Rewards and Recognition (R&R) initiatives have been shown to have a direct impact on various parameters critical to an organization such as improving retention (68%), engagement (14%), and ROI (147%). But more significantly, they are invaluable in turning employees into brand ambassadors. An effective R&R program can ignite brand evangelism - a highly effective form of marketing. For instance, content shared by employees receives eight times higher engagement than that shared by corporate brand channels, and leads developed through employee social marketing are seven times more likely to convert.
In today’s digital world, an effective R&R program must be woven around three Es – Engagement, Experience, and Empowerment. While engagement hinges more on mental stimulation, experience and empowerment come from employees’ emotional connect with their organization.
Here are five ways to roll out an effective R&R program to turn employees into brand evangelists:
#1 Make R&R experiential: More than cash rewards and discount vouchers that are short-lived, experiential rewards have the capability to become talking points for a long time. Experiential rewards such as adventure tours, nature treks, health and wellness getaways or restaurant treats help organizations establish an emotional connect with employees. Employees are also likely to share pictures and videos of their trips on social media or through word-of-mouth with their family and friends, giving a solid boost to their organization’s image and humanizing the brand. Infosys’ unique experiential RnR platform InfyGold+, gives employees the freedom to choose their rewards from a variety of available hotel, travel, retail, and other deals.
#2 Focus on providing frequent R&R: Traditional R&R programs include recognition for length of service, extraordinary one-time achievement, stellar performance over a period of time, sales incentives and so on. According to a SHRM survey, companies that invest more than 1% or more of payroll on incentive programs perceived greater positive impact on every key metric. However, recognition does not need to be elaborate or complicated in order to be effective. A simple weekly or monthly rewards ritual can also keep employees engaged and motivated. Small words of praise, handwritten thank you notes, appreciation at a town hall, and other such gestures go a long way in turning employees into brand evangelists. Use surveys and focus groups to figure out what motivates your team members and incentivize accordingly.
#3 Create peer-to-peer R&R programs: While manager-led recognition is the most common form of recognition, peer-to-peer recognition is easier to set up. It also reduces the burden on managers. Zappos, for instance, has a long standing formal peer-to-peer reward program named ‘Monthly Hero’ where every employee is given USD 50 to reward another worker who he/she feels is deserving. From the pool of awardees, one Monthly Hero is chosen through common vote and a mini-parade is held to celebrate the hero’s victory. Besides a cash reward, the hero gets a cape to wear and a covered parking slot too.
#4 Gamify R&R to customize rewards: The psychology behind game mechanics can be used to increase engagement in R&R programs by including point scoring, peer competition, instant recognition, and so on. Besides tapping into three key levers that drive employee motivation i.e. recognition, rewards, and competition, gamification also helps increase transparency of the R&R program.Easy access to the program from anywhere, anytime, and on any device further boosts adoption. For instance, in health and fitness-based R&R initiatives, companies can track the health and fitness levels of employees and reward them with points that can be redeemed for a host of goodies such as gift cards, discount coupons, and product deals.
#5 Extend R&R to other facets of organizational responsibilities: Millennials love working for companies that give them a chance to contribute meaningfully towards social causes. Extending R&R programs to include recognition for employees who go the extra mile in doing their jobs or in volunteering for CSR initiatives is a good idea to turn them into real brand evangelists. Tata Consultancy Services’ R&R platform - GEMs or ‘Go the Extra Mile’ –recognizes and awards points to employees who go above and beyond their job responsibilities or make significant contributions to the society.
To ensure R&R success - give employees the freedom of choice
Today’s workforce wants to feel empowered and in charge of deciding what, where, when, and for whom they want the reward. For organizations this is a golden opportunity to get the different facets right by leveraging technology and R&R analytics, in turn, driving incremental benefits while creating a sustainable competitive advantage.