Historically, the burden of executing a rewards and recognition program has fallen on the shoulders of Human Resources, as it is often seen as the steward of culture and has the overall responsibility for implementing policies and strategies related to employee management. But as we seek new ways to further strengthen corporate culture and engagement, companies are realizing that traditional reward and recognition programs are no longer sufficient in building a culture of performance and engaging employees. Companies who strive to create a culture of innovation must reward and recognize employees in innovative ways. It’s more important than ever to humanize the reward and recognition process and to revolutionize what was once an isolated experience by making it more social and interactive.
Don’t assume your employees feel recognized and / or rewarded.
I’ve seen many articles lately that touch on how organizations are lacking in even the most basic gestures of recognition and how the lack of them diminishes employee engagement.
When indifference to basic courtesy and accountability is standard operating procedure within your organization, then how do you motivate employees to care about company goals and objectives – and going the extra mile when necessary? If you think your employees feel recognized and or rewarded without you actually extending an acknowledgement to them, then you might be interested in knowing that 49% of employees said they would leave their current job for a company that clearly recognized employees for their efforts and contributions. Employees may like the work they do, their company, and their colleagues, but unless they have a sense of the value of what they do within the big picture, they will leave. (Lumesse, “Global Workplace Survey,” June 2011.)
Bottom line: Employees need to know that you care about them.
Dominic Orr, president and CEO of Aruba Networks, reports this as one of the earliest and most important lessons he learned as a manager:
“The biggest feedback I had from my people is that I didn’t give them feedback. I was running along. I had a pretty high standard for myself, and I assumed that everybody who joined my team was operating at the same level. Good work was assumed, so I let them know only when something didn’t go well. People started telling me it would be nice if I gave them a pat on the back rather than only telling them when things were not good.”
[ Source: Why Feedback Is So Important]
Why Traditional Reward and Recognition Programs Don’t Work
It only happens once a year. Most Reward and recognition programs only recognize employees once a year on either of two occasions: service anniversaries and or appraisals. Recognition isn’t just about recognizing anniversaries. An effective program recognizes achievements… and ones that occur all throughout the year.
It has no value or meaning to your employees. If your rewards program is like the majority of other companies’, then you most likely use traditional catalog merchandise or small incentives program to recognize employees not just for minor performance milestones, but for key service anniversaries as well.
Be honest here: how rewarded or recognized do YOU feel when you’re placing an order for some item from your company’s reward program’s merchandise catalog? When a company chooses to recognize or acknowledge an employee’s service anniversary with merchandise that has no value to them, the message you are inadvertently delivering to that employee is that you really don’t care about THEM.
Recognition Can and SHOULD Happen More than Once a Year
A good Rewards and Recognition Program complements the annual review process, but should also happen continuously, throughout the year. Feedback isn’t just important because of these uncertain times, but to be honest, it’s simply is a courteous gesture to say “thank you” not just on a service anniversary or during the annual review process, but as much as earned by the employee. Imagine if, every time, you did something for a friend or a family member and they only said “thank you” to you once a year. How would that make you feel? Continuous feedback provides job security, improved performance overall and a more engaged workforce.
Annual reviews have their place as formal, process oriented systems that provide a forum for a deep-dive into an employee’s performance over a 12-month period. But this is only half the performance story and must be balanced by and complemented with strategic recognition. Again, recognition doesn’t have to happen once a year. Recognition provides the key to social performance management by encouraging less formal, ad-hoc praise and acknowledgement of behaviors, contributions and achievements throughout the year.
Most seem to agree that the current approach simply doesn’t work as employees want and need much more feedback than they typically receive through today’s annual process.
Revolutionizing the Reward and Recognition Processes
Make the reward something that is valuable to the employee. If your goal is to reward the employee for his or her achievements over many years and momentum in carrying that energy forward, then be sure you give them a reward choice that is truly meaningful and desired by the employee! In fact, Workforce Mood Tracker‘s recent survey showed that “an overwhelming majority (84 percent) of all respondents preferred a wide choice of gift cards as the primary reward mechanism. We were not surprised to learn that none of the respondents who are searching for a new job would prefer company-branded items as rewards.” Paul Hebert wrote about another survey in which the most popular rewards were “non-cash rewards” including subsidized training, flex-time, mentoring programs, free lunches and the like. Digging a bit deeper, however, shows the research reflects the opinions of 1,400 CFOs.
Make recognition more human through appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry is a very pragmatic approach to organization development and employee recognition.
Dina Medina, an internal communications manager at HP, recently addressed this topic from a different angle: Appreciative Inquiry (AI), explaining:
“Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an organizational development methodology that looks at finding what works well in an organization and how to make more of it. …
“The implications for employee communication are tremendous. First, it’s about recognizing that organizations are human systems and that communication sits at the center. How we talk to each other and about what does matter. … Communication becomes the enabling force and an energized, committed and engaged organization is the outcome.”
