MAX!-imum Recognition for MAX!-imum Effort
By Catherine Eberlein Pfister
Improve Your Program
In addition to learning about how to make the program better, Baker and Catherine McDonald, corporate marketing manager, offer the following advice for fellow program planners:
- There can never be too much communication. "We put people through a pretty robust new hire orientation and communication about the Max! program: how to use it, how to recognize peers. We recognize people each month and talk about it at Town Hall meetings," explained Baker. "Yet focus groups told us that some employees didn't know they could give points to directors or upper-level managers."
- A program doesn't have to be costly. The budget for AEIS's program is around $85,000, according to Baker. "Look at the financial end of it and see what you can afford. You can tailor a program to whatever needs your business has," urged Baker. "The beauty of a program like this is that it provides flexibility—different companies have different demographics, but you can recognize what's important to your employees and tailor the rewards to their individual desires."
- Listen to employees. Baker and McDonald strongly believe that you have to maintain a good pulse on the organization in order to design an effective program. Use employee satisfaction surveys and focus groups.
- Use an online and intranet platform. "With five generations in the workplace now, employees are increasingly tech-savvy and don't want anything on paper. Adapt to the workforce," Baker said. "At AEIS whenever an employee is rewarded points they receive an e-mail (and the manager does, too). Some binder-clip these notices to keep on their desk, while others proudly use them to wallpaper their workspace," added McDonald. "This system provides opportunities to be recognized and visible from several different angles."
- Ask, "What do we do next?" McDonald said, "One size program doesn't fit all. Regardless of an organization's size or scope—five employees or 5,000—there are always going to be opportunities for incentives. They provide flexibility and adaptability by appealing to many generations at one time."
- Look at co-branding. "We've found that co-branding provides opportunities to help employees feel more engaged with not only the company, but with the program itself," said Baker.
- Build everything you do around your culture. "Part of culture is having people feel a part of a team. It's critical to have executive team sponsorship because if they don't walk the walk and talk the talk, no one else will," emphasized Baker. "Leadership has to resonate those values and inspire them. They have to make the connection between recognition and engagement."
- Equally important is that all corporate communications must be aligned with company values and mission, and reflect what you're trying to achieve as a culture. "We are a fast-paced, goal-driven company, but we're also family-friendly and community is important to us," McDonald said. "One of the topics covered in our Town Hall meetings is recognizing an employee who volunteers in the community. The individual receives a monetary award to share with their charity or organization."
- Encourage and anticipate employees using their points to splurge in economically challenging times. "This (using incentives) may be the only opportunity that an employee has to do something for themselves," McDonald said. "It also underscores their connection with the company, the good work they've done and the recognition they've received. Help employees to envision an experience or indulgence they might not normally take advantage of."
- Remember that employees want to feel valued. "When you drill down into employee satisfaction surveys or focus groups you'll find that people want to feel valued by their supervisor and to feel that they did a good job," said Baker. "Just in terms of value, peer-to-peer recognition and cross-functional teams provide the opportunity to recognize that value more than the boss can.
All in all, both Baker and McDonald find that employees feel empowered by and engaged with peer-to-peer programs. "They have choice about who they want to recognize and, should they see that a manager may have missed something, they feel empowered to reward and recognize other employees."