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  • Writer's pictureSinéad Egan

Align Recognition Programs to Organisational Culture

Question: Is Your recognition programme aligned with the culture you want to have? When recognition is discussed in the same breath as organisational culture, it’s often in the slant of how rewarding employees for a job well done will create a positive work environment and help shape the workplace culture.  All is well and good, but let’s turn this on its head for just a second. 

Shaping Your Organisations Recognition Strategy

All good workplaces embrace recognition; that’s a given.  But what about actively shaping your recognition strategy so it aligns with your organisational culture? 

On the surface of this question, it’s easy to assume that not aligning recognition to culture will not cause any drawbacks.  Any recognition is good recognition, right?

Talent attraction being the buzzword of the moment, let’s say that you are a recruitment manager for a company that prides itself on customer service, and you are considering ways to incentivise your team. 

You decide to reward your recruiters with a bonus if they meet time to fill targets by closing all roles within thirty days.  They achieve this and get a bonus.  A month later, you receive word that the onboarded candidates are not performing well and lack basic people skills, which is starting to cause a slide in engagement. 

The Drawbacks of Perverse Incentives

This is an example of a perverse incentive, a form of recognition that might do more harm than good.  Perverse incentives can set back a company’s culture and affect other more measurable aspects of life at work.  In this case, surely it would have been better not to have incentivised anything at all?

How to Align Your Recognition Strategy

Aligning your recognition programmes to your culture will avoid perverse incentivisation, as well as generally taking your recognition offerings to a whole new dimension.  This can begin with revisiting your organisational vision and values, asking questions like “What does my company stand for?”  and “Based on this, what should we recognise and reinforce?” 

You must also consider what you are recognising.  In the case of our beleaguered recruitment team, recognising ‘time to fill’ might not be as important as ‘quality of hire’, considering the focus on customer service.  Assuming the recruitment team is attuned to the company’s vision and values, would they be as driven working to hire people quickly versus working to hire high performers who are a good culture fit?

How to Inform Your Recognition Strategy

Of course, it couldn’t hurt to listen to the people who you are recognising, either.  Some of the best ways to get information on recognition could be from stay interviews, engagement surveys, or simply watercooler moments and walking around the office asking the team what makes them tick and what might get them to tick more.  Listen and learn from what you hear and commit to implementing interventions that will make a meaningful difference. 

One example of these moments from the UK is a courier company formerly known as Hermes.  Hermes’ goal was excellence in parcel delivery; however, the reality was a little less… rosy, mainly due to the firm using self-employed couriers with few rights and little to no emotional investment in the company.  Hermes rebranded to Evri earlier this year and committed to driving excellence (no pun intended), in part through a renewed focus on the people that actually do the delivery; their couriers.  Evri introduced a generous pension arrangement for its self-employed couriers, in an important first step to taking care of the people that get the parcels to wherever they need to be. 


We know that recognition matters, but it’s easy to undo good intentions by focusing on the wrong things in the wrong way. Aligning your recognition programmes to company culture creates a symbiosis that will align effort to values, creating a powerful force for good in your organisation.


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