by Andrew Brown

The mix up

Reward and recognition programs are adopted by all types of organizations – across industries – to move one or more needles on the senior leadership dashboard. But, despite the best of intentions, these programs, which are often launched with much fanfare (and budgets), often fall well below their ambitious targets for engagement, retention, and organizational alignment*. The result: organizational leaders, HR executives and Project Managers can, over time, distance themselves from such programs or incorrectly conclude that they’re somehow ineffective.

So, what’s all this got to do with employee communications?

We’ve found the conclusions drawn about reward and recognition programs are tightly linked to employee communications —- but not in the way you might expect.

It is fair to say that very few organizations ensure that employee communications professionals work together with those building their reward and recognition programs. Now, stop and think about that for a minute. Considering that one of the core functions of employee communications is to reinforce an organization’s desired behaviours and true values, doesn’t it make sense for them to be involved in reward and recognition programs that are, wait for it, built to reinforce an organization’s desired behaviours and true values?

Separation is not intentional, but it is problematic

You can justifiably ask yourself why these two activities are kept apart from one another. On this count, there is good news according to Mike Byam. Byam is the Managing Partner of Terryberry which is one of the world’s leaders in reward and recognition platforms. Byam suggests the separation of employee communications professionals and reward and recognition programs “is not deliberate” or emerging from malice. That being said, separating these two activities creates problems and lost opportunities.

Just consider how employee communications is viewed when it comes to rewards and recognition programs. Employee communications is seen merely as how such programs are promoted. In other words, the program is the product for employees to embrace and employee communications is simply the advertising. Pigeonholing employee communications in this way means that insights about employees gathered through communications initiatives are omitted in the development of rewards and recognition programs.

Those responsible for building rewards and recognition program aren’t the only ones with a limiting set of blinders on. Employee communications professionals, by default, overlook how such programs can inform employee communications plans and initiatives. That’s too bad because these programs are a treasure trove of data that could be used in shaping employee communications messages, more effectively deploying employee communications tools/venues and setting refined expectations about sparking behavioural change.

A path forward – just listen to The Swear Jar

Eventually, employee communications and reward and recognition programs will dovetail and work together on achieving their mutual goal of reinforcing desired behaviour and organizational core values. To get an inside scoop into how to accomplish this, check out The Swear Jar podcast episode, Carrots and Communications with our special guest Mike Byam, Managing Partner of Terryberry

Exclusives for listeners of The Swear Jar

Get 10% of the price of the newest employee communications workshops brought to you by The Academy of Business Communications. Just enter the promo code “SwearJar” when registering. That includes the 90-minute online workshop, !mpact Measurement which helps you measure the ROI of employee communications.

Win a free copy of one of Mike Byam’s book (“The Wow Workplace”) by sending an email to with a note telling us your story about how your organization’s employee communications work well (or no) with your rewards and recognition program. We’ll choose winners from the notes sent to us and highlight you in an upcoming episode of The Swear Jar podcast.

Get up to 5% off workshop products from group facilitation experts, Facilitation First.

*Reference: Deloitte Human Capital Trends