Strategic recognition is one methodology for AI in the workplace by using the positive power of employee recognition to focus employees on demonstrating your company values in contribution to achieving strategic objectives.
Frequent recognition of every employee – by managers and peers alike – is the most effective way of making the values and objectives meaningful and real in the daily work of every employee. How better to encourage what you want to see more of than by saying “thank you?”
Leverage New Technologies
There are a lot of conversations on what Human Resources should do, but not necessarily on HOW to do it. With the lack of direction on “what to do instead,” HR professional seem to be defaulting to current process – and the status quo continues.
Big shifts require truly innovative technological solutions that inspire a new level of social collaboration, empower employees to take some of the burden off HR, and re-think the archaic HR processes that are widely used today.
HR needs technological solutions that make their jobs easier while also helping employees feel valued as individuals with their own voice. Ideally, these solutions should also positively influence the health of the organization’s culture, perhaps by increasing transparency or ease of collaboration.
HRIT innovations are needed that will attract and engage workers across various geographies and across all generations. In order to do this, the innovations must not only be highly intuitive, but also provide an extremely personalized, progressively more social experience.
Social technologies provide new, innovative ways to not only recognize employees but to also provide feedback to them. On top of that, emerging systems and mobile platforms extends the rewards and recognition program outside of the corporate firewall.
Most recognition programs are a very siloed experience. The company sends an e-mail to the employee because either the manager has sent an out-of-cycle recognition ecard or as an email recognizing the service anniversary. In most instances, the employee is forwarded to a web site where they can either view the ecard or choose an item from a merchandise catalog. And that typically is the end to the recognition experience.
Social technologies take recognition to a whole new level for companies by giving employees the tools to share the recognition among colleagues and peers. Imagine this:
- Your company has a social layer to your corporate intranet that leverages employee profiles and enables employees to join a network connecting them to the online activity of other colleagues. One of the employees within that network is celebrating a service anniversary and when they log in to the corporate network, they receive a message thanking them for their years of service. But, because the company has a social layer, not only can the employee see this message, but any colleague that is within that emplyees’ network can see that the employee has received a recognition message as well.
- A group of employees have worked together to meet an aggressive deadline. The executive leader wants to recognize all the employees for their efforts. The manager goes to the recognition site and creates a message for all the employees. The group of employees receive a notification that they have been recognized for stellar work and are directed to the online message. On the message page, the employees can not only provide comments or feedback, but can also socially share the message to other peers and colleagues.
The impact? Your employees no longer feel they are being recognized in a vacuum. And more importantly, the recognition program becomes a public and interactive experience.
In addition to social recognition, social feedback is another component of social technology that is becoming a growing trend in how we manage performance and recognize employees. It’s questionable if it truly has a place within internal feedback ( think 360 Review with a social layer), but we definitely have seen some companies to include external feedback when it relates to a specific employee or group.
For example, one of your employees is recognized on your Facebook Fan page wall because they went above and beyond the normal call of duty to help out a customer. This kind of stellar work is part of your core values to help customers. Do you recognize the employee via your Rewards and Recognition program ?
Keep in mind there is a lot a grey in this area and companies might be tempted to approach with caution or to assess situations on a case-by-case basis. But if your company actively participates and analyzes feedback on social sites such as Twitter and Facebook, at some point your will have to take a definitive stand to better equip you and your employees for these situations. With this in mind, you should read these social feedback considerations and suggestions.
Can Recognition go Mobile?
In a word: YES! There are many companies who are making significant strides in mobile applications for rewards and recognition.
It only makes sense to make recognizing employees fast and easy with an end-to-end mobile recognition and rewards program available whenever your employees need it, wherever they are.
Globoforce Mobile™, the first native app for employee recognition, lets you take your entire recognition program on the road. Nominate, approve, receive and redeem awards, and share messages of appreciation through Social Recognition – anywhere, anytime. Keep your employees connected to your corporate values and culture even when they’re on the move – all while ensuring your corporate data is secure with the only mobile recognition application protected by enterprise-class security.
Is it as Easy as Putting Pen to Paper?
As any HR technologist will tell you, the successful implementation of ANY social layer to traditional HR programs (and systems) requires that you have the infrastructure to support it. So please don’t go running to your IT team telling them that “Elizabeth of The Social Workplace said we need to do this RIGHT NOW.”
I might be idealistic and passionate about how social technologies can breathe fresh life into Rewards and Recognition programs, but I also realize that effective implementation of the suggestions presented here also require a lot of coordination across multiple stakeholders.
Change doesn’t happen overnight and requires coordination from senior leaders, program managers as well as IT administrators. But as you’re thinking of your overall HR strategies and and how you want to revolutionize your current Rewards and Recognition program, social technologies is definitely the direction you should be looking.