Over a long time, it has been established that human beings look for recognition of their achievements. This need precedes some of the tangible factors in a job such as work hours, pay package and employee benefits. Organizations across the world adopt various practices to motivate and encourage their employees. Cultural differences influence the choice of methods and the frequency of letting the employee know how valuable she is. Secondly, given the high number of millennials in our workforce in India, senior leaders in the organization have been adapting their styles. There are several interesting dimensions that govern the current practices.
Ubiquitous Practice now
Rewards and recognition matter. Given the technological environment we live in, all of us are used to quick actions in all walks of life. So, it is natural that recognition or the lack of it has to be felt instantaneously. Nobody is in the mental frame of waiting for an applause to come after a quarter or a half year. Many managers send out quick bytes to groups of employees acknowledging good work. Sometimes, they hold stand-up meetings to recognize strong performers. Many organizations have a deluge of awards to give away every now and then. There are technology platforms within an organization to give away quick notes as a gesture to a peer, a boss or a sub-ordinate.
Some organizations have gone a step further by assigning an e-wallet of virtual currency to employees. They ask the employees to use this currency to give away to the colleagues as a mark of appreciation. Some use traditional methods of hall of fame, notice boards, gift coupons, certificates, trophies and so on. Employees post the awards, certificates, trophies on their social media pages and flaunt their achievements. Some over-zealous employees garner ‘Likes’ and ‘Comments’ on their posts.
Irrespective of methods, one thing is for sure, in the last decade, there is a wide-spread practice of rewards and recognition across industry sectors and organizations.
Hygiene factor these days
We must analyse if such practices are helping organizations improve employee engagement, productivity and retention. Has the customer satisfaction increased because of the higher levels of motivation among employees? Research doesn’t show this. So, increased investment in rewards and recognition hasn’t been driving results! They have merely become the hygiene factors. Absence of quick recognition is a de-motivator. Employees look for an environment that applauds and pats on their backs.
Organizations must find efficient methods of permeating the work environment with positive energy. Technology tools help in this process because they can be easily scaled and available in a reliable manner. Since cloud computing and smartphones have become commonplace, an app can make things easy to implement.
The HR team at the corporate office can easily track what aspects are being applauded on the floor. Senior leaders can match those with the drivers in the marketplace. For example, customers in the marketplace might be looking for new features and innovation while the employees might be applauding one another for cost savings and efficiency improvement. Senior leaders in the organization need to be watchful of any mismatch between the behaviours valued by the customers and those valued by the employees. If there is any, they have to undertake transformation programmes to realign the priorities with those of the market.
Leadership holds the key
Organizations in their frenzy to motivate employees have been asking managers to be vocal about their opinion about employee performance and not wait for the appraisal discussion. Many organizations have enabled peer to peer recognition so that the applause is not restricted to be coming from the boss, rather it can come from a stakeholder in another team or even someone outside the organization like a vendor, a distributor or a customer. In this context, there is a potential downside that leaders have to be careful about.
There will always be a few bad apples. One has to separate those from the rest so that the remaining pieces stay fresh and healthy. Similarly, this recognition system could be manipulated by some unscrupulous employees. They could get into an overdrive of mutual appreciation in a small group and eventually disturb the credibility of the system. Either the tech platform has to be extra-intelligent to prevent such irregular spikes or the leader has to be extra-vigilant to protect the sanctity of the system.
Some organizations get into spurts of over-communication. Employees get so many positive strokes that the relevance of the programme falls. They start ignoring the awards and recognition that come their way. The authenticity of the program becomes questionable. It is extremely important that the leaders keep an eye on the ball and ensure that the program is fit for the purpose.
In sum, recognition methods are here to stay. Gradually, they are becoming hygiene factors. India Inc. is starting to look for efficient methods to fulfil these needs. The key lies in the hands of the leadership to make sure that the praise is authentic and the program is meaningful.