How do recognition programs affect engagement?

There is still a common misconception that Singaporeans are simply motivated by cash

How do recognition programs affect engagement?

In the second instalment of a four-part series on employee engagement, O.C. Tanner talks about the importance of recognising staff to engage them at work. You can read the first article here.

Recognition is known to be an essential element in improving employee engagement. HRD spoke to Daniel Sherrington, Asia Pacific regional director at O.C. Tanner to find out whether HR has been doing enough to recognise employees and how to optimise existing recognition programs.

HRD: Recognition programs, made up of benefits such as bonuses or awards for example, have existed in organisations for a long time. Why do you think some employees continue to feel disengaged at work despite receiving such benefits?

DS: There is a common misconception that receiving rewards equates to being recognised and therefore appreciated, this is simply not true.

Rewards are a subset of recognition but extensive research shows it’s the appreciation and act of being recognised for doing good and great work that provides humans with the greatest sense of well-being and satisfaction and therefore a likely higher level of engagement.

One of the few positives to come out of the global financial crisis was it forced many companies to look at how they engaged their people. Reward budgets were cut, technology budgets were cut and while many companies had to let a lot of talent leave the building, the ones who stayed still needed to carry out great work to keep the company in business.

This resulted in a great deal of research and study to determine what really motivates people to want to do great work, which will ultimately drive up engagement and self-fulfilment. At O.C. Tanner we saw a major spike in activity on programs we support which focused more on “thanking, appreciating and recognising” and less on “points, vouchers and rewards”.

In mature markets where employee engagement programs have long been established, encouraging the simple behaviour of recognising and appreciating good work is a clear and researched-back argument.

In APAC, we still see the need to educate a great deal of the HR audience that are not yet convinced about the effectiveness of recognition and appreciation with a supporting communication plan, versus driving motivation with points and vouchers.

All too often the discussions get bogged down on systems features and benefits, range of rewards and points. Amongst the HR community, there is a common misconception that Singaporeans are simply motivated by just cash or rewards, and don’t care about receiving recognition.

However, this is simply not true. Our research shows that local Singaporeans and Asians in general want the same thing that the rest of the world wants.

That said, an effective recognition and reward program is not the only strategy that needs to be employed to ensure your people are engaged. The more talented and hardworking employees seek far more from an organisation and if the organisation can’t meet their needs, they will eventually find somewhere else that does.

In order to ensure you have an effectively engaged workforce, there are six core elements we call Talent Magnets, that draw people to staying with an organisation.

HRD: What are some crucial aspects that HR should zoom in on to create a strong recognition program? How can HR create an effective program?

DS: Again, think about the ‘Why’ behind the need for recognition program. What are the objectives of the program? Is it consistent with the organisational purpose, values and goals?

Once the aim of the recognition program is established, then answers to the following questions: “What employee actions and business outcomes do you want to achieve”, and “How the program can specifically achieve these”, will follow through.

Additionally, the effectiveness of the program is based on the consideration of these few factors:

- Inclusiveness: Recognition is everyone’s responsibility; and not the manager alone. Each and every employee needs to be empowered to give recognition. Consider obtaining feedback from employees at the planning stage on what they consider to be an effective recognition tool, or meaningful reward.

- Simplicity: The recognition program needs to be simple, easy and frustration-free. If the ‘official’ way of recognition work requires numerous roadblocks, few will be incentivised to go through the process.

- Non-monetary rewards: Put some thought into your reward strategy. Is $100 worth or reward value a year going to really motivate someone and provide a lasting reward experience?

Maybe, maybe not, but perhaps lunch with a senior manager or opportunity to take time off or do some voluntary work will. Don’t be tied to a points platform and thousands of products, be creative. 

Daniel Sherrington will be speaking about how an effective employee engagement strategy can improve customer engagement and satisfaction at the 2018 National Marketing Conference: The Greatest Marketing Man, organised by the Philippines Marketing Association and the Asia Marketing Federation on 9 August 2018.



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