When Chris Kempczinski was appointed the new CEO of McDonald’s in November 2019, the first thing he did was to send out a heartwarming email to all his employees. The mail started off with ‘I am particularly fortunate to be surrounded by such a talented team’ and ended with ‘Thank you for your commitment to McDonald's and for all you do every day, across more than 100 markets, to drive us forward and help us reach our incredible potential.’ In this article, we discuss the incredible impact of employee rewards and recognition on the employee experience.
Great leaders like Chris would vouch for the role recognition plays in driving employee motivation and the overall employee experience. We set out to prove this correlation - by understanding the fabric of employee experience and how recognition fits into it, using popular employee experience models.
The ‘Designing employee experience’ report by the IBM Institute for Business Value sorts employee experiences into three different spheres.
When employees conduct work that requires collaboration with other employees - their social spheres intersect the work spheres. Employee ‘social platforms’ use technology to publish, document and retrieve work discussions easily - facilitating this intersection. (See Fig.) As per Capterra listings, about 50% of these employee social platforms available in the market have ‘social recognition’ as a key feature.
The above mentioned report further lists the five strategies to improve employee experience, namely:
Interestingly, ‘Social recognition’ - with the use of technology - facilitates each of these strategies. Social Recognition using technology is:
PwC’s employee experience model is based on Aaron Hurst’s definition of Purpose Economy. The study states that the new era of work - the fourth industrial revolution - transforms the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) from ‘employee engagement’ to ‘a personal sense of purpose and meaning for employees’.
The report goes on to explain that this ‘sense of purpose’ has three parts to it:
Employers can help create the ambience for this ‘sense of purpose’ - by giving employees opportunities to collaborate, clarity on goals and feedback on how well they are progressing towards it.
While the employees themselves hold the key to most of the fulfilment they shall achieve in their role, ‘recognition’ is one lever that the organisation can control. For instance:
Deloitte uses design thinking to define, rather re-define, employee experience. In their report ‘Reimagine and craft employee experience’, they’ve used the design-thinking framework to craft employee experience for ‘higher engagement, satisfaction and strategic alignment’.
Using this framework, Bersin by Deloitte developed The Simply Irresistible Organization™ model that defines the ‘irresistible employee experience’.
This model has ‘Meaningful work’, ‘Supportive management’, ‘Positive work environment’, ‘Growth opportunity’ and ‘Trust in leadership’ as its pillars - overlaid with ‘Collaboration and connection’. (See Fig)
Panning into the Positive work environment pillar, Bersin identifies ‘culture of recognition’ as one of its four components. Looking further closely, recognition even helps create a ‘humanistic workplace’ by providing avenues for employees to appreciate each other's efforts and create bonds. Recognition also helps make workplaces ‘fair’, by giving opportunities to appreciate good work - irrespective of the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of it.
A dearer recognition does not make it the better recognition.
Gallup’s study on employee recognition states that honest, authentic and individualized recognition renders the best value.
If a recognition fits this bill, its monetary value becomes trivial - this kind of recognition can even be as small as a thank-you note. The trick is to make this recognition an employee moment that matters.
In a recent workplace survey, employees claimed that the most memorable recognition comes from their manager (28%), followed by the C-suite (24%), their boss’s boss (12%), customers (10%) and peers (9%) - shedding light on how even the C-suite should get busy ‘Recognising’.
During the same survey, employees list the following as the most impactful of recognition modes.
Recognition that is frequent, as frequently as once in seven days is recommended by the experts. This timeliness conveys the significance of employee achievement and helps reinforce values that the organisation wants to drive. If this frequency seems implausible, it can be modulated by introducing weekly contests or performance drives.
Empuls helps automating many recognition workflows
Technology can help automating the recognition process for these performance based achievements.
Not achieving this frequency benchmark is venial - but what’s cardinal is to never, ever miss recognising a significant employee milestone.
The recognition strategy should be carefully congruent with the purpose, brand and culture of the company and most importantly, fit into the Employee lifecycle.
The employment cycle, also known as employee lifecycle, is complicated and may vary from organisation to organisation. To keep it simple, employee lifecycle can be defined as the different stages of an employee/employer relationship. In general, it's a series of phases an employee goes through while being employed by a company, institution, government or a non-profit organization. The cycle comprises 7 segments/phases (these may overlap in some cases).
