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Five steps to building a culture of reward and recognition

Jamie King | September 19, 2019

Company culture is a hot topic. With the growth of the millennial workforce the emphasis has shifted from pay and job title to reward and recognition. Companies are having to look at their own Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) in order to attract the best talent and keep those they already have. But this is a significant mindset shift for many companies, especially those well-established organisations with large workforces. The following article sets out our top five tips for those organisations who want to make a change and build a culture of reward and recognition.

1) Understand your workforce

Many large organisations have a very diverse workforce and it’s imperative to understand the demographic of your employees fully. What age groups do they fall into? How many are married and have kids or other dependents? Are they dispersed with lots of home working or long commutes into the office? What are the salary brackets? Are you global with local cultures and behaviours? There is often so much to understand, but it is getting this granular that will help you to understand how and when your teams want to be recognised and rewarded.

In addition, it is important to understand what makes each of these groups “tick”. For example, would giving someone who earns over £100k p/a a £25 gift voucher really make a difference to their life and attitude towards the job. Similarly, would rewarding someone who works on their own in the field every day a team lunch as a reward for their hard work make any sense?

The new generation of employees coming through also have very different priorities in terms of what they are looking for, and this is true from generation to generation. The latest generation of talent, often referred to and much maligned as “millennials” are driven by non-traditional factors. They want public recognition, opportunities to learn, flexibility and work-life balance to name just a few. Compare this to older generations who are still driven by a good salary and secure job. How do you embrace both without alienating either?

These may be obvious examples, but it is exactly this lack of consideration that leads to a fall in morale and motivation in the workplace. Conducting a simple annual staff survey will help to address all these issues and enable you to put in place a reward and recognition strategy that works for all!  

2) Be strategic

The key to implementing a culture of reward and recognition, in fact any culture that you want in your business is to be clear on what it is that you want it to achieve. Obviously, you want to attract the best talent, retain your talent and keep them motivated. But take one step back, you need to be clear about the type of talent you want and think about the type of business you are.

If you are a financially driven business that has a focus on monetary reward for your clients or customers, then it means that you need to attract talent that is driven by the same goals and wants to be recognised for that. Likewise, if your organisation is focused on helping others or is even based around working in tough emotional environments such as teaching, social services, health care or the emergency services then you need to think about how your rewards and recognition scheme can go beyond financial rewards.

If you are clear about the type of organisation you are and the type of people you want to attract then you can develop an effective reward and recognition strategy. You will be able to appeal to those people and motivate them accordingly.

3) Learn from the best

In today’s world of social media and easy access to information and opinion, it is very easy to learn from your peers and those companies you want to emulate. Similarly, there are many companies out there who have not got the best reputation, and it’s easy to learn from them too.

Websites like Glassdoor have given us access to first-hand insights into company culture and social media channels allows companies to showcase their culture via the means of video, photos and quotes. There are lots of positive examples that we can learn from - especially coming out of Silicon Valley (some more extreme than others in how they create their culture). For example, Google famously hired a Happiness Guru. Netflix are very open about their culture and have published their EVP.

The one thing that is clear, is that no company is the same. You will have done your insight into your workforce and identified what sort of company you want to be. Now you can take the best elements of those businesses you admire and tailor them to your own organisation.

4) Ensure buy-in from the Top

A recent PwC research found that 87% of the directors it surveyed felt that company culture problems start with the tone set by the executive team; with 79% identifying middle managers and the tone they set as equally problematic. The lesson here is clear – company culture needs to be led from the top, and if the behaviours of those at the top are not in line with the values of the business, there is trouble ahead.

The idea of a culture being driven from the top down is not new and directors are beginning to understand that if they are to create a healthy, productive employee culture it needs to be centred on employees’ actual needs and getting the balance right between this and business goals. It’s an approach that we have long been endorsing when advising how to design genuinely meaningful reward and recognition programs.

5) Don’t just talk the talk

It is imperative that the directors and executive team walk the walk as well as talk the talk. There is nothing more demotivating than a business leader telling their team to behave in a certain way and then not doing so themselves. If you implement a culture of reward and recognition, it can’t just be words on an employee document or a website. The best ways to do this are to reinforce certain behaviours by being visible in recognising and rewarding staff for acting in ways that reflect the company values.

There are several technology platforms that will help you do this, from company intranets though to using big screens in the office to recognise the team or employee of the week. But is goes beyond this. But is also about ensuring that senior management and team leaders feel empowered to reward their teams.

The use of spontaneous team meetings, newsletters, recognition boards up in the kitchens and posters also go a long way to show that rewarding and recognising hard work, long service, going above and beyond is something that your organisation takes seriously.

Finally, don’t limit the amount of recognition or rewards you can do because of budget. It does not cost much to give someone a day off, parking space, extended lunch break, a mention in a team or company meeting or a handwritten note to say thank you. Just make sure it actually happens as the upside is usually far greater than the effort it takes to recognise and reward the individual or team.

Employee recognition can help create a healthy company culture. Download our free e-book to find out more about how to build an effective recognition strategy.

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Topics: Reward and Recognition