Technology is having a greater impact on employee recognition, but outsourced service providers say retaining a personalized approach is still essential.
Employee recognition is usually a personal service, but increasingly technology is playing a greater role in making this a more memorable and satisfying event for the recognized. That’s because not only can technology help make the employee reward more relevant, but also it enables managers to better track and more effectively hand out rewards to boost morale and incentivize positive behavior.
While on-demand software as a service utilized by many vendors offers managers and employees a user-friendly, online interface with which to send and receive recognition in the form of certificates and gifts, these systems must also be careful to preserve a personal touch. Vendors such as Rideau or Globoforce have taken steps in offering guidance to clients on how to use today’s new technology without losing the personal aspects of employee rewards.
“I would stress that we cannot take away the need for personal moments,” added Derek Irvine, vice president of global strategy at Globoforce, whose North American headquarters are based in Southborough, MA. “Managers still have the responsibility to make sure there is a personal recognition moment. We would never try to substitute that.”
Still, technology has made great strides in substituting the paper model, offering HR departments the ability to upload employee information to a database on the back end of a customizable interface or, more commonly, back-end integrate their existing PeopleSoft or SAP systems into this web portal. This approach allows HR organizations to decide to what degree they wish to engage employees on the web site. Some corporations elect to open up a more expansive network across their workforce to allow employees to view the rewards of colleagues in addition to their own, while other organizations opt for a more confidential experience.
The latest advancement in technology is the introduction of single sign-on, which allows employees to access an externally provided employee rewards web site through the employer’s own site without logging in a second time.
Recognition options can range from a manager’s “on the spot” transmission of an E-card to a co-worker, to an employee redeeming stored rewards points for a trip. Enhanced technology is also helping to standardize and connect a global workforce by offering the same sites in many languages.
This emphasis on personalized gifts rather than cash has long been recognized in industry studies as more beneficial to rewarding company talent.
“Cash is about compensation, the basic needs in life an employee has—food, eating, housing,” said Irvine. “Recognition is catering to a completely different space—people’s ‘psychic income.’ The most important thing we say to clients is that in building employees’ psychic income, you can’t use the same currency.”
“Studies have shown that that’s negative recognition, for the most part,” added John Mills, executive vice president of business development for global at Rideau. “If [money] doesn’t have recognition tied to it, employees will spend it on things outside of what it was meant to be for.”
Executives in the industry refer to these rewards as “sticky” versus “slippery.” Cash is the forgettable compensation often spent on necessities, while something like a spa weekend or an Xbox video game console is more “sticky” for employees.
It’s this emphasis on gifts that has more companies looking to technology to increase efficiencies. Irvine noted that compared with paper-based systems, web-enabled self-service rewards can lead a cost reduction of 85 to 90 percent. In addition, executives can more easily track the success of these recognition programs in a more standardized way.
“More development and thinking is going into providing executive dashboards,” said Irvine, “where someone at the C-level, sitting at headquarters, can sign in [to the recognition web site] and have a one-page dashboard to see how the recognition program is doing at the moment, how it is recognizing different people around the world based on the values [of the company].”
At the same time, executives can choose how involved they wish to be in the processes, whether that means pulling reports from the back end or waiting for quarterly audits, for example.
Improving employee recognition technology “lets [HR] concentrate on core business, recruitment, and talent,” said Mills, but “clients can also manage programs through the back end and see who’s been using the program. They can see their return on investment coming through.”