Feature Article - November/December 2008

Engaging Best Practices to Drive Performance

Build Your Internal Brand Through Reward & Recognition

By Catherine Eberlein Pfister

In today's business landscape there is an increasing connection between a company's financial performance and its overall ability to recruit, engage and retain its employees.

This issue of Premium Incentive Products looks at how to engage employees and build an internal brand through reward and recognition programs.

Engaging Best Practices to Drive Performance
Build Your Internal Brand Through Reward & Recognition

Today's most innovative companies are driving performance by aligning their external brand with their internal brand: people. No longer is this a "nice to do" equation that factors into business success. It is an essential component of success.

"It is critical for companies to embrace employee engagement and people performance quality within their organizations," said Michelle Smith, vice president of business development at O.C. Tanner, and president of the Forum for People, Performance and Measurement, during a recent radio interview on Voice America. "Especially in these turbulent times and in this very tough economy, the very best way to improve your customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and revenues is to make sure that you have a fully engaged employee workforce."

Smith is just one of many industry experts reporting that they're now seeing the redirection of some marketing funds—typically earmarked for building brands externally—toward internal branding. "These funds are being repurposed into recognition and incentive programs," Smith explained, "to make sure that the promises of the company's sales and marketing department are making it to the brand's customer and being kept at the employee level—even when an employee doesn't have direct customer contact.

"There are analysts on Wall Street now that are not recommending stock of companies that do not have some type of recognition or performance improvement programs in place," Smith added. "These analysts believe that a company isn't really sustainable without these programs."

"Companies across industry sectors are realizing that a product, service or idea is only as strong as the people behind it," said Kory Schramm, resource manager, corporate marketing, ITA Group, a full-service performance improvement company based in Des Moines, Iowa.

But just what are the components of an effective employee incentive and recognition program? Is there a flexible blueprint that companies can use to enhance their existing workplace environment and drive bottom-line growth?

For starters, envision the process of creating incentive and recognition programs as this: a continuously flowing "circle" of primary components—all feeding into employee performance—rather than a hierarchical outline of prioritized steps 1, 2, 3, and so on. Then visualize this flowing circle encased in an outer layer of management support, the protective adhesive that supports it and holds it in place.