Growing numbers of organisations are treating employee recognition as a key pillar of their corporate strategy, recognising its critical role in driving cultural alignment and behavioural change, developing capability, and strengthening engagement and retention.
And it’s those organisations that are applying increasing levels of sophistication to three key areas that are realising some of the most significant gains – those areas being: recognition branding, employee communications and people analytics.
- Develop a fun, engaging and meaningful recognition brand
While some organisations simply default to positioning their recognition activities under an extension of their corporate brand, there are plenty of organisations that have invested heavily in developing creative, aspirational and engaging brands with impressive results.
Two of our major banking clients have developed and evolved their Heroes and Legends recognition brands respectively; the former invoking heavy superhero imagery to help recognise the everyday heroes within their organisation. The latter has drawn from mythology, employing a mix of illustrative and photographic imagery to represent the hidden legends within its walls.
Additionally, a large multinational pharmaceutical client has long celebrated a small blue mascot – Charlie – as the face of recognition throughout the company; he has acted as a fun, accessible, unifying element across its highly diverse workforce.
Another example is a large retail client, which uses its playful and, at times, irreverent Seeker brand – complete with seemingly endless amounts of canine imagery and puns – as a vehicle through which to recognise and reward behaviour that supports new business lead generation across its 30,000-strong workforce.
The themes and creative execution may be fun and light-hearted but, in each case, the recognition brand is highly meaningful and has become a powerful lever that organisations can pull to help role model behaviour and effect change, and drive outstanding, measurable results.
- Exploit the power of communication and community
It sounds like an obvious point to make, but effective communication – in all its forms – is critical to the success of any employee recognition strategy.
While virtually a hygiene factor in the consumer marketing sphere, most of these organisations are now realising the power of targeted communications to different employee segments. Some target inactive employees who have not recognised a colleague for some time; others present affordable redemption options based on reward points balance.
Many target demographic and geographic segments: blue collar vs white collar, office-based vs remote, fluent English vs ESL, and online vs offline are just some of the variations to consider. Within these segments, A/B testing is also common; variations in subject lines, messaging, imagery and communication dates are trialled, as are the use of control groups, providing the opportunity to further enhance communication insights and effectiveness.
The more progressive organisations also target influential recognition superusers – those who regularly give and receive recognition – and empower them as recognition champions, to help drive the desired cultural change and/or alignment, and use recognition to help build stronger employee communities.
Targeted, educational communications to managers are also common, as is the sharing of personal stories and individual profiles, to celebrate achievement, and role model and reinforce desired behaviours.
The empowerment and strengthening of employee communities via social streams is another critical element of the communication mix, creating an additional layer of engagement by providing a forum for both professional conversations and personal interests.
It’s no coincidence that organisations that provide a host of excuses for communicating infrequently, if at all, have trouble realising a strong return on their recognition investments.
- Make data-driven decisions
As I outlined in the Engagement Report in the December HRD issue, growing numbers of organisations are tapping their employee recognition data to produce insights that help optimise the performance and efficacy of their recognition strategies, and inform their broader organisational decision-making.
For example, our Heroes client (from section 1) has analysed its HR data sets to draw a clear, positive correlation between recognition activity and overall engagement.
Our Seeker client chose to overlay a qualitative element by surveying its employees on a range of elements, allowing it to build a strong internal NPS picture, identifying opportunities to improve process and communications, while also helping to shape its overall performance and reward strategy.
Other clients are undertaking internal and external benchmarking, and feeding recognition data insights into their broader talent identification and key influencer initiatives. Some are also looking to match recognition and engagement data with sales and customer data, to create a clear picture of key loyalty drivers at critical stages of both the employee and customer life cycles.
Pulse checks, onboarding surveys and exit interviews provide additional, rich qualitative data sources to mine.
1. Develop a differentiated, fun and meaningful recognition brand to cut through competing corporate branding and communications.
2. Target your communications to different employee segments to drive the desired behaviour. Communicate well, communicate often, via multiple channels. Leveraging the inherent strength of your employee communities is critical to the development of a strong, vibrant, sustainable culture.
3. Exploit the valuable employee data sources at your disposal to produce insights that will help optimise the performance and efficacy of your recognition strategies, and inform broader organisational decision-making.
Where data meets communication and design
There are many factors that contribute to effective retention, but it is those organisations that understand and exploit the powerful relationship between a creative, differentiated recognition brand, targeted communications and rich data insights that will ultimately steal a march on their competition when it comes to engagement, performance and retention.