Article: John McVeigh: It is important to make rewards and recognition personal

Strategic HR

John McVeigh: It is important to make rewards and recognition personal

John McVeigh, President OC Tanner International on the importance of rewards and recognition, the new trends and tools in this space & how India is different from other established markets in terms of recognizing employees
John McVeigh: It is important to make rewards and recognition personal

Recognition is probably the lowest cost-highest impact attraction, retention and engagement strategy


John McVeigh, President OC Tanner International, has over 25 years of experience in helping organizations around the world maximize their growth by creating great work environments and business cultures that drive peak performance.

With OC Tanner having a global presence, what has been the experience in India vis-à-vis the other established market of North America and Europe?

OC Tanner does a lot of research not just in America and Europe, but we study Asia along with different regions around the world. Universally, all employees want and need appreciation; it is highly valued by every individual and sought for in organizations. How it gets practiced is different in different cultures. For instance, in some parts of Europe, team is more important than an individual. In these countries, companies recognize the team effort more than individual achievements. On the other hand, in India there is already an existing and natural recognition in some form which has been used for a number of years now. The difference that I see however, is in terms of the level. In established markets, for instance, in the United States, the rewards and recognition methods are modernized and taken to a new level. Now some leading edge Indian companies are also going there and modernizing their recognition practices. So there’s a lot of potential that lies in the Indian market in the rewards and recognition space.

Do you see markets being influenced by others in terms of adoption of recognition practices?

Yes. What I have noticed is that India especially is always willing to learn about the best practices from other successfully established markets. Today, a vast majority of the companies know that there is a worldwide war for talent. But in India, attracting and retaining good talent is such a core part of the human resource strategy that they are very open to learn from those that have succeeded in their retention strategy.

What are some of the cross-cultural trends that you have noticed in the past few years?

What is seen to be the most impactful trend in recognition is making recognition very personal. Today recognition or appreciation in the most general sense is not effective anymore. Some companies today have involved spouses and other family members when it comes to rewards. So what they are doing is that they align the rewards and recognition practice with the story of the employee’s achievement. If recognition practices miss the personal touch, then it just becomes a transactional or a tick-in-the-box for which employees do not really care.

How can organizations identify a talent problem and then align it to rewards and recognition strategy to get business outcomes?

I see recognition less of a human resource benefit and more as a leadership strategy. All organizations are constantly going through change; whether it is about being more innovative, merging two companies together to bring people together on the same page, internal transformation, etc. The best way to fast track this transformation is to put spotlight on those employees who are exhibiting the behavior that organization needs. So, if you are working towards innovation and the organization lacks people who are making that possible, then the single person who is bringing in a new idea should be called out in front of the others and appreciated. Firstly, this gives recognition that managers actually believe that their idea will work and contribute to the success/transformation of the organization. Secondly, everybody watching the recognition starts to think that that kind of behavior is what they need to exhibit. This makes a lot of difference in the productivity of the organization as a whole.

What are some of the strategic recognition tools that are available in the market today and how do you see these evolving in the next few years?

More and more of the world is moving to mobile devices. So companies really need to leverage this to upload videos and photos which give more of a personal touch. Giving the option to colleagues, friends and family members to comment on the accomplishments of person being recognized will have a fairly dramatic impact on the recipient of the recognition. Another big disruption today is the level of adoption of social media. So giving employees the option to share their recognition on their personal profiles on various social media channels will expand the recognition to a larger network. This will in return improve and enhance the organizational brand.

In your opinion, how and what kind of business impact can be created through recognition?

Rewards and recognitions have significantly increased employee engagement scores, be it in Europe or in India. We have also seen subsequent decreases in turnovers, increase in profitability, etc. So this is not a soft HR benefit; it’s a business strategy that impacts business results.

What is OC Tanner’s plan for the Indian market and how do you plan to take it forward?

India is the corporate headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region. So, we are really excited about the response we’re seeing, the number of clients that are reaching out to us is growing. With the boom in the start-up market, many young companies are reaching out to us for cost effective ways to attract, engage and retain talent. Recognition is probably the lowest cost-highest impact attraction, retention and engagement strategy. So we are seeing a lot of interest from them. Even larger firms seem very positive. So we see continued investments coming in India, both for the Indian market as well as the Asia-Pacific region. 

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Topics: Strategic HR, Benefits & Rewards, Compensation & Benefits

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