Giving someone a watch for sticking around for 30 years seems like an outdated practice in this day and age. Especially given the fact that the majority of employees won't stay at an organizations for five years, let alone 30. Yet most recognition programs continue to focus on more traditional methods of acknowledging employees, despite every indication that they are not particularly effective. The Conference Board of Canada conducts an annual, Canada-wide survey on compensation trends. HR practitioners from 383 mainly larger organizations (of 500 or more employees) responded to the 2016 survey. Principal Research Associate Nicole Stewart authored "The Power of Appreciation: Rewards and Recognition Practices in Canadian Organizations," a report based on the survey. Stewart says that the intent of the research was to "get a state of the nation on what's going on with rewards and recognition." One of the most significant findings of the survey was how dissatisfied people are with their recognition programs. Less than half of respondents (48%) were satisfied with their organization\u2019s rewards and recognition practices; and even fewer believed that their employees were satisfied (46%). \u201cI work with a lot of total rewards executives as part of my job, and it\u2019s an area that organizations are very interested in doing a better job on,\u201d says Stewart. It\u2019s tough, she says. \u201cYou\u2019ve got all the bulk of your resources allocated to long-service and retirement. It\u2019s hard because you\u2019ve had those programs in place for a long time. They recognize corporate memory, and they\u2019re fair because the criteria is very clear, but when we asked organizations what\u2019s the top objective of their programs, it was to increase employee engagement.\u201d As a matter of fact, 69% of the organizations surveyed cited increasing employee engagement as their top objective. However, Stewart says that when you look at what actually drives engagement, it\u2019s being appreciated, having your manager recognize you\u2019ve done a good job and feeling that your organization appreciates you \u2014 things that are all better achieved through manager-to employee or peer-to-peer recognition rather than long-service rewards. Annie Boilard, organizational development specialist and Vice-President at Conseil Formation Coaching in Montreal, also sees organizations struggling to make their recognition programs effective. She points out that while most organizations have recognition programs and most managers believe that they are giving recognition, the majority of employees don\u2019t feel that they\u2019re being recognized. \u201cThere is a difference between thinking you do it and actually doing it for real,\u201d she says. So what does work? HOW TO ROCK AT EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION \u201cFor recognition to work it has to be precise, it has to be personalized to the person you\u2019re giving it to and it has to be close to the event,\u201d says Boilard. Stewart has similar advice for organizations. She identifies five elements that need to be taken into consideration for a recognition program to be successful: \tTHE GOAL OF THE PROGRAM Whether you\u2019re starting from scratch or want to improve existing programs, think about what you want to achieve and then work back from there. So, if you\u2019re trying to improve engagement, think about what drives engagement and tailor your initiatives accordingly. \tEMPLOYEE PREFERENCES When you\u2019re recognizing someone, it\u2019s important to think about what would be most meaningful to that person. Stewart points out that a lot of people think that recognition needs to be \u201cbig and splashy\u201d but that\u2019s not necessarily meaningful. Not everyone likes public recognition. Some employees might be touched by an all-staff email sent out recognizing their accomplishments, but others might be much happier with a private thank you from their manager. \tTIMELINESS It\u2019s important to ensure that recognition is tied to a specific accomplishment and delivered in a timely manner for maximum impact. \tSINCERE DELIVERY Recognition that is delivered sincerely is going to be a lot more meaningful than a gesture that is perceived as impersonal or just going through the motions. \tWORKPLACE CULTURE Not all types of recognition are going to work for all organizations. It\u2019s important to think about your work culture and tap into it. Think about the types of things that work well in your organization and built on that. HOW TO SUCK AT EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION When it comes to what not to do, Stewart jokes, \u201cI would say the opposite of all of those things .\u201d \tNO TRAINING AND COACHING To have a recognition program that is fair and effective, it\u2019s essential to train managers and provide them with the same criteria. \u201cTraining managers on recognition is pretty important,\u201d she adds. \u201cDon\u2019t assume that everybody is natural at giving recognition \u2014 it doesn\u2019t come naturally to all managers to be great at recognizing people. And people have different standards in terms of recognition. So don\u2019t forget to support managers.