WHAT HAS HAPPENED to recognition programs? Once a source of great pride and prestige, most companies' efforts are perceived as stale and irrelevant by employees. Why? And what can companies do to reengineer their programs?

Start with the gifts themselves. When they're not considered a joke, they're sometimes an outright insult. In a focus group I recently held, employees were adamant about what they don't want — and it's everything that most companies give them: pens, watches, clocks,

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