A successful, global recognition programme calls for a local touch.
By Debbie Bolla
With nearly 50,000 employees in 180 countries, the global nature of The Dow Chemical Company’s workforce was a primary consideration for its employee recognition programme. What was CHRO Johanna Söderström and her team’s solution? A global platform executed locally.
The technology behind the programme—powered by O.C. Tanner— was standard across the organisation, but leaders in each country could determine the specific approaches that would work for them. The global, multifaceted “Accelerate Great” programme creates meaningful experiences for employees through the direction and discretion of managers and leaders.
For example, David Sturt, executive vice president of O.C. Tanner, says it’s more commonplace for a recognition moment to be very public in India—it would likely feel like a celebration. Whereas in Germany or the U.K., a more understated approach might be more appreciated.
A “glocal” approach is key, says Darren Findley, president of recruitment solutions for Engage2Excel, because communication, presentation, and award preferences amongst employees and cultures run the gamut.
“It is best to have a global, central programme that defines the company’s general recognition goals combined with regional representatives that sit on a recognition committee,” says Findley.
Having a clear cultural understanding of employee preferences helps Dow ensure appreciation approaches are relevant across the globe. And the results show that it’s working: Global participation increased 11 per cent in 2015 and formal recognitions occur every 3 minutes at Dow globally.
“If your praise is general, it’s really missing the mark,” explains Sturt. “It needs to be specific. Employees want to know that their work is really valued.”
Sturt and his team helped drive home the importance of meaningful recognition by speaking and presenting at Dow’s leadership events all over the world, including Mubai, Switzerland, and Germany, amongst others. “Once you share with a manager or leader how recognition works, the data behind it, and effects of what you are doing, you will start to see a mind shift,” he says.
Managers play an integral role in driving a programme’s success. As the old saying goes, employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. “Because the manager has such a valuable role, it is paramount that they first understand ‘why’ recognition is an important strategic management tool and then ensure they are trained effectively about ‘how’ to treat their people with respect, value their differences, and how to be a positive, motivating force on their teams,” explains Peter W. Hart, CEO of Rideau Recognition, Inc.
How can organisations accomplish this? Hart recommends training managers and providing them with tools to establish connections with team members. Today’s employees want a personalised experience, and recognition is no exception. Hart says managers can empower employees by getting them involved in the process: Ask them how they want to be recognised and encourage them to be recognition ambassadors that architect the programme.
Findley agrees that having a recognition champion can assist organisations in achieving the right messaging for each region. Local experts who understand each area’s work conditions and preferences for meaningful awards are critical to effective programme design.
“The representatives will help execute the programme on the ground and bring cultural-specific suggestions to the table,” says Findley. “This ensures that all employee voices are heard and understood.”
This attention to detail allows organisations to get recognition right. “One of the biggest differences that presents itself in many cultures is how an award is presented,” says Findley. “From public recognition to emails to personal meetings, what is acceptable in one office may be a cultural faux pas in another. Local cultures and voices are critical to ensuring a smooth global rollout.”
Organisations don’t want to make a misstep here: It’s a tight talent market across the globe and organisations need to execute correctly in order to get those high performers to stay. “Employees have a myriad of career options, and now more than ever, people want and need to feel that their work is valued and meaningful,” says Findley. “It is important to remember that solutions are not a one-size-fits-all. Companies need to examine their culture and individual teams to understand what types of recognition will most effectively inspire employees in daily tasks and broader company goals. Our research shows that overall engagement and daily motivation increases as recognition opportunities rise.”
And that power of recognition is universal across the globe. “Once you see the effect and what recognition does to your employees in terms of increasing engagement, drive, motivation, and output, it becomes contagious,” says Dow’s Söderström. “It’s something that people want to be a part of and that’s where you spread the culture.”
SIDEBAR: At-a-Glance Global Preferences
Different cultures call for different approaches to acknowledging good work. Preferences should drive the way management delivers recognition. In individual-oriented cultures, like in North America and Western Europe, it’s more common and acceptable to call out individual performance and give recognition publically. In group-oriented or collectivist cultures, like in the Middle East, Southern Europe, Asia, and Latin America, organisations are best served to recognise outcomes from teamwork and projects.
Here are a few, country-specific generalities to also consider.
• Japan: Ceremony and etiquette are very important in Japanese culture, and ‘gift giving’ during personal recognition exchange is seen as meaningful.
• India: Employees in India strongly view specific recognition as a way to help with their career growth and development.
• Australia: Informality tends to be more acceptable. Fairness and opportunities to recognise teams or teamwork are generally important to Aussies.
• Britain: Formality and privacy within the business culture suggests recognition needs to be tightly aligned to values, strategy and goals.
• Germany: German work cultures tend to provide employees relatively little recognition. Personal, individual recognition is highly valued. Employees want their managers to know them as individuals, not just as workers.
• France: Fairness and equality are significant to meaningful French recognition experiences.
• Latin America: Generally, it is more important here than other countries for recognition to involve or include senior management. Also, public recognition is acceptable and highly valued, and symbolism tends to be more fundamental than other areas of the globe.