Organisations, at every stage of maturity, need to transform towards creating an emotional connect, and this is not an easy task
Companies that invest adequately in devising ways to acknowledge, trust, involve, communicate and listen will be able to differentiate themselves
Sandeep Banerjee, MD & CEO, Edenred India, in conversation with People Matters explains how organizations need to build an emotional connect with their employees before investing on reward programs
The year 2008 brought a pause to many initiatives, especially in regard to investments on reward and engagement activities in many organizations. Looking ahead, I do not see much difference in the way managers will plan their approach towards employee engagement in 2011 as well, and this can be a missed opportunity. I think we are back in the year 2008, both in terms of, challenges of attracting and retaining talent, and in engaging people. But we need to leverage on the learning from the recession period and invest more in building the emotional connect with our employees.
Employees have not changed, and fundamentally, they are asking for the same from their employers. It is not only the monetary component, but employees are also saying “acknowledge me as a person”, and “trust me and give me responsibility”, “allow me to be a part of this organization by involving me more”, and “communicate and share more with me on what is happening”. So looking at only compensation or a reward program will not be sufficient for attracting and retaining the right talent.
Many organizations need to go back to basics and revisit their engagement initiatives and budgets. Drawing a parallel from an airline’s frequent flyer reward program, one would understand that such programs will only work if the basic service that the airline provides is good; no program will work unless the service or product offered is to the expected level of quality, which can then only be complimented by loyalty and privilege programs. Similarly, no company’s reward program will work unless there is a sense of engagement for employees that is imbibed in the culture of the organization.
Companies tend to look at reward programs in a transactional manner, which is a big miss. These initiatives will not work unless the organization invests in creating an emotional connect with their employees. A reward program that is not built on a strong employee engagement platform will be perceived as another HR program where people gather, clap, take their certificate or gift and forget about it, which does not quite serve the purpose of a reward program.
Organizations, at every stage of maturity, need to transform towards creating an emotional connect, and this is not an easy task. It is a long journey where employees may be suspicious at the beginning, but if the commitment of the leaders is firm, soon results will start to show. Only then it makes sense for the organization to initiate a rewards and recognition program. A program alone cannot create a sense of pride, as a program is more tactical. Therefore, a program will not be sustainable if the culture of the organization itself does not enable an environment of trust, commitment and openness to ensure the right emotional connect.
Often the objective that HR has in mind while implementing a reward program is to make the employees feel valued, bring in a sense of pride and finally, rewarding for good performance, that will induce the right behavior. Further, there are other objectives of creating a culture of celebration and teamwork which go beyond just temporary recognition or a feel-good factor that does not last long enough.
Many companies face internal roadblocks while implementing reward programs successfully. It may be due to the absence of adequate buy-in from the leadership team on the need for such programs, or just a shortsighted view of looking at such programs more as a cost than an investment. Finally, the challenge of how the program will be constructed, implemented and administered successfully often comes in the way of the success of most employee engagement programs. A typical program, where fundamentals are in place, takes 2 to 3 months to be rolled out, and once the program is designed and the pilot completed, it takes another 6 months before the company can start to see any effect at the grass root level. Majority of these roadblocks can be overcome to a great extent through a partnership with an expert in designing and executing reward programs.
Companies that will invest adequately in devising ways to acknowledge, trust, involve, communicate and listen, to their employees, while providing an environment of development and recognition, will be able to differentiate themselves. And this will then become their tool to attract and retain the best talent in today’s competitive environment.