Companies are figuring out how to include all employees–onsite, hybrid, and remote–in their recognition and rewards efforts and once they do, they can expect the results to increase tenfold.
By Zee Johnson
Most people spend a large portion of their day at work, and for some, that time is spent within the confines of their own homes. With remote and hybrid working models now very much the norm, many companies have struggled to sustain connections with offsite employees, which has led to a decline in overall culture.
A recent Achievers survey revealed that 48% of leaders said their culture has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic because of lack of employee input and their failure to connect with remote employees. On the other side of that, a Gallup report found that, when recognized, employees are five times more likely to feel connected to their company’s culture and four times as likely to be engaged.
To ensure inclusivity, sustained productivity, and to drive a positive workplace culture, organizations should double down on their recognition efforts and be mindful of increasing interaction with employees working in alternate locations.
More important than actually where an employee works is that they have the same opportunity at giving and receiving acknowledgments. Streamlining a recognition program establishes the fact that all workers receive equitable treatment. The trickle-down effect of this? Heightened engagement, productivity, and well-being.
Sarah Hamilton, vice president of global human experience for Workhuman, says that the right recognition program is one that accounts for everyone. “Recognition systems need to support all employees in creating and actively participating in a culture of recognition in the organization,” she says. “In a well-designed program, remote workers are as successfully reached as other employees. Integrating recognition programs that make remote or offline employees included is vital to a company’s long-term success.”
Recognition and rewards programs should also be consistent. Remote and hybrid employees should not feel that their location has any negative impact on how leaders acknowledge their hard work.
“Recognition programs shouldn’t be different, but inclusive of the remote worker and how they work and interact with peers and managers,” says Jeff Gelinas, president of recognition and engagement for Engage2Excel. Like Hamilton, Gelinas believes the positive side effects of a well-rounded program will be a dynamic environment that leverages its employees’ contributions to reach business goals. “When effectively designed and implemented, these programs help foster a high-performance culture and deliver a measurable ROI for employees across the organization, regardless of work location.”
Mindi Cox, chief marketing and people officer at O.C. Tanner, takes it a step further. While she thinks every member on every team should receive acknowledgement for their efforts and innovation, she says those very employees should be the ones with the final say on how they’d like to be rewarded.
“Leaders should ask their teams and team members how they want to be recognized. Ask them to describe a moment when they felt deeply appreciated and pay attention to the details of that moment and honor what feels like recognition at the individual and team level,” she says. “Being consistent in what you recognize–what defines great work and achievements worth celebrating in your culture–is far more important than consistency in how you recognize.”
While there are many ways to construct a successful recognition program, for many employees, the best reward is increased compensation. Yet, for others who are more concerned with career growth and forming lasting connections, monetary measures don’t cut it.
“While cash may be what most people report as the best way to recognize them, our research shows it is the least effective when it comes to creating a lasting impact,” Cox says. “Appreciation can and should focus on tying an individual to your organization through a peak experience that reminds them of the higher purpose of your company and the importance of their role.”
Those dedicated workers who want to mature with a company most enjoy being humanized by their employer and supported for their achievements, even those occurring off the clock.
“Employees want to be seen, heard, and appreciated, not just for the work they do, but for who they are as a person outside of work,” Hamilton says. “Celebrating life’s important moments–weddings, new homes, birthdays, the birth of a child–can create a place where employees feel safe to bring their whole selves to work.”
David Bator, managing director for Achievers Workforce Institute, agrees that a well-rounded approach will have the greatest impact. “Practicing social recognition, the expression of gratitude, congratulations, and admiration of an employee’s contributions, milestones, and talents can completely transform organizational culture and boost employee engagement, retention, and performance.”
One such company that has experienced this is Discover, a leader in digital banking and payment services. They partnered with Achievers to overhaul their unreliable and unscalable recognition tool and created a standardized and digitized program, “Bravo,” that reaches their more than 14,000 employees scattered across three countries.
“Bravo” is an interactive and integrated program that delivers a global, consistent employee experience, showcasing highly visible recognition moments and making employee rewards meaningful. It provides a platform to get personal, commending employees for their years of service, acknowledging specific business units with monthly and quarterly awards, customizing campaigns for particular groups, and more.
After the rollout, 86% of managers believed they were able to recognize a more diverse number of colleagues (in various locations) and 73% felt the program allowed people to be recognized who may have otherwise been overlooked.
But with great successes like Discover’s comes great challenges. Pair those hurdles with the task of catering to a dispersed workforce, many of whom are not just working from other states, but from other countries too, then issues like effectiveness and compliance come into play. But more than that, Bator says engagement, which has been more difficult for remote employees, is the foundation of any program, and is a barrier that must be broken for an initiative to stick.
Here are some tactics leaders suggest to help drive a strong recognition program for remote and hybrid workforces.
- a well-planned strategy;
- senior-level management support;
- consistent communication;
- flow-of-work user experience;
- flexibility for program administrators to align recognition with business goals;
- an integrated approach that connects recognition to behaviors, moments, and processes; and
- regular check-ins with managers to bolster engagement and productivity.
At CAA Club Group, VP of Total Rewards Mara Notarfonzo and her team were able to reach a 100% company adoption rate with their recognition program. Through the initiative, CAA’s 2,300 dispersed employee population felt valued and connected, so much so, that engagement rates increased almost instantly.
“We’ve witnessed profound success with our new recognition model, and last year alone, we had more than 24,000 moments of recognition on the platform. Daily, we see upwards of 100 or more recognition moments shared across the platform,” Notarfonzo says.
She thinks this public recognition has been the catalyst behind solid workplace relationships and company loyalty. “We quickly learned that recognition allowed our employees to connect to people we would normally not meet. This builds team rapport and contributes to a sense of belonging internally, serving as a good reminder that we all are working towards the same goal.”
Tailoring a recognition program to ultimately support an organization’s needs byway of uplifting employees can take much time and effort. Once leaders crack the code to discovering what works for most people at their company, regardless of their location, the return will be endless.
“Organizations are continuing to learn how to maintain culture and performance as their workforces continue to operate in a hybrid environment,” says Workhuman’s Sarah Hamilton. “Business leaders will need to continue investing time, resources, and efforts in programs that help build and maintain their company culture and that help their humans stay connected, productive, and engaged.”