HR pros know the standard rationale for employee recognition programs – increased engagement, productivity, retention and incremental revenue.
But as this has become the recognition mantra over the past decade, isn’t it time we call on recognition programs to do more?
Executives know (and buy into) all the aforementioned benefits, but given today’s economic realities where there is still a call to do more with less, funding for non-cash compensation is attracting higher levels of scrutiny.
HR needs to turbo charge the recognition business case and demonstrate that programs set the stage for continued optimization of the organization’s number one resource (and in many cases expense) – its people.
Recognition planners today must show how their programs are:
- Promoting employee cooperation and collaboration;
- Igniting personal innovation; and,
- Uncovering best practices that can be shared and duplicated for economic gain across the enterprise.
An information-sharing corporate culture
The austere economic conditions stoked during the Great Recession and now integral to today’s “new normal,” have negatively influenced some corporate cultures and will continue to influence knowledge worker behaviors unless proactive action is taken.
Constructive corporate cultures encourage employee idea creation and idea sharing and align corporate strategy with behavioral expectations. It gives employees clarity and purpose and provides a framework for their contributions.
In these positive environments workers are more likely to trust their managers and coworkers and are more prone to share information and ideas freely and contribute discretionary effort toward shared outcomes more willingly. They work together and collaborate for the betterment of the organization.
It is key for HR to take the pulse of their organization’s culture to determine if there are negative residual impacts from the recession. For example, have employees stopped sharing information as readily? Have they stopped willingly volunteering their time and talents for discretionary projects?
Promoting virtual, cross-functional collaboration
It is critical to correct these issues with programs that integrate silos and recognize and reward working as a seamless and coordinated group. Recognition programs can be used to motivate team members to share insights, information and experiences; to keep others informed on project progress; and to help others overcome difficulties – all critical to overall business outcomes.
Today’s knowledge-driven businesses are highly virtual, integrated and characterized by teams of cross-functional and, often times, geographically-dispersed workers. While enterprises have invested significantly in technology to help teams work together more efficiently, it is not enough to overcome the social limitations of this modern day work structure.
The cross-matrixed approach can blur conventional reporting hierarchies. Managers are often leading teams toward a unified goal but in many cases have no real say-so over the individual workers. However, studies show that leaders who acknowledge workers – even for the smallest contributions – get better results than those that do not. They provide a psychological safety net for new ideas and that feeling of trust, cultivated through the manager’s encouragement, has been proven to promote deeper participation and greater enthusiasm among knowledge workers.
Recognition programs can help make this part of collaboration easy. With intuitive and seamless recognition solutions, managers can easily encourage and reward contributions across collaborative teams. This approach results in better outcomes, higher levels of participation and workers are more giving of their time and talents.
Uncover and leverage “personal patents”
Traditionally innovation has been the purview of research and development departments and measured by patent filings and the subsequent commercialization of new products. But innovation does not need to be that radical to have value.
Engaged knowledge workers’ solutions to everyday challenges are an actionable potential source of competitive advantage. These “personal patents” oftentimes define the finest, newest – but often unshared – best practices emerging from within today’s enterprises.
Today’s recognition programs can help spotlight and promote some of these ideas internally to not only acknowledge the individual’s idea but help others adopt the new methods and motivate more employees to pursue and share new ideas of their own. Recognizing a good idea helps other employees benefit from it and can fast track it into the firm’s formal work processes. In fact, a Babson Executive Education poll revealed that employees working at companies whose leadership overtly rewards new ideas are 250 percent more likely to propose and develop business improvements on a regular basis.
HR executives who seek new ways to influence the efficiency and effectiveness of their talent with advanced recognition methods are well positioned to add greater value to the enterprise. At the core, recognition must have stronger alignment with the organization’s growth goals and to help increase the information flow, collaboration and innovation of today’s workers.
Those outcomes should be at the heart of any recognition business case.