The Three Rules of Reward and Recognition

Reward and recognition

Reward and recognition must have a place within the framework of an organisation’s performance management strategy. It is however one cog and should not be the basis upon which all positive elements of performance management are structured.

Reward and recognition (R&R) is always a contentious function of a manager’s responsibilities, with varying opinions on its’ worth and place. The spectrum runs from those who believe that rewarding and recognising employees for their results and behaviours is a key to workforce motivation and engagement, through to those who believe it is a waste of time.


However, reward and recognition play an important role and if you don’t do it, you could be considered to be lacking emotional intelligence, ungrateful or out of touch. However, many managers choose to not do so as either:

  1. They have seen the downside – either the wrong person recognised, or the same people being recognised and the R&R becoming an entitlement.
  2. They don’t understand the nuances and how it can be done – and how it can be done effectively without a budget.


So, what are the options for reward and recognition?

  1. Formal R&R: awards, certificates, plaques, bonus, points, movie tickets, vouchers, etc.
  2. Informal R&R: Saying thank you, showing gratitude, etc.


There are many variables when considering which type of R&R to use: the size of your team, your culture, how often you do it, teams or individuals, just your group or other groups you work with, are there other R&R schemes across the company? You need to make an informed choice, and one that will suit your team.

If you have no budget, informal R&R such as saying thank you is a start. Reading out achievements in front of the rest of the team provides excellent recognition, and also promotes sharing and best practice among the team.

It is also important to understand the difference between recognition for an achievement, versus appreciation for effort for someone even if they did not perhaps achieve the desired results. Both are noteworthy and in need of recognition.

It is crucial to also align reward and recognition with whatever you are trying to achieve in your business results of behaviour / culture change. If employees are being rewarded for things that don’t drive the right results or right behaviours, people will question why. If you are trying to drive a behavioural or cultural change, then recognise those who show the right behaviours to promote them as a positive role model.

In addition to developing employees, managers are responsible for performance managing them, setting objectives as well as rewarding and recognising them. Peer nominated awards are an ideal formal option whilst informal recognition needs to be done face-to-face in the moment by the manager and in line with achieving results or showing excellent behaviours.

However whilst R&R does play a role in a managers responsibilities, it must not be an emphasis or distract managers from real drivers of good performance being on-going discussions on development and objectives.

Read more about iHR Australia’s training for front line managers and performance management.


About the Author – Alan Colvin

With over 26 years’ experience in roles across Finance and Administration and HR, Alan has amassed extensive experience in managing people and teams in large multi-national organisation environments. As an accomplished HR professional, Alan has expertise across the full human resources function including designing and embedding major workplace cultural change, performance management, change management, talent acquisition and retention, succession planning and employee engagement programs. Alan facilitates iHR Australia’s Front Line Manager & Anti Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment workshops.