Let me put this out there and see what happens. Recognition "Programs" don't work. Now that a bunch of you have jumped up to shout in protest, especially if you are the ones that authorized the expenditure of funds for these programs, let me explain. Recognition works. Recognition Programs rarely do.
Intention & Timing
What is the difference? Two things; intention and timing. Most "programs" have some form of intent like safety. Safety is the behavior they want to recognize. Yet, I have stood in my fair share of town hall or staff meetings where a safety recognition award was being handed out, literally months after it was achieved. Usually, in that gap between the time it was done and, the time it was given out, another safety "event" occurred, and the clock was reset. Needless to say, the impact is negligible.
Timing is crucial for reinforcing and driving a desired behavior like safety or any other performance-related behavior. A reinforcer (in this case, a simple acknowledgment of a "good job") should happen as close to the desired activity as possible. The further away from the desired behavior, the weaker the reinforcement. It is weak because of extended timing, but it is also weaker because it has to be connected to the specific action (intention). The longer the timeline for recognition, the less clear the desired behavior is in the mind of the person receiving the reinforcement.
Removing the Lag Time
Recognition programs are typically lagging reinforcers, and with longer lag times, the less effective becomes the reinforcement. To really have recognition drive performance, you need two things; you need to know what action you are looking to enforce, and you need to be there to catch them when they are doing it.
Food for thought, who should be the primary reinforcer? More about that in our next blog. Performance Leadership - Think About It!