Category All, Best Practices Introducing a New Recognition and Rewards Program It’s always an exciting time when a company rolls out a brand-new rewards and recognition program for its valued employees. With a new R&R program come new opportunities for recognition, praise, and strengthening of company culture. However, introducing a new R&R program isn’t always a straightforward task. November 3, 2022 By Ivo Jurcic Skilled HR professionals, managers, and leaders rely on a string of practices to ensure all the employees are well-informed and ready to adopt a new R&R program, so they can make a cultural impact. After reading this article, you’ll gain insight into how to introduce a brand new R&R program and benefit from thoughts coming from HR tech leaders and proven professionals. Let’s kick things off. Define the Goals of the New R&R Program Recognition programs enable employers to recognize their workforce and empower employees to send kudos and peer recognitions to foster a positive, affirming culture where people want to work in. Therefore, recognition programs help companies achieve strategic workforce goals that will have a beneficial impact on the bottom line. Most R&R programs have similar desired outcomes, such as increased employee engagement, reduced turnover, encouragement of certain employee behavior, or increased cultural alignment of the workforce with company values. But before a recognition program can be rolled out, company leaders should understand what are the objectives that the successfully adopted R&R program will solve. This doesn’t mean a recognition program can’t solve several objectives simultaneously. However, introducing a new R&R program designed for a specific goal yields focused results that can later be observed and quantified. The fact is, the greatest source of information about what inspires, motivates, and engages your employees is your employees. (…) When we survey employees, we don’t have to guess what drives their engagement. Surveys give us information directly from the source. Information we can use to make better decisions so our employees and our company will be the model of engagement. Don Phin, keynote speaker, adviser, coach for executives, and former Vice President of ThinkHR Enterprises with large workforces run a variety of surveys to effectively understand the current state of their workforce and the attitudes employees harbor towards the workplace. Focusing on specific goals helps HR and leadership to plan change management early on during the R&R program introduction, reducing the number of pitfalls and painful roadblocks that come with change. The wealth of data provided by surveys are instrumental in identifying specific goals that an R&R program will solve. An annual Talent Implications Study from WTW surveyed responders from 201 organizations representing 2.5 million employees in North America and found that about 60% of employers have increased their employee listening efforts, but only 31% conduct employee surveys regularly. Organizations should increase their surveying efforts to pinpoint what is missing in their employee experience and inform their direction for a new R&R program. For example, a critical survey question can be formulated as: How often do you receive recognition from your manager/coworkers? Then, leadership can use the data to determine the frequency and quality of recognitions and see how to address employee concerns with a new recognition program. Send a Company-wide Communication before the Program’s Implementation Communicating change early on is vitally important, regardless of the fact that the R&R program is yet to be designed or implemented. When companies roll out R&R programs, they do so because they want to introduce positive change to the workspace, which is seen as more recognition and reward-focused practices. However, sometimes leadership, HR, or line managers communicate that a change is happening in the later stages of R&R program implementation. This is a missed opportunity because, by the time the implementation is complete, companies could already be losing employees due to low recognition or a perception that there’s nothing being done to improve their EX. Keeping employees in the dark is not a sound strategy. More often than not, the HR department and the organization overall doesn’t exactly know how everything is going to come together. They don’t know how benefits and comp is going to be harmonized; they don’t have it mapped out. It takes time. And it’s really important that during that period of things coming together and crystalizing, that employees are kept abreast of what’s going on. It’s better to say: “Our goal is to have a communication out clarifying the employee benefits situation” than saying nothing for 30 days, cause in that 30-day period you could be losing people. Steve Goldberg, top 100 HR tech influencer, HR process & tech leader at 5 Fortune 500 companies It goes to show how internal communication plays a massive role not just in keeping employees informed of what’s going on, but also in keeping them engaged until the R&R project is completed; giving them something to look forward to in the future. By doing so, leadership also sets the project up for success. By the time the R&R program is introduced, employees will already be acquainted with it and understand its importance, and ideally, their role in helping the practice come to life. This approach will be beneficial later on during the adoption of the R&R program, when stakeholders will need to get more involved and informed. Communicate the New R&R Program is Live It goes without saying that once the new R&R program is successfully integrated into the company’s R&R platform, steadfast communication must take place. Here, communication isn’t a singular event where leadership merely announces the program is live, but rather, a continuous initiative that informs stakeholders that a new R&R program is available and explains how they can get the most out of it. Ideally, employees will already be informed about the R&R program from the early stages of development and be up to speed on what it does and how it benefits the workforce. However, introducing a new practice, even a positive one such as giving and receiving recognition on an R&R platform, is a change. And change can be difficult to embrace. According to a 2021 national poll of US workers by Eagle Hill Consulting, as many as 35% of all employees are generally frustrated with their company’s technology. The poll also notes that frustration can become entrenched in employees’ minds, meaning that a single unpleasant experience with their organization’s tech offering can create a negative attitude towards embracing new technology in the future. Another interesting finding from the poll is that 44% of employees say that technology either doesn’t contribute to their happiness at work or makes work harder. At the very least, it’s reasonable to assume there is already some resistance and skepticism from employees when introducing new technology and practices, including