Stage 1: Attraction: When a particular company posts an ad for hiring and candidates apply for the job role.
Stage 2: Recruitment: After profile screening, preliminary tests and interviews, a candidate are chosen.
Stage 3: Onboarding: Through this process, a candidate becomes an employee. This involves agreements, documentation, salary negotiations, etc.
Stage 4: Enablement: This stage involves orientation, employee’s alignment with personal and company goals, team building and team interaction.
Stage 5: Development: At this stage, the employee is well aware of what is expected of him/her and starts performing. He/she might hone an existing skill or acquire new skills in the process.
Stage 6: Retention: Some employees may reach their saturation point. Company culture and employee engagement strategies play a key role in retaining employees for the next tenure.
Stage 7: Separation: Some employees will leave because of retirement or a better job. Exit interviews, employee experience surveys and feedback helps both employees and organisation to understand what went wrong or what could be done better.
Below given are a few R&R inclusions that will ensure growth and development throughout their lifecycle -
Alex Pritchet - a mother of two years old, finally took the decision to go back to the workforce. She was a seasoned saleswoman before pregnancy and hence had no problem in finding a new job. She took a job in a renowned e-commerce company, which was thankfully just a few blocks away from her home.
The first half of her first day went on orientation, meeting team members, signing agreements and documentation, etc. In the second half, she was guided to her cubicle, where a “Congratulations! On new job” card and a $20 gift card on Hamleys were waiting for her. This kind of reward is called Occasion Award. The personalisation of gift card based on her ‘mother status’ connected Alex with the company emotionally. Alex felt welcomed into the fold right away, while the employees around her cubicle, got to know about her and broke the ice immediately.
Such a positive start motivated Alex to work hard, and she was able to exceed her sales goals within 2 months. Her manager decided to nominate her for Spot Award. One of her colleagues even nominated her for the peer-to-peer award as she helped him with complicated paperwork. Both the awards make her feel appreciated. This helped in building her trust in the company. It also reinforced a positive image of her colleagues and company in her mind.
A sudden increase in work (post 6 months) started making her feel overwhelmed. She was spending less time with her family and was having difficulty in maintaining a work-life balance. Meanwhile, the employee of the month award went to another deserving employee who did excellent work that month. It would have made other employees feel jealous or disheartened. But, it did the opposite of Alex. She knew the company was being fair so instead of blaming others, she started doing some introspection. The problem was - she was racing against time. Alex decided to find a solution to this and worked on some strategies that helped her manage time. Once she mastered the skill, she looked around and found out that her colleagues too were suffering from a similar issue. She started having informal gatherings and shared what she learned. Everyone started calling her company’s in-house time management guru. Her Superiors and HR head were super impressed by her initiative and decided to reward her with a value-based recognition award. It was gifted to her in the form a badge that said, “Girl with Galactic Gratitude”. This kind of award rewards employees who understand and demonstrate values core to the company culture. And Alex’s zeal to not only help herself but also others helped her getting respect from peers and helped her become a “team player”.
At the end of the year, she received the annual award. It was expected because she was the model employee every company wants. She is not only a great performer but also a good team player. The annual award was a cherry on the top to all the award she collected over the years. She realised the company was fair and supportive, where she can learn and thrive. This ultimately made her stick for more years and helped the company in keeping their high retention score. During the fourth year of the company, she got promoted and became the head of the sales team. The same year, she also received non-monetary rewards in the form of gym membership and creche facilities for her child who had turned six.
Alex is now a VP of sales. She has finished 11 years in the company and received a long service award. Her child is now a high school senior. She will be working for 5 more years and retire early.
A happy employee is not a myth. They exist and thrive in companies that understand their worth and cherish them. Hope this article has made you understand the importance of rewards in the life of an employee and the effects it can have in your organisation. Now everything depends on you! What are you going to do about it?
To sum things up, let us look at a case of how a market leader used recognition to transform their employee experience (social sphere/ sense of connection).
HRs of Luminous India wanted to nurture the culture of collaboration to avoid departmental silos - so as to remain agile to dynamic market demands. They created cross departmental peer-to-peer recognitions and drove it across the organisation. This initiative thrived - the employees reinforced their collaboration efforts and celebrated achievements together. The success of this initiative is also attributed to how it aligned with what each of them believed Luminous was - a lean, high-performing and humane company.