In my 25 years of consulting with companies to help everyone better recognize, praise, and value their employees, I’ve found seven key steps that all need to be in place in order to create and sustain the results the organization is trying to achieve. Implementing these core employee recognition strategies helps companies to create a culture of recognition in which employees feel valued for the work they are doing well, driving employee performance and pride along the way, and helping to better energize and retain their employees.

“Dr. Bob has been a key partner of our employee recognition team to help us elevate our programs. His research and tools for recognition and engagement are unparalleled. From 1-on-1 consulting to large presentations, he educates, inspires, and delights managers with his research based-approach to employee recognition.”

—Christi Gilhoi, Manager
Employee Engagement
Qualcomm, Inc.

The 7-Step Process for Effective Employee Recognition Strategies

1- BASELINE ANALYSIS – What is working and what is not?

All progress on improving an organization’s culture, through employee recognition strategies, needs to first start with identifying what the current culture is, that is, how employees are currently treated in the organization and how employees feel about working for the organization. Specifically identifying how employees want to be recognized serves as a foundation for strategizing how you can provide more of those elements to employees when they do good work.

Dr. Bob’s research shows that the top employee motivators tend to be intangible and interpersonal forms of recognition that can be provided by any manager in any work environment in a timely, specific, and meaningful way. You don’t have to start with a huge budget to make progress on this topic.

2- BUSINESS CASE – What results do you want?

Once you know more clearly what your employees want, you need to clarify what you most want from them. Ideally, this should flow from the organization’s mission and strategic objectives that form the business case for recognition. Having the business case firmly front of mind helps justify the effort and expense necessary in order to get those results.

Once you know what you want, the credibility of recognition activities will be enhanced, making it easier to expand your focus and repeat the process, leveraging even greater results. Dr. Bob will help ensure all parts of your initiative support achieving the results you want.

3- RECOMMENDATIONS – What is your plan?

Once you are clear about your organizational goals and the current state of employee recognition in your organization, you need to create a plan to move from the current state to the desired state. Your plan should lay out the specifics on what will happen, how it will happen, and who will do what. This typically includes (a) identifying one or more the organization sponsors; (b) a plan for reframing the Heads (conceptual model), Hands (skillset), and Hearts (passion for action) of all managers; (c) forming a volunteer recognition task force from a cross-section of the organization; and (d) measuring results, initially to create a baseline, and then periodically thereafter as you move forward to document the progress that is being made.

Dr. Bob will make specific recommendations based upon where you currently are and where you want to get to. All recommendations will be customized to your existing organizational needs and culture.

4- COMMUNICATION ROLLOUT – How do you involve, inspireand inform?

Communication is an essential element for success in reshaping your culture. Employees will be told about the organization’s plan and why the initiative is important to the organization, their role and accountability in the process, and that of their leaders. The next steps of the journey will be outlined as well as how progress will be tracked. They will understand the tools available and the organization’s ongoing long-term, strategic commitment to this effort. Presentations, fliers, emails, and discussions may all be used to get employees excited about the initiative.

Dr. Bob will help you launch the marketing campaign of your recognition program—creating the awareness, expectation, and anticipation of things to come. He will help you “theme” the look, feel, and activities of your organizational initiative.

5- REFRAMING and TRAINING – What needs to be done differently?

Most managers don’t use recognition principles. In my research and experience, the main reason why managers don’t use the power of recognition is that they “Don’t know how to do it well.” Dr. Bob will help to sell your management on the importance of providing timely, sincere, and specific recognition to their employee and how they can do so even with the constraints of limited time and resources.

Through the use of his research and best practices, managers will learn the daily behaviors and techniques that lead to effective recognition practices with employees, and ultimately to achieving desired organizational results.

6- FOLLOW THROUGH – How do you keep the momentum going?

All progress comes through systematic follow-up. Without consistent follow-up, the program will typically fail to gain traction and sputter to a close. The follow-up plan helps keep the momentum going so that new behaviors become habits and recognition becomes a valued and ongoing aspect of the organization’s culture.

Dr. Bob will serve as an external accountability resource who will keep you focused on your follow-up plan. He’ll provide useful strategies for amplifying positive results, getting a critical mass of leaders using employee recognition and the tools provided them, and overcoming problems and obstacles along the way. Dr. Bob will help ensure your plan will successfully operate at the individual, group, and organizational levels.

7- CELEBRATION – How to take praise recognition and thanks to the next level?

It’s important to celebrate success along the way and doing so will help encourage the continuing success of your efforts. Group or organizational celebrations focus on highlighting progress made. They show employees that you’re delighted with the performance they’ve achieved. The public part of the celebration helps people—individually and collectively—take pride in the impact of their efforts. Celebrations help get people excited about what they’ve achieved as well and get them interested in taking on new challenges, setting the stage for creating new objectives to achieve the next level of performance. Celebrations also help spread enthusiasm and solidify interpersonal relationships for moving forward.

Dr. Bob will help you identify progress in your organization and creative ways those milestones can be celebrated.

“Dr. Bob’s work is inspirational and packed with ideas and best practices on motivating, rewarding, recognizing, and engaging teams! We were able to operationalize his work and create a rewards and recognition program that changed the culture of our organization reduced turnover and saved us millions of dollars in just the first year.”

—Heather Machado, Chair
Nursing Recruitment and Retention Team
Hartford Hospital
Hartford, Connecticut

Bob Nelson, Ph.D., is the world’s leading authority on employee recognition and engagement. He’s worked with thousands of companies on these topics, including 80percent of the Fortune 500, spoken on six continents, and authored related books on the topic that have sold over 5 million copies. For more information, visit