Recognize and reward: get the most from your incentive program

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Do you have an effective recognition program in place? HRM asked some of Canada’s biggest providers for their tips on developing and implementing a successful program.

“A well designed reward and recognition program is tied to business so you’re only recognizing success,” Achievers founder and owner Razor Suleman said. “It’s not just about showing up to work or being a supportive co-worker, it’s saying ‘I drove this result, I got this reward and recognition.’ So you have a positive ROI.”

All the providers said peer recognition programs were most popular and effective, with a social media style site branded for each company.

Achievers’ number one tool is Peer to Peer Social Recognition, which takes your current reward budget and splits it among employees to give to their peers, Suleman said. For example, each person could have 10,000 points ($10 value) to give out each week, and has to include which company value the person they are rewarding exhibited. Employees can collect points and choose rewards that are meaningful to them.

 “We’ve seen a lot of really positive results from our customers and we’re really metrics driven in measuring that,” Suleman said.

Recognition programs can tie to specific company objectives. For example, many Canadian industries such as mining, forestry, oil and gas use recognition as a way to encourage safety compliance, O.C. Tanner VP Sales and Marketing Chris Vyse said.

Research by O.C. Tanner found that a 15% improvement in engagement equals a 2% improvement in operating margins, and a well-run career achievement recognition program for five or 10 or 25 years’ service can boost retention by four to six years.

“A critical factor short changed in Canada is leadership development – training and teaching managers about strategic recognition and how to use it,” Vyse said. “I’ve seen that make a huge difference in how effective a recognition solution is. It’s really important that managers be coached and trained, but it’s often overlooked in Canada.”

One of the best aspects of expanding into social media was that one moment of recognition could engage many employees in different places and even timezones, said Chris French, Globoforce Vice President, Enterprise Sales - Eastern Region.

“Social and Mobile technologies can be used those to magnify, expand and amplify individual moments of recognition and include a larger group,” he said. “Now with one moment of recognition you can affect a lot of people over a longer period of time.”

French said strategic recognition moved the idea of engagement beyond “I’m happy with my work” to a more complete concept: “I’m happy with my work, I know what is expected of me and I know if I do those things someone will notice.” That inspires employees to give more discretionary effort to give, which is where a productivity gain comes from.

“People understand what’s expected and know they’ll be recognized if they give that extra effort. That’s the holy grail of a recognition program,” French said.

One common problem is that recognition gets pushed to a backburner, Terryberry managing partner Mike Byam said.

“Most organizations ask a lot of their leaders and managers. Most people say recognition is important, but the challenge is that with all the other things coming at them they feel they have to deal with urgent issues instead of dealing with recognition,” he said.

The right recognition structure makes sure it doesn’t get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list, and takes the pressure off because it’s not reliant on just one individual.

“If you can make rec something that can impact everyone on the business you stand a tremendously better chance of having it be successful,” Byam said. It also gives organizations the opportunity to gather data on different aspects of the organization.

“Data lifts the curtain on the organization. Everyone operates in their own little world, but this lifts the curtain and gives everyone the chance to share. People understand and respect other roles more and can see how they fit together,” he added.

The data an organization can collect is invaluable when it comes time to do annual reviews because it’s tied to your company’s values, principles and objectives.

See tomorrow’s article on how to assess, plan and implement a successful recognition plan.

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