Activity versus achievement 

Two cool things happened to me last week. I’m pretty excited to share it with you! Watch the video below, then read on…

The achievement of my SPHR last week was after many years of hard work and passing a very difficult exam. The certificate and the letters after my name are two symbols of the achievement. Credibility and affirmation of my ability to provide strategic HR support to businesses are rewards of the knowledge and effort.

That is very different than receiving acknowledgement of activities, which brings me to the GKIC meeting I attended in Denver. Dan Kennedy is a world renowned information marketer. I was honored to attend a meeting of his members and listened to his presentations. If you follow my Twitter account you probably saw some of his quotes.

On his last day at the conference Dan spoke about how some companies reward people for activity versus achievement. An example of rewarding activity versus achievement is a perfect attendance program where you acknowledge and award employees for coming to work. In some employment cultures that might work as a positive reward system and in fact  – as Dan mentioned in his speech – it might be a way to encourage more activity and perhaps results. (It would need to be tracked and that could be difficult.) The value of a reward is determined solely by the perception of the employees receiving it. So if your employees value that type of recognition, then it’s a valuable tool.

But recognition and rewards can go so much further for your company and employees. There should be a tie to the 4 factors or employee engagement to the rewards and recognition program at your company. The second factor is giving an employee the understanding of company goals. The third factor is an employee’s understanding how their efforts contribute to company goals. The fourth factor is a reward or recognition for an employee making contributions to company goals. I would argue (as did Dan Kennedy) that employees coming to work is a basic expectation versus a significant effort that contributes to achieving company goals.

Setting this up isn’t easy. It takes commitment to following the four factors of engagement. It takes soliciting input from employees and implementing a program that ties all those things together. But here’s how to do it. This is an ideal program for a committee of employees. This is my suggestion for the committee:

  • A group of 4 employees from different levels and departments in the organization. Make sure there’s at least one manager-level participant.
  • Plus at least one employee from finance/accounting to ensure costs are in line.
  • And include someone who will be a project leader or champion. Give that person the authority to schedule team meetings as a priority over others. This person should be the best champion of the cause, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s someone from the HR department, if your company has one. Understand that many HR professionals have expertise in total rewards theory but some do not.

To get your committee, I’d recommend doing a survey ( and ask for volunteers as well as opinions on what achievements are worth rewarding and what type of rewards are valued by employees.

As with any program there needs to be a commitment to the program by both employees and management and a willingness to implement. If the employees want a perfect attendance award or some sort of gamification program that’s okay. But try not to limit your employee recognition to just those activities.