\u201d \tNOT GIVING RECOGNITION For Boilard, the biggest don\u2019t is not giving recognition at all. \u201cAll the managers who just say merci or thank you at the end of an email. That\u2019s not a recognition. To me that is the black hole,\u201d she says. \u201cI think every time a company tries to recognize people \u2014 even if it\u2019s an idea or a program that isn\u2019t very popular \u2014 it\u2019s always better after than before,\u201d says Boilard. \u201cThe worst thing is to not do anything \u2026 If you don\u2019t give recognition, often people become insecure. They don\u2019t know if they are good or they are not good. Insecurities lead to bad work climates \u2026 Employees disengage, they often go and look for another job.\u201d \tHAVING OUTDATED IDEAS Another mistake she sees is companies holding on to outdated attitudes, for example that employee recognition is expensive, when giving acknowledgement for a job well done needn\u2019t cost anything. Though long-service recognition was by far the most prevalent type of recognition program amongst respondent organizations on the survey \u2014 accounting for 56% of all recognition spending \u2014 Stewart and Boilard don\u2019t see long service as being particularly effective.\u201cYears of experience doesn\u2019t work very well because \u2026 it\u2019s not personalized for the person, it\u2019s not close to the event and it\u2019s not precise. It just happens, it happens to everybody, no one did something spectacular to get it. It doesn\u2019t give the employee this warm feeling inside \u2026 Something very precise and thoughtful is much more powerful,\u201d says Boilard.\u201cLooking at how long people stay at work on average \u2014 and that\u2019s not just millennials, it\u2019s everyone switching around \u2014 those programs aren\u2019t appealing,\u201d says Stewart. \u201cSome people do stay a long time and it\u2019s important to recognize them, but it\u2019s not going to be the bulk of your staff. Performance based recognition has broader appeal, because it doesn\u2019t matter how old you are or your tenure.\u201dShe goes on to say that the difficulty with long-service and retirement recognition is that, once you have them in place, you risk upsetting people by making changes to those programs. CHEAP AND EASY IS EFFECTIVE \u201cWe asked organizations what programs they got the most value out of and it was peer-to-peer,\u201d says Stewart. \u201cA lot of the time there\u2019s not necessarily any monetary-type recognition attached to them. It could just be thank-you cards or ecards being sent. What they\u2019re really good for is spreading recognition \u2026 and encouraging it throughout the organization. Our statistics don\u2019t necessarily show that but in terms of people planning for the future \u2026 I do think it\u2019s definitely a point of interest for organizations.\u201d Boilard also points out the growing need for peer-to-peer recognition, giving one of her healthcare clients as an example. \u201cThere have been big changes to the healthcare system here in Quebec. We currently have one situation where we have one manager for 115 direct reports. Recognition on a one-on-one basis just is not going to happen.\u201d She says that in the case of international management and distance management, peer-to-peer also becomes very important. Of the organizations that were surveyed, 89% had some type of formal rewards and recognition program in place. Recognition is clearly an important driver of employee engagement and thus the profitability of organizations. Another survey of more than 200,000 people in 189 countries conducted in 2014 by the Boston Consulting Group and The Network revealed that appreciation is the greatest factor in employee happiness. Yet many organizations struggle to make their recognition programs effective. While long-service recognition programs aren\u2019t likely to be going anywhere any time soon, organizations can benefit from focusing more on low-cost manager-to-manager and peer-to-peer initiatives. NO-BUDGET RECOGNITION IDEAS Implement these cheap and easy ideas to spread that warm, fuzzy feeling in your organization. Thanks to Annie Boilard for sharing her clients\u2019 favs: \tLOVIN\u2019 YOU! Get one, two or three teddy bears that employees can give each other in thanks. When you get one, you have one week to give it to another praiseworthy person. \tTASTY TREAT! Fill a jar with a treat that a deserving colleague will enjoy. When you receive it, enjoy and refill to give to someone else. Because you share your treat with others, they ask you what you did to get it and it spreads the positive vibe around. \tPICTURE PERFECT! Take pictures to keep track of all the recognition that takes place. Send these snapshots of recognition gestures to one person who collates them all into a framed picture. \tROCK\u2019 N WALL! Everyone has to write something positive once a month on a wall or whiteboard \u2014 something they\u2019re thankful for, which often results in employees recognizing other employees. Once a month erase it and start over.