Feature Article - January/February 2012

Motivation Overseas

Technology, Global Awareness Essential for Successful Global Incentive Programs

By Deborah Vence

Q: What are some cultural/ethnic factors to keep in mind?

Johnson: Awareness alone that there are cultural and ethnic factors to be considered in the design and implementation of global incentive programs is a good first step in identifying critical components of a global incentive program. There are considerations to be taken in every corner of the world. Some awards choices may not be appropriate for certain marketplaces, etc. Understanding those nuances is critical in the successful deployment and continued success of a global incentive program. We have found that relying on local expertise to guide us in the decisions and recommendations we make for our global programs guarantees that we are respectful and considerate of the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of the participants.

Hart: Just being cognizant of cultural diversity is a step in the right direction. Having local leaders and HR teammates review the program for sensitivity to cultural/ethnic awareness will ensure the program or catalog is not offensive to anyone or any groups. In some cultures, the gift of a watch is considered taboo, while in others a gold watch can be a keepsake for a lifetime. I would also recommend cultural awareness of individual recognition vs. team recognition.

Irvine: Implementing one strategic recognition program is crucial; despite a range of ethnicity and cultures, a truly international recognition program should have a local feel while maintaining a singular, global platform.

Certainly, different cultures respond to different types of recognition, and deciding which rewards are appropriate can be challenging. Language can be an issue for employers aligning recognition programs; most employees want to receive recognition in their local language. And they have to understand the parameters of the program and how to utilize it, so language does play a major role and has to be carefully considered.

The important element to keep in mind is that all employees matter, regardless of geographic location. What's your general opinion of the employees in your company? If you have multiple locations, do you feel the same respect and appreciation for those in another office, another county, another country? If you're in HR, do you work to make sure all employees, regardless of geography or ethnicity, are treated the same? These are questions to consider and be sure your organization is consistent, clear and fair with the recognition it offers to its multinational employee base.

To conclude, the simple act of employee recognition and appreciation—when deployed right—can be incredibly powerful. We all seek more from our daily work. We need to know that what we do matters in achieving a purpose larger than ourselves. What we call strategic recognition makes that not only possible, but also fun and engaging for employees at every level.