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Formal Recognition: An Important Piece of the Recognition Puzzle

In order for a recognition program to support a culture of appreciation, all the pieces of the recognition puzzle must be in place. Formal recognition often serves as the corner pieces to the puzzle, bringing the whole picture together. Formal recognition is what staff strives for year-round. It is often the most prestigious recognition you can achieve at an organization.


Formal recognition awards an elite number of people only once a year. These programs are most commonly already in place and are easily identified. Many people know formal recognition by the title Service Awards, Employee of the Year, or Retirement Awards. These are the most commonly practiced formal recognition programs, according to a 2005 WorldatWork and Recognition Professionals International member survey.


Formal Recognition Defined

Formal recognition is different from informal or day-to-day recognition in that it is supported by a defined structure and process. Awarding a formal recognition award usually begins with a written nomination by an individual in a management or leadership position. The nomination is written to persuade a selection committee why the nominee is deserving of the award. A strong nomination sites specific behaviors and actions when an employee demonstrated the criteria of the award. The nomination may describe how the individual exhibited the company values in her work interactions. Formal recognition award criteria should link directly to the organizational goals and values.


Although only a small percentage of employees receive formal recognition, the honor is awarded at a special public event. The event is a prime opportunity to communicate to the entire company the values being recognized. Formal awards recognize individuals for their accomplishments, but it also motivates others to earn the honor themselves.



What Formal Recognition Looks Like

To a Mid-west food distributor, the formal Gold Club award is no trivial matter. Employees must be employed with the company at least one year, demonstrate the company’s core values, and have proved their contribution to the bottom line. The rigorous criteria make the formal recognition of the Gold Club one of the most sought after awards of the 11,000+ employee company.


Employees work diligently to receive the award, and the formal recognition program ensures that they are appropriately rewarded. All recipients receive a gold ring designed with the year, company logo, and their respective department imprinted on it. Their workstations are decorated when they return to work the next day, and they are celebrated for weeks following their reception of the award.


The company uses the public setting of an all staff gathering to host the award ceremony. The setting motivates all staff to practice the behaviors and core values of the company in hopes of earning the award. Employees observe the importance of the award as top company leadership personally greets the winners when they are announced. Employee winners are also presented with a symbolic award on stage by the individual who nominated them for the award.


The Gold Club is a successful formal recognition program for this company because it has a set structure, nominating criteria aligned with the company values, strong leadership support, and motivates employees with public recognition and rewards.


Starting Formal Recognition in your Organization

Formal recognition is an important part to your complete recognition program. As you set about creating a formal award program for your organization, align the program criteria with your organization’s desired behaviors. Turn to your mission, vision, goals or values to help define this criteria. Your formal recognition program should be the pinnacle of recognition in your organization, recognizing the most dedicated top performers you have within your ranks. By adding the piece of formal recognition to your recognition puzzle, you will see a complete picture of motivated, inspired workforce joining together to achieve a more successful organization.


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