In my previous blogs I’ve explored three of the five pillars of engagement, my pragmatic take on the framework that can be usefully used to guide organisations to engagement success.
We’ve looked at communication, accessibility and enablement but now it’s the turn of recognition. There was a moment when I thought about tackling this first. Why? Because more times than not when I’m sitting down with HR heads, the second question I get after ‘Can it connect everyone to everything? is ‘Can we link to our rewards portal?’
Access is only the beginning...
Sometimes it seems like engagement is just a synonym for recognition. Get your employees signed up to some sort of promotional cum loyalty scheme and interacting with it on a regular basis and that’s it, engagement job done. But we know proper engagement is far more expansive and complex than that – that’s why we developed the framework in the first place. That said, reward and recognition is still fundamental – but it’s a part rather than the whole.
Moreover, a one-way, top-down rewarding of staff is a very narrow, limited interpretation. I’m sure recipients of gifts or discounted items enjoy getting them but they might view the process slightly cynically – accepting it as a typical corporate tactic. So they may quite willingly take – but not necessarily give back any more. However, because the scheme is being used and people say they like it – who wouldn't? – then that’s okay, you can put a tick against the Engagement box and move on.
Real business value
That was actually the thinking a client shared with me recently. And while they were happy for our Engage platform to link to their third party benefits provider, that was a five second conversation. What they really wanted to talk about was how to recast recognition, take it from being a corporate ‘ploy’ to something of real business value.
So began a lengthy chat about democratising recognition and building social capital and cohesion through peer-based acknowledgement and rewards. Just think about it for a second - if you give someone a £30 gift voucher it generally has a limited 1-2-1 impact; whereas if that person is recognised and that recognition amplified through the business so that everyone knows, that person feels much more valued. It’s a great way to start and has no P&L impact either. A win:win surely?
I shared the story of another client who had been rather taken aback to learn that the most popular tool in the Engage platform three months on from go-live was the Thank You cards. They were pinging around left, right and centre from one colleague to another, and people had commented that the uplift in mood was palpable. Now there was a pretty active engagement programme going on at this time so Thank Yous can’t take all the credit – but as one recipient put it ‘It means a lot when your mates say thanks. You want to carry on doing your best for them.’
Given that friendships at work are known to be the single strongest retention factor, you can see why colleague approval arguably has more value than corporate largesse. That’s also why we put a fair bit of store by encouraging social behaviours across the workforce. The ‘comments, likes and shares’ style of community building that drives consumer apps such as Facebook easily translates into an app for the workplace – creating more opportunities for colleagues to connect and come together (on and offline), which in turn promotes greater understanding, appreciation and respect. We have another client who recently changed how they did their Long Service Awards, now choosing to make it a headline event via the app. Each recipient’s notice is receiving around 350 Likes and generating around 100 comments (kind ones!). Previously announcements barely made a ripple in the water.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in this space is quantifying the return. Staff taking benefits is an easy one to compute; but the beneficial effects of a more connected, collegiate workforce, where we’re in the realms of the touchy-feely? Harder to put a figure on for sure, but that said you just know in your gut it’s a good thing.
Stand up the recognition pillar in your business, put the tech in place and you’ve got the transactional effort/reward side of things covered out of the gate pretty much. But you can also start sowing that community seed - democratising awards, socialising achievement and celebrating each other. Yes, it's hard to put a value on that but I sense that, done well, it could be priceless.
Next time, we’ll wrap things up with our final pillar, feedback – and explain why it’s also the cornerstone of everything that’s gone before.