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Recognition in the Global Workplace

In the wake of the financial crisis, the connection between engagement and productivity has never been clearer.

By Jeffrey Fina
Global economic uncertainty due to the United States recession and Euro Crisis has led to low employee engagement levels and decreased workplace satisfaction, making it imperative for U.S.- based multinational corporations to refocus on engaging their global talent. The cost of not actively motivating employees can be detrimental to the company but also the economy. In the U.S. alone, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the economy $350 billion per year in lost productivity and turnover.

HR leaders are taking notice. According to Deloitte’s 2013 Top Five Global Employer Rewards Survey, HR executives across
the globe identified the shortage, motivation, and retention
of qualified talent as their primary challenge over the next three years.
Recognizing employees is critical for organizations to thrive in a more difficult economic climate and strategic employee recognition can help multinational corporations build a collaborative and motivated workforce globally. However, for programs to make a positive and lasting impact they need to be localized and address important cultural and demographic nuances.

Difficult economic environments have left employees across the globe feeling underappreciated, as they’ve had to deal with salary dips, understaffed offices, lost bonuses and increased work demands. As employers try to do more to grow their businesses, engaging employees on a global scale has in many cases taken a back seat while they’ve had to adjust to new economic environments and challenges. In a recent study, the Hay Group showed employees across the globe aren’t effectively motivated and thus are unable to reach their full work potential. Globally, less than two-thirds (62 percent) of employees think that conditions at work allow them to be productive. In Europe and the Middle East, this number falls to 58 percent.

Fostering a global workforce begins with focusing on the key drivers of employee engagement, starting with the need to feel appreciated, as employees want to be treated with respect and want to connect with their employer on the company’s mission and success. An important aspect of showing respect is giving culturally appropriate rewards. A global recognition program can express appreciation for employees across various countries, build workforce engagement and productivity and promote core value consistency—ultimately helping an organization meet its financial objectives.

Ensuring that recognition programs are designed and structured to be localized and relevant to match recipients’ lifestyles should be a top priority. U.S.-based HR directors need to provide the recognition strategy and guidelines so that local offices and global HR team members have flexibility to tailor their programs according to their particular employee populations. Developing a recognition program to resonate with employees’ backgrounds and values makes the recognition more meaningful and aligning rewards with employees’ interests makes it more likely they will find value in the program.

For example, in China, recognition in a formal office setting
is key to creating a personal and memorable experience. Hierarchy is respected, and it is very important for an employee to be recognized by a manager or director. In India, branded mementos with the company’s logo are popular because the sense of belonging to a multinational organization is prestigious, and local citizens take pride in displaying their association to the company. A Mate tea set, a traditional South American infused drink, is a preferred gift in Argentina, while Dom Perignon gift sets are highly popular across Europe.

The goal of any global recognition strategy should be to
ensure that corporate values resonate with employees through consistent communication and customized reward initiatives. HR directors must work with their global teams to make sure the needs of their employees are met across various countries. This helps organizations effectively engage and motivate employees with recognition programs and promote a more productive and committed workforce.

With historically low employee satisfaction rates, comprehensive recognition strategies that align the company’s values with employee performance are critical to creating a truly global corporate culture and promoting successful growth and employee retention. Hiring, retaining, and developing talent will continue to be a primary focus for global organizations and strategic recognition programs play a vital role in the process for employers and employees.

Jeffrey Fina is the chief business development officer at Michael C. Fina

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