Engaged WorkforcePerformance Management & Rewards

When Employee Recognition Is Taxing, Outsource It

In software maker Intuit’s efforts to improve employee recognition, it finds an outsourced program tromps an internal one.

by Derek Irvine

When the notion of employee rewards and retention is discussed with senior management, what comes to mind typically are office parties and one-off gift certificates—efforts that often involve discretionary spending with no measurable outcomes or business impact. There is little business planning and even less long-term strategy behind how most organizations recognize and reward their employees.

For global companies evaluating global recognition, the effort is even more fragmented and tactical. Each country or division typically offers various degrees and flavors of employee recognition, none of which rolls up under a strategic corporate initiative that has the potential to motivate employees, shape an organization’s culture, and influence its bottom line. But the tide is changing, and companies are beginning to take a strategic approach to employee engagement, reaping the benefits of enhanced employer-employee relationships and positive impact on the overall success of the business.

An example is Intuit, Inc., the Mountain View, CA-based financial software and services provider, which turned to Globoforce to develop its recognition program three years ago. Intuit’s management views employee recognition as a critical opportunity to create excitement and momentum within the company’s culture and ultimately improve its performance. However, while Intuit’s “Spotlight” program was highly successful from the start, it was not its first attempt at employee recognition.

Three years earlier, Intuit launched a catalog-based rewards program that took off initially only to stall within the first year due to problems with the vendor’s approach. Plaguing the program were inflated costs of catalog items, outdated electronic products, merchandise arriving

broken or with missing parts, long delivery time, and an inability to effectively deploy the system outside the U.S. The program remained at a static, ineffective level for three years with fewer than 5,500 awards given in the organization.

Rather than accept the low performance of this effort, management sought to completely revamp it.  Intuit chose to deploy Globoforce’s strategic, on-demand solution, collaborating to construct the blueprint for its “Spotlight” program, which recognized employees’ “performance, innovation, and service dedication at Intuit.”

Adoption occurred quickly, soaring to 20,000 rewards given in the first year and 26,000 the following year. The program touched 90 percent of Intuit’s workers each year, and opinion surveys showed employees felt that their accomplishments were being recognized.  

“Employee recognition is all about trying to create excitement in the culture. It’s part of trying to build momentum and keep that momentum going,” said Jim Grenier, vice president of HR at Intuit. “You want to let people know they are doing a good job and at the same time reinforce the same messages about where the business is going and what’s important. That’s really why Intuit has been so focused on recognition.”

One reason for this rapid success was Intuit’s relatively low average award value of $120.  Employees also appreciated the quick and easy reward redemption process in “Spotlight.” Key attributes were:

• Ease of Use. Employee feedback indicated that they found the redemption process very easy to use. Employees could combine awards and redeem them for a larger-denomination gift certificate.

• Rapid Delivery. Since Globoforce specialized in gift certificate-based recognition programs, even backordered certificates were promptly filled, arriving within a few days. The certificate delivery speed was popular with employees, particularly after their previous experience when deliveries often took many weeks.

• Online Redemption. Use of award money to purchase certificates for online stores such as Amazon.com was very popular. When awards were redeemed for online suppliers, the employee received an e-mail

response with a certificate code that could be used on the vendor’s online store.

• Charitable Donations. Using awards for charitable purposes was popular, as many employees felt that they already had enough “stuff”

and preferred to use their awards for something they felt was more meaningful.

• Easy International Process. Currency denominations defaulted to the employee’s local currency, but employees could use drop-down menus to select other currencies or gift certificates in other countries.

Today, Intuit’s Spotlight program helps to create a performance-driven culture within the organization, motivating more than 90 percent of its workforce of 8,200 global employees through relevant, meaningful, on-the-spot rewards tied to company values.

Tags: Engaged Workforce, Performance Management & Rewards

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