Middle managers hold the keys to successful recognition schemes

If your business is going make a significant change to your culture, like embracing all the benefits of employee recognition, you need to empower your middle management to make it happen. That means two things:

  1. You have to communicate these benefits to your middle management and secure their buy-in
  2. You have to give those managers space, time and resources to make these changes happen

Without taking these two points on board, your good ideas will fizzle out and limp half-heartedly into the minds of your staff, as we’ll explain below. The good news is, it’s entirely in your control to secure the best outcome for your business.

Communicate first

To secure real investment from your middle management, you have to earn it. Before launching anything, be sure to make sure they’re included, heard, and that you talk about the positives of your recognition plan.

This isn’t just an exercise in laying out the benefits in a presentation deck and expecting your managers to jump on board. This is your chance to pass on your own emotion, conviction and belief in the changes you want to make.

A combination of the two is what’s going to let your employees become intellectually and emotionally involved in your new recognition scheme. This is also an opportunity for your staff to talk back, express their concerns and have them addressed.

Smoothing out unreasonable objections, and dealing with legitimate objections with action, will make your gatekeepers feel far more confident in your plans.

Give managers room to breathe

You, presumably at the decision-maker level, may believe whole-heartedly in the obvious benefits of embracing employee recognition. And with the right communication ahead of time, your middle managers will too. But here’s the rub: everyone, regardless of whether it’s actually true or not, perceives their workload to be at 100% capacity, and you’re going to be talking about giving them an extra responsibility.

Ultimately, those middle managers are bound to prioritise their performance goals over their cultural goals. A manager that excels in their cultural input without their department being financially viable simply isn’t viable. That’s why they need a bit of space and flexibility for adjustments and new behaviour.

If you thrust a behavioural change on to a team, without any empathy for their current workload, it becomes a sullen box-ticking exercise. Middle managers and their teams will pay lip service, out of a need to appear invested in something the company demands, but the real cultural changes won’t be felt among those teams.

Take the opportunity

If you take this advice to heart and carry it out, your company will have managers that feel enthused about your ideas. They’ll become invaluable assets in making sure recognition schemes are embraced by teams. In turn, your company enjoys all the benefits that recognition has to offer.

Every year we help our clients launch recognition schemes that drive cultural improvements in their clients.