Training + Recognition=Productive Workforce

3 tips to leverage workforce recognition to increase the long-term impact of training initiatives.

By Mike Ryan, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Client Strategy, Madison Performance Group

Today, organizations are utilizing training to better prepare employees, increase productivity, and maintain a competitive advantage. However, making sure training initiatives support a company’s overall mission and business strategy is easier said than done. Often, employers do not reinforce the desired behaviors and new skills that training exercises are designed to support and sustain. Top organizations, however, have realized that they should promote an atmosphere where employees are not only encouraged to learn but also are rewarded for using new skills.

A consistent pattern of education, practical application, and recognition not only strengthens the learning process, but helps employees see themselves as an integral part of the company’s mission. Formal employee rewards and recognition programs linked to training can be used to build on and reinforce training initiatives, support performance management, and motivate workforces, leading to increased bottom-line results.

Training + recognition = a highly productive workforce

Training professionals know that training reinvigorates a team for better work performance as employees can further their abilities, learn new skills, and apply them to their everyday work tasks. Additionally, employees feel a closer connection to their employer if the organization is invested in their professional development and growth. Their efforts and their focus generate better results for the company, and these individuals are more productive and more resourceful.

The challenge is how to leverage workforce recognition to increase the long-term impact of training initiatives. Here are a few tips.

1. Put corporate strategy into personal context.

Before a training initiative is introduced, employees should know how it relates to them and their role at the company. The employee should understand “what’s in it for me” and “how am I helping the company succeed?” Otherwise, employees are more likely to resist the change or new behavior, causing training initiatives to fail. To gain an employee’s attention and enthusiasm from the get-go, training managers should put the business rationale behind the change into a behavioral context each employee can understand and relate to.

2. Tie incentives to improvements.

Once employees understand how a new skill will help their employer and benefit their professional growth, organizations should reward them when that new skill is utilized. And just as initial communication needs to be tied to their role, so do the objectives you are asking them to achieve, as a one-size-fits-all objective will not resonate with everyone. Employees are motivated by goals that are relevant to what they do. With a reward system tied to training, organizations can set goals and communicate them to a wide base of employee sub-groups. Messages should be segmented by variables, e.g., unit alignment, location, line function, experience, and past successes. Employees then can put objectives into context as they test their skills against desired outcomes.

As goals are met, individuals should be rewarded and acknowledged. This is also a great time to introduce the next set of goals. A stair-cased approach that automatically sets goals and rewards, and then resets the next performance objective helps employees see a clear road to success and helps training managers motivate large groups one person at a time.

3. Leverage feedback loops.

As businesses survey their stakeholders connected to a specific event such as a purchase, the completion of a project, or the anniversary of employment, data collected should be used to examine an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. This insight allows companies to offer training refreshers to individuals who exhibit a deficiency. That may mean helping a salesperson understand a new product line or helping a manager motivate employees to collaborate more effectively. Whether the audience is customer facing or in an internal role, using the data collected during any feedback process to offer the right follow-up lesson at the right time is a best practice of companies that have linked training with rewards and recognition.

Training investments can play a viable role in boosting workforce engagement and helping improve overall employee satisfaction. Employees should be encouraged to learn new professional skills and then apply that knowledge to their daily work lives. A pattern of reinforcement activities that celebrates new skills, shares employee successes, and offers continuous feedback is effective for moving employees to a more productive frame of mind. Additionally, integrating rewards and recognition with training helps employees emotionally and intellectually connect to their employer’s overall mission and creates a greater understanding of how their individual tasks meet these objectives. Fostering employee growth through training and workforce recognition generates a more productive, loyal, and, ultimately, profitable workforce.

Mike Ryan is senior vice president of Marketing & Client Strategy for Madison Performance Group, a global Web-based workforce recognition and incentive solutions provider. He is an industry authority, speaker, and writer focused on the latest trends that affect workforce engagement and sales incentive strategies. For more information, visit

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