A good article written by Barbara Moses for The Globe and Mail caught my eye the other day. The article addresses employee engagement and rewards. It is certainly a timely piece with the economy cautiously improving. Her opening example of an employee earning a travel award really hits the proverbial nail on the head as it asks the question: When is a reward not a reward?
Travel is great especially when it's "free" but how many of us are attracted to the notion of spending time away from our families in the company of our colleagues and bosses? Not to mention the fact that such an award comes with a sizeable, taxable component. Moses uses this example to illustrate that in this case, as in many others; the individual being rewarded doesn't actually see the reward as a reward at all. This is a common error many organizations make when it comes to employee engagement and incentives. What motivates one person may actually have the opposite effect on another.
In sales, we learn to identify what personality type best describes the prospect we are targeting. Are they a type A "driver" or perhaps they are "amiable" or "expressive"? Whatever the case, the sales tactic changes to suit the identified personality type. Why should this not also apply to recognizing and rewarding employees?
Moses' next example focuses on employee service awards and how many companies go through the motions but never really take the time to recognize valuable employees as individuals. The days of the gold watch for 25 years of service are long gone. Employers need to acknowledge that today's workforce is comprised of many generations. It is time for a renewed focus on retaining and attracting strong talent. Employees need to be recognized in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals as opposed to a "one size fits most" approach.
A good approach is to create several profiles that reflect the demographic in question: empty nesters, urbanites, young families, etc. Even within this small example, one can easily assume that each category has different priorities, wants, and needs.
Better yet, why not reward and motivate individuals by offering meaningful recognition and choice in their reward? Sure, there are a multitude of points-based loyalty and reward programs where participants can earn and burn for a wide variety of items: from televisions to cheese graters. Some even offer travel and other "experiential" options. I have seen dozens of such programs and some are pretty good in terms of their offerings and functionality. But without fail, every time we insert one of our Visa prepaid cards as a redemption option, it immediately becomes the number one item within that catalogue in terms of popularity. Each and every time.
Choice, flexibility and the ability to spend where and when you want to. We all know that there are bargains to be had so who wouldn't prefer the ability to shop around for that TV to find the most desired model and at the best price? Or perhaps the recipient will use the prepaid card to take their family out for dinner at a restaurant of their choice that exists in their community.
Employee recognition is something all employers must embrace. For a recognition program to be effective, it needs to be inclusive, meaningful and flexible. At the end of the article, Barbara Moses offers her "rules of engagement": be generous, tailor to individuals, and determine motivators. This is truly a solid guideline when creating the foundation for any recognition or incentive program.