Charting a Course
Navigate Your Way to Global Employee Engagement
racias. Komapsumnida. Mahalo. Danke schön. Efcharisto. Merci. Toda. Grazie. Arigato. Thank you.
Regardless of where we live in the world or what languages we speak, the act of expressing gratitude and appreciation to employees is one of the most meaningful things an employer can do. And when that recognition is backed up with a reward tied to reaching corporate-wide objectives, it becomes equally