase engagement, it is important to seek regular feedback from your employees about their experience.

Employees and their supervisors are important stakeholders of the program and their feedback is invaluable.

Ideally, you should collect regular feedback from them and modify the program accordingly. If you haven’t been doing that, you may be missing opportunities to make the program more effective.

Also, your employees would be unhappy about being unable to express their opinions or share their suggestions about the program.

Final Thoughts

Understanding why your employees are unhappy with the recognition program is the first step toward addressing the issue. This dissatisfaction can have a profound negative impact on the effectiveness of your program. It might even lead to a drop in employee engagement and motivation and an eventual decline in productivity and business growth.

Also, read How to Revive a Fading Employee Recognition Program.

Sagar Chaudhuri

Lead author: Sagar Chaudhuri, the Co-Founder and CEO of HiFives. He is an HR Tech Evangelist with over 25 years of corporate and entrepreneurship experience. In the past, Sagar has worked in leadership roles with companies such as Genpact, Infosys, and ICICI Bank. He has an engineering degree from IIT Kharagpur and an MBA from IIM Lucknow. Connect on LinkedIn

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HiFives is a global employee rewards, recognition and engagement SaaS platform that enables organizations to digitize, automate and transform their employee experience. It is used by 100+ large enterprises, small businesses and startups in manufacturing, retail, technology, financial services and media, across 25+ countries.