Let me put this out there and let's see what happens. Recognition "Programs" don't work. Now that a bunch of you have jumped up to shout your indignation (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 intention like safety for example. Safety is the behaviour they want to recognize. But I have stood in my fair share of town hall or staff meetings where a major safety recognition award was being handed out literally months after it was achieved. Usually between the time it was achieved and the time it was given out a safety "event" occurred the clock was reset in any case. Needless to say the impact was negligible.
Timing is crucial for reinforcing and driving a desired behaviour like safety or any other performance related behaviour. A reinforcer (in this case a simple acknowledgement of a "good job") should happen as close to the desired behaviour as possible. The further away from the desired behaviour the weaker the reinforcement. It is weaker because of timing but it is also weaker because it has to be contingent on a specific behaviour (intention). The longer the timeline for recognition the less clear the behaviour is in the mind of the person receiving the recognition.
Removing the Lag Time
Recognition is always going to be a lagging reinforcer. The greater the lag the less effective the reinforcement. You may have figured out that for immediate reinforcement to happen you need to know what you are looking to enforce and you need to be there to see the behaviour happen. So who should be the primary reinforcer? More about that in our next blog. Performance Leadership - Think About It!