A strong corporate recognition culture not only inspires and motivates employees, it also attracts and retains top talent—a win for the company and a win for the employee. There’s nothing we like better at The Great Game of Business!

A recognition culture doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t happen overnight. Looking at best or promising practices can save you the trouble of reinventing the wheel. If someone else has already found an effective way to resolve an issue or advance a cause, it makes sense to consider using it, too. Though not an exhaustive list, below are some best practices for you to consider when creating a recognition culture.

1. Start at the top

There’s a reason “Change Starts at the Top” made it on to Jack Stack’s Higher Laws of Business list (#10)! As with all people-based initiatives, top management support and participation is essential to the establishment of a true recognition culture. Senior leadership modeling the recognition behaviors desired from all employees is the most effective way to communicate to everyone, “This is important, it matters to our success.” It’s that simple. Without management walking the talk, the culture won’t happen.

2. Recognize early & often

In a robust recognition culture, employees will experience recognition from day one. They’ll receive information about formal programs during the on-boarding process and the company will deliver on the promise within 100 days of employment when they attain pre-established new employee milestones. . . and that’s just the beginning!

3. Make it easy

It must be easy for everyone in the organization to express recognition and appreciation. Supported by up-front training, a healthy mix of formal and informal programs including some hosted online or on social media make it easy both managers and peers to recognize a “job-well-done”.

4. Be specific

To be valued by the receiver, recognition must go beyond “atta girl” or “atta boy”. It should be given for specific behaviors, not just generic qualities. Awards should acknowledge measurable results. Employees especially value types of recognition that memorialize their efforts/results (think something that can be displayed or shown to others) or explain in published venues exactly what they’re being recognized for.

 5. Connect the dots

It’s a win, win when you take time to tie appreciation to company strategy and goals. The employee knows exactly how they’re contributing to the long-term success of the organization and the company benefits from a better return on investment for resources spent on appreciation. It also gets everyone focused on the same business goals while contributing to a culture of appreciation.

6. Tell stories

Stories are powerful, evoke emotion and support memorable appreciation moments. Create remarkable recognition experiences, employees will tell (and retell) the story to others and a culture will be created and sustained.

In addition, it’s important to get as many people as is practical and possible involved in your recognition efforts. All employees must feel they own the responsibility of sharing recognition, appreciation and praise with their peers, colleagues and superiors. “Everyone-to-everyone” recognition is the foundation of a true recognition culture.

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This article was written in conjunction with Donna Coppock's session presented at the 25th Annual Gathering of Games. The Gathering of Games took place September 6-8, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. To learn more about next year's conference, click here.