As the global economy continues to change and challenge employers, one of the most crucial ways to engage and align employees to the company mission is through employee recognition. I know this. Employers know this. And chances are, if you’re reading this, you know this as well. Consequently, EVERYONE is looking to revamp their recognition programs. Not an easy challenge for domestic companies and an even harder one for companies who have employees across the globe.
One of the strongest messages that has resonated with me is that recognition is NOT an annual event that mimics an awards show. Rather, recognition should happen more frequently, in the form of continuous feedback. New best practices now focus on recognizing what matters most to your organization, actively involving management, basing recognition on performance or achievements continuously over time, etc. That means a pat on the back, the quick “Thank You” note, and, for some employers, even a hug (gasp!).
Wrapping your arms around recognition is challenging no matter what — domestic or global you need to understand what employees need. But when you have global employees, you need to stretch your arms a lot further by also understanding the cultural similarities and differences your employees have so that you are delivering a united and relevant recognition program.
There a whole lot of information out there on how best to restructure recognition programs. But while recognition best practices apply globally, employers still need to account for cultural nuances locally… and understanding and catering to these nuances are vital for a global recognition program.
What I love about the latest infographic from OCTanner, is that it takes a deep dive into these nuances by region / country. They also outline an excellent list of best practices to keep in mind for global program adoption and success:
- Invite local leadership, human resources, and managers as early as possible into the planning process. This gives a sense of ownership to each locale, leadership support and endorsement, and creates recognition champions. If you are having trouble getting local support, position employee recognition as a business initiative rather than just an HR program. This involvement also helps give you valuable country-specific insights to guide program positioning.
- Position your recognition strategy, nuanced by country—before rolling out to non-U.S. locations. Employee recognition should be positioned as a strategic way to celebrate your mates in Australia, recognize performance in a clear and equitable way in Japan and Europe, etc. This will help ensure your recognition initiatives are not seen as “American” programs being implemented in non-U.S. locations. As part of this strategy, make sure you thoroughly review concepts and attributes of new initiatives to ensure they are culturally appropriate (especially true in Germany and France). And don’t underestimate the importance of milestone or career achievement recognition. Employees around the world find recognizing milestones extremely meaningful, yet few organizations are doing so consistently.
- Design solutions that recognize performance, but also acknowledge effort and celebrate career achievement over time. Most countries only reward results, failing to appreciate those critical day-to-day (and often peer-to-peer) efforts. These provide great opportunities to bring individuals, teams and departments together.
- Ensure everyone has access to all employee recognition tools and has been trained on how to use them. Apply appreciation consistently across departments, managers, and locations to ensure fairness. In Australia and Mexico, incorporating team recognition is important, while in Germany, China, India, and Japan, it’s more about ensuring the individual stands out.
- Translate everything- marketing materials, websites, training—using the local language (even if employees are expected to speak English). Communicate with simple, direct, straightforward language, avoiding jargon or complicated words.
Global recognition programs can be as easy as stretching your arm a l-o-n-g way to provide a pat on the back — in fact, in many cases, that kind of continuous feedback is exactly what employees are looking for. But it’s also important to keep in mind both the similarities and the local nuances so that you can develop a united recognition strategy that impacts all of your employees, all around the world.