R&R programs. The skepticism mentioned can lead to resistance to adoption, especially if the importance of communication from leaders is underplayed during the program’s go-live announcement. Employees need to understand why [the new technology] is an improvement from what they had before. The job of a manager is to help people cross the bridge — to get them comfortable with the technology, to get them using it, and to help them understand how it makes their lives better. Didier Bonnet, Professor of Strategy and Digital Transformation at IMD Business School, and former Global Practice Leader at Capgemini Consulting In fact, line managers have a tremendous role to play when it comes to announcing a go-live of a new R&R program and maintaining communication. Typically, HR represents only 1% of the company and therefore needs support from other leaders. Line managers are ideal for this task since they have a closer connection to employees that are directly working alongside them. They also enjoy stronger rapport with their team members/department colleagues, and it’s easier for them to check up on employees’ experience with the new program. Therefore, to successfully communicate the program is available, HR and managers have to establish an internal communication strategy for announcing the new R&R program. The communication strategy consists of defining what messages will be sent to employees from their department and how the internal communication around the new program will continue long after the announcement. It’s helpful to mention that innovative R&R solutions have a reminder notification feature available so that managers can send reminders to the platform’s end-users and direct their attention to the solution if they notice employees haven’t used the platform in some time. The feature enables them to send targeted, easy-to-set-up notifications that are not time-consuming and directly address users who haven’t adopted the new program. Forgetfulness is one of the most common detractors of engagement. It’s very human to forget to say thank you or recognize someone if you’re knee-deep in assignments. That’s why it’s clever to equip your program managers or HR admins with a feature that enables them to nudge employees who haven’t acknowledged a colleague recently. Ivana Boshkovska, Product Owner at Semos Cloud Let’s continue the discussion on maintaining the new program’s adoption after the announcement. Encourage Consistent Program Use Internal communication is essential, but it can’t carry the entire project. Introducing any new program must be followed by an adoption strategy that will ensure consistent use long after the new R&R program is rolled out. But before disclosing ways to encourage employees to use the program frequently, it’s important to understand why large-scale adoption is tiresome, even after reliable communication and delivery. CITE Research has conducted a study of over 2000 workers across the US, UK, and Australia, to investigate the phenomenon of app overload in the workspace. The study points out that app overload leads to employee fatigue, as 68% of employees have to juggle between 10 different apps on average, in a single hour. As you can imagine, having to switch between apps all the time is detrimental to the consistency of use. To counter the negative impact of app overload, 66% of surveyed workers believe the solution is having single-platform access for all the features, i.e. having all the necessary apps consolidated under one roof. How does this apply to introducing new R&R programs and increasing their consistent use? Previously, we discussed how the workforce can resist introducing new tech-powered practices, especially if they’ve already had a poor experience with company technology. Well, if leadership is introducing a new R&R program on a recognition platform that is separate from the rest of the technology stack and tools employees use, be it for communication or any other task, employees will have to spend more time juggling between apps. Of course, this will have a negative impact on the consistency of use, and, by extension, on the adoption of the new R&R program. Therefore, to encourage consistency, the project leaders have to consider the importance of consolidation of their R&R programs on their tech stack. We consider best practices to be our guiding star, and best practices recommend recognition to happen in the flow of work. It’s not enough to say: “Here’s the new recognition program, use it often!” If employees are already juggling between 5-10 apps, having them log out of the HCM and log back in the separate recognition platform can be distracting and time consuming, leading to poor adoption of the R&R platform. Instead, what I advocate for is having an R&R solution built on top of the HCM of choice, so that using the new recognition program truly feels like an extension of the HCM and not a separate action. Also, by connecting the R&R platform with various internal communication channels recognition can be even faster and easier for employees as they don’t even need to leave their favorite comm channels just to give kudos. Ana Binovska, Professional Services Team Lead at Semos Cloud In other words, there is a strategic benefit to introducing a new recognition program on an R&R platform that is already connected to the company’s HCM platform in a way that employees can use it without having to exit the HCM and switch to a separate app. For example, if a large enterprise is an SAP SuccessFactors customer, the HR technology used for R&R practices has to be perfectly integrated into SuccessFactors, so that users don’t have to switch between apps to access the new program. This is how HR and line managers can make the consistent program use simpler without adding any disruption to their employees’ workflow. In addition, adoption initiatives become easier to push because they don’t interrupt the experience of using the HCM platform. When line managers send communication pieces about the new program and encourage them to send recommendations, it expands the experience of using the platform instead of further fragmenting it. A staple encouragement tactic is to award employees that receive the most recognition on the newly introduced program with token rewards or branded goodies. Encouraging consistent use and sending notifications is far better when every process is accessible on a single HCM platform. Conclusion Companies with a mature conception of Employee Experience understand that R&R programs are instrumental in fostering a positive culture where employees feel appreciated. Doing so means introducing new R&R programs from time to time and adding something fresh to the recognition experience of employees. Seeing employees having difficulty with newly introduced programs shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even a positive change demands a strategic approach. Thankfully, there are amazing practices that help HR and managers roll out the new R&R program smoothly and ensure employees start using it right away.