When a Gold Star Isn’t Enough

Case Study: NBC Universal finds innovative ways to say Good Job!

by HROT Staff

An annual survey of NBC Universal  (NBCU) employees showed that  while employees felt that they made a  difference, their contributions were  not always recognized and spotlighted  by their higher-ups. In response to the employee  feedback, NBCU decided to create an improved employee  recognition program. To help them in this project, they  partnered with recognition provider IncentOne.

 

CREATION OF A BRAND 

 

Prior to launching a new employee recognition program,  the existing reward program was evaluated. NBCUs  spot special award program was cash-based and awards  were presented without fanfare. Although the program  was well defined with good back-end controllership features,  the front-end nominating process consisted of a  paper nomination form that had to be routed throughout  the company for appropriate approvals.  NBCU decided to come up with a new program and  a new brandOvation. The brand was chosen because  this word describes the new culture of recognition NBCU  desired to create and nurture. The goals of Ovation were  to make the employee recognition process: 

 

More memorableby encouraging merchandise and gift  certificates, rather than just cash 

 

More prevalentby encouraging smaller-sized awards,  given more frequently and to more employees 

 

More visibleby the creation of a branded program and  by encouraging public presentation of awards 

 

More personal and spontaneousby using Web-based  technology to enable a wide variety of choices  (merchandise, gift certificates, cash) to suit different  employees and different occasions calling for recognition. 

 

The Ovation program was designed to enhance  NBCUs position as an employer of choice and improve  overall employee satisfaction by developing a culture of  recognition. A cross-functional team of NBCU managers,  using GEs Six Sigma process, established the  program guidelines based on voice of the customer  input from operations managers. Recognition budgets  were established at division levels and managed by HR  managers in conjunction with operations managers.  Ovation had managements full approval. The HR  managers, charged with being the champions of the  Ovation program, participated in various in-person and online  training sessions in the weeks leading up to the  launch. Several days prior to launch, the program was  communicated to employees via e-mail announcements  and feature articles on NBCUs intranet.  Key to the success of Ovation is the broad choice of  rewards that would appeal to a diverse audience. The program  offers the award recipients choices with the Gift  Certificate Award, which was specifically branded for  NBCU. This award enables employees to select rewards  from an extensive portfolio that includes gift certificates,  merchandise, travel packages, personal services, airline  miles, and phone cards.  NBCU uses a comprehensive award management system  that automates and integrates all program rewards,  administration, and procedures. Eligible managers issue  awards through an automated nomination and approval  process that facilitates as many as four levels of authorization  (for the very largest award levels).  Once a nomination is approved, a personalized congratulatory  letter; the Gift Certificate Award; as well as  a framed Ovation Certificate of Appreciation, suitable for  display to assure that the employees accomplishments are  properly and publicly recognized, is sent to the nominating  manager for presentation to the employee. 

 

PROGRAM RESULTS 

 

As part of the Six Sigma process that was used to develop  the program, a variety of measures were set up to  track progress. Key measures include the number of  awards given each month, the average size of awards, the  percentage of awards delivered as cash, and the average  time it takes to go from nomination to final approval in  their systems. Overall results include the following: 

 

A culture of recognition strategy was well received  and has been embraced at NBCU. 

 

More employees are being recognized, more frequently,  at no additional cost to the company. Return on  investment has increased. 

 

The entire rewards process is Web-based which results  in quick turnaround with no manual residue. 

 

Memorable merchandise awards, rather than nonmemorable  cash awards, are encouraged. 

 

Says Eileen Whelley, EVP of Human Resources at  NBC Universal, I am thrilled with the enthusiasm with  which managers and employees have embraced the  Ovation program. Clearly, recognition of the accomplishments  and outstanding work of our employees  was something we needed to improve. This program has  made an impact in this regard and is continuing at a  fervent pace.     

Posted December 10, 2004 in Engaged Workforce

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