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How to recognise a globally distributed workforce

With the explosion of technologies and communication platforms which have made the world smaller especially in the corporate sector, it’s become more common place for organisations to operate on a global level with many of its goals, processes and structures being streamlined. However, one common challenge amongst such organisations is the need to implement a comprehensible reward and recognition programme across different offices, countries, time zones and languages, instead of each region locally rewarding its teams, as this leaves room for inconsistencies, different messages being conveyed and duplication of recognition platforms.

However, whilst implementing such schemes can be a challenge at the outset, there are many worthwhile advantages which override. A global approach fosters better employee recognition, engagement, motivation and wellbeing across the board, ensures consistency across the different offices in which an organisation operates and can increase proficiencies in terms of administration, human resources and ultimately, cost.

Employee recognition can be used to directly address some of the challenges that arise from having a global workforce. Organisations often struggle to create a genuine culture and set of values that ring true across the globe. Workplace culture can be hard to define but is essentially the character and personality of an organisation, encapsulating the values, beliefs and behaviours of its people. Culture has a huge role to play in attracting, engaging and motivating employees.

Employee recognition can make a notable difference here. By being very clear about which behaviours are being rewarded, how and why, employers can clearly reflect the values that really matter to their organisation, supporting your workplace culture, wherever in the world a team or individual may be operating.

Employee awards should be directly linked to the behaviours that support your global culture. These can range from straightforward performance to softer, value-based behaviours such as ‘Creative thinking’, ‘showing integrity’ or ‘self-improvement’. Employees can then nominate their colleagues for exhibiting these behaviours and, by aligning them directly with recognition awards, employers can make a clear link between how employees act and how they are rewarded.

In order to ensure success across the board when implementing and running a global employee recognition scheme, employers / global management teams need to give each of their local managers the power to localise elements of the strategy which will ensure better engagement, whilst at the same time maintaining strict strategic parameters. There are multiple considerations which need to be taken into account when building a scheme to reward and recognise a globally dispersed workforce.

Consideration 1: Fully automated, centrally managed recognition portal
The most effective employee reward and recognition schemes use fully automated, online portals that can be accessed within the workspace as well as remotely via a mobile and tablet, 24/7. This eliminates the worry of time where it’s an administration task to nominate a colleague, but rather makes the process simple, instant and inviting. By using a centrally managed online portal as the hub for all employee reward and recognition-focused activity for a globally distributed workforce, organisations can make it easy for their teams, no matter which location they’re in, to get and feel involved with nominating and receiving recognition awards wherever they are, whilst at the same time ensuring there is a consistent strategic roll-out.

The technical functionality of portal-based programmes allows for superior social recognition, via in-built tools - winners walls, message panels, likes and colleague notifications. Automating the approval process for granting recognition awards means that you can introduce operational efficiencies on a global scale, whilst also capturing insightful data about how a scheme is operating and how employees are in actual fact engaging with the platform.

Consideration 2: Currency, cost and language

This is a fundamental consideration when looking how best to recognise a globally distributed workforce, as so many different factors come into play, and ultimately which may impact the bottom line. There will of course be different languages and cultures which will shape the programme, as well as the currency which is used together with exchange rates and reward values. It’s also fundamental to note that living costs can differ dramatically from country to country, and what may be a grand reward for one country in terms of value, may not be as impressive in another.

A £50 award in India will have a different value to a £50 award in the UK. It’s therefore sensible to create a currency cost of living (parity) index to ensure consistency and price parity across the board, which will be aligned with both local and global recognition budgets. Factors such as foreign exchange, the process of attainting consumer goods for rewards, administration costs and reward costs need to be factored in. Within this, elements such as reward delivery need to be factored in, so for example if rewards are done electronically or need a fulfilment agency or increased manpower at the HQ. This will in turn also influence the backend of the programme and it’s required functionalities.

Consideration 3: Segmentation based on culture and demographics
On a macro and micro level, each country and office have its own set of cultural nuances which are individualised and do not necessarily translate on a global level. Local managers in each region should be given the autonomy (based on trust, skills and expertise) to make the scheme relevant to their own internal teams within the same programme guidelines and parameters.

Local managers should undertake and encourage spontaneous and timely acts of recognition as and when they see fit, and in accordance with any cultural dates and norms. In addition, it’s critical to ensure that the recognition awards are localised and relevant, and potentially from local suppliers who best know the market and its delivery and logistics. It’s important to take into account the many cultural differences as these vastly vary from country to country. Some countries have different weekend days for example (UAE and Middle East) whereas some may have different attitudes to certain leisure activates. This needs to be taken seriously in order to not waste resource and money when rewards are received.

Consideration 4: Employee recognition to unify a distributed workforce
Employee recognition can be used to directly address some of the challenges that arise from having a such a widespread workforce as recognition is indeed a global human need and expression. It’s not an easy task to create a unified and authentic culture and set of core values which ring true across the globe, due to the multitude of organisational levels as well as territorial variances. By having a personalised set of criteria which bring to light the behaviours and attitudes which are underlying the business, a global platform can most certainly bring a sense of unity and simplification to the organisation to ensure consistency and streamlining.

Consideration 5: Centralised communications
It’s important to develop a detailed communications plan around the launch of a reward and recognition scheme, even more so on a global level in order to inform and educate employees across the board. Local managers need to be engaged from the outset, so it’s important to clearly communicate the benefits and value of employee recognition to them and involve them in the process from the get-go. They are the ones who are going to be responsible for portraying this message to their teams and being the recognition ambassador within their localities.

The more communication touchpoints, the better as different communication sources work effectually for different sets of employees, for example digital versus face-to-face! This should incorporate a range of different channels including posters, presentations, emails, internal intranet platforms, social media platforms, SMS messages, induction sessions, employee handbooks and more.

If you’d like to discover more about global reward and recognition and gain insight from an exclusive case study from Colt Technologies, download our e-Book here.

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