Creating an employee recognition program that rewards workers for meeting goals or performing better than expected is an effective way to thank staff, improve productivity and keep employees motivated. The rewards are big for your business or department, too, when you implement such a program -- a 2012 research report mentioned in Forbes says companies that take time to recognize employees outside of tenure-based awards outperform companies that don’t recognize their workers.

Research the Concept

Survey your employees and management team about what they’d like to see in an employee recognition program. Decide what type of program you want to use, such as on-the-spot appreciation, longer-term recognition, acknowledgement from peers or a combination of all three. For example, allow employees and managers to give points that result in a larger reward once a certain amount are accumulated. Asking a few staff members to participate in the design of your program helps boost employee support of the idea.

Establish Goals, Behaviors and Training

Determine what goals you want to achieve with your program. For instance, you may want to reach specific sales targets, curtail customer service complaints or reduce injuries or accidents in the next quarter. Decide on how long the program will be, whether ongoing or for a quarter or two.

Tap into what kind of training your staff and management teams need to reach these goals, as this indicates you’re willing to put money and resources into helping your employees gain recognition. Next, identify the behaviors that show employees are stepping up to the plate. For instance, if you offer phone customer service, demonstrate what extra actions your representatives can take to better handle a specific problem. Then, train your manager to recognize when employees take those actions.

Choose Rewards

Create a tiered program of rewards, such as small gift certificates or a free lunch for on-the-spot rewards. For long-term rewards, provide choice that meet the various interests of your employees. Hcareers, an organization that serves the hospitality industry, reports that Joie De Vivre Hotels of San Francisco offered a major prize of a month-long sabbatical to the highest performing team member. To simplify tracking of your rewards programs, use cloud-based applications, such as Achievers or GiveAWow.

Launch the Program

Make the program launch a company-wide event so your staff recognizes the importance you place on rewarding them for extra effort. Bring in snacks and beverages, and decorate for the kick-off. Explain the program with a short slideshow presentation or on posters. Talk about how the nomination process works, and explain what the business plans to do to help employees gain recognition. Focus on the rewards, and make them sound as exciting and fun as possible to motivate your employees.

Remind and Reinforce

Periodically send email or make announcements about how the program is going. Mention employees who have been rewarded as well as any additional training that’s available to help employees gain recognition. If your staff is technically savvy, consider using an app such as iAppreciate that lets you and employees post messages about the program, announce rewards and tie them into social media sites.