Use Recognition To Bolster Your Performance Management Program

by David Creelman | Posted | Performance Management

Use Recognition To Bolster Your Performance Management Program

The new approach to performance management emphasizes frequent feedback rather than annual appraisals. Doesn't that strike you as similar to how recognition systems work? In fact, new style performance management and traditional recognition programs have a lot in common. We can make performance management better by aligning it with our recognition programs.

Foundational Principles

The same four foundational principles of effective feedback underpin both continuous performance management and recognition:

  • Timely. Feedback or recognition should be given soon after a behavior occurs. This helps reinforce positive behaviors and gives employees the chance to act quickly if correction is needed.
  • Tailored. Different employees want different kinds of feedback. Managers should adjust how they use recognition and feedback to suit individual employees.
  • Specific. Feedback should be specific. Describe the behavior, why it stood out and give some guidance for
  • Frequent. Providing frequent feedback helps everyone get comfortable with giving and receiving feedback - both positive and constructive.

This similarity means that you can treat both recognition and performance management as part of a combined program. The only significant difference is that a recognition program adds the opportunity to give tangible rewards, like prizes or bonuses, along with feedback.

Implementation Checklist

For continuous performance management + recognition we need to:

  1. Train managers on how to use the system you've established in your company, whether you use forms or a technology-based solution.
  2. Train managers on how to give feedback and when to emphasize that feedback with a tangible recognition award.
  3. Track how often feedback & recognition is being given. Some of this can be automatic and some will have to be done by surveying employees.
  4. Audit the quality of feedback. Effective feedback needs to follow the four principles outlined above. An audit provides HR and managers a way to ask employees about the specifics of the feedback and recognition they have been given.
  5. Remind managers to give feedback and recognition. This can be automated and it works much better if you have been tracking the frequency and auditing the quality of feedback.

Keeping an eye on whether feedback and recognition is timely, tailored, specific and frequent will give a good insight on whether the program is working. Add in stakeholder satisfaction surveys and HR will be well-placed to continually improve the program and build a culture of feedback and recognition.

Overcoming the Motivation Barrier

Both recognition and continuous performance management programs can suffer if managers don't want to participate in them. In fact, you can be pretty sure you'll face managers who don't like or even believe in giving feedback or recognition. While it may not be possible to get every manager on board, you should have mechanisms to address this issue:

  • Have senior management make it clear that ongoing performance management and recognition are part of a manager's job. It's important that they not undermine that message by failing to do it themselves.
  • Provide evidence that ongoing performance management and recognition improves employee performance in a way that will help the manager achieve their own goals.


The new trend of continuous performance management has a lot in common with traditional recognition programs. We can draw on our experience with recognition to figure out what we need to do to successfully implement continuous performance management. Furthermore, given that the two programs are so similar, we should fold recognition into the performance management program rather than treating it as a separate initiative.

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