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ARCHIVED - Service Improvement Initiative - How to Guide

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How Do We Make It Happen?

Step 9
Recognition: Celebrating Success

People need to be recognized when they do a good job. It is not only fair but also eminently practical since recognition and incentives improve performance. Many public service organizations have established recognition programs. Existing programs should be reviewed to ensure that service improvement and client satisfaction measures are used, and good client service rewarded. If you do not already have such a program, you should institute one as part of your service improvement initiative. Here are some key elements for establishing a new program or reviewing an existing one.

  1. Widely Based

    It is important that recognition be fair and open to everyone who contributes to improved service. It should be based on a wide variety of sources; information on who is doing well based upon the achievement of client satisfaction targets; or which staff are most appreciated by clients and why. Information should be gathered that shows contributions to the organization's mission and performance for each program, by each work unit, and, where possible, by each employee.

  2. Which Results To Reward

    Decide what results to reward, remembering that it is advisable to have a wide range, from extraordinary achievement to ordinary accomplishments. Make the recognition appropriate to the achievement.

    Employees are the clients of the recognition program. As such, solicit their opinions on what should be rewarded and whom they think should be recognized.

  3. Methods to Use to Recognize, Reward and Celebrate

    The methods to recognize staff are endless, but tend to fall into five main styles. The most successful recognition systems adopt a mixture of all five, while keeping the program simple to understand and administer, transparent and fair.

    The styles are:

    • Interpersonal Recognition

    A simple, effective, and valued way to recognize staff is to listen to them – through surveys, in meetings, and face to face. Acting on what they say enhances that recognition. Dropping in to give praise or sending a congratulatory e-mail or note can work wonders.

    • Symbolic Recognition

    There are many effective, low-cost symbolic ways to show recognition, such as certificates of appreciation, coupons to the movies or dinner out, or staff appreciation days. Use creativity when developing methods and ask employees to suggest ways for recognition.

    • Financial Rewards

    For the most part, policy on major financial rewards is decided centrally. But some modest rewards may be possible.

    • Give External Recognition

    Many outsiders may assist your organization to attain its goals and this contribution should be recognized. Create opportunities to show your appreciation, such as volunteer appreciation nights or plaques to present to other agencies.

    • Seek External Recognition

    A number of competitive awards are given for good public management. Seek them out.

  4. Implement the Program, With Attention to Good Management

    It is not uncommon for recognition programs to fall apart once they are created because of poor implementation. Leadership is critical, and managers must demonstrate their commitment to the program. Ensure the person responsible for the program is someone who gets things done. Ensure the program is visible, adequately funded and sustainable, and reaches into all areas of the organization. Also, maintain a balance between recognition of the big and small successes. Cynicism creeps in if management attention is only paid to big successes.

  5. Publicize the Results

    Results should be shared with your staff and the public. The public is tired of whitewashing and spin doctoring. But they never seem to tire of good stories. Public recognition is another important way of honouring your staff.

  6. Close the Circle

    Once the program is underway, it needs to be reviewed to determine if it is having the desired impact. Celebration is not the end of the process. Even as the cleaning staff is taking down the last of the decorations from an awards banquet, the organization needs to recommit to the process of surveying the clients, revising the plan, and reaching for higher levels of service.

The Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management awarded its 1998 bronze prize for service innovation to the team at Industry Canada who put together SchoolNet, a project to connect every library and school in Canada to the Internet. The team celebrated that success and then promptly set the loftier goal of providing 250,000 connected computers, the equivalent of one per classroom. The next year, they won the Government in Technology gold medal. Taking pride in their work, exceeding expectations, celebrating their success, while pressing on to improve their service – SchoolNet is helping build children's skills for the knowledge economy.

Checklist for Step 9

In recognition of your organization's achievements, you have a method to recognise and celebrate success that has, at a minimum, these features:

  • It is based on solid data, both quantitative and qualitative.
  • It is client-centred, with your staff as the clients.
  • It recognizes performance improvement, client satisfaction, target achievement, as well as the traditional criteria.
  • It blends financial rewards, interpersonal, symbolic, and external recognition.
  • Small successes are not overlooked.
  • Results are shared and made public.
  • It loops back into steps one through eight, as part of continuous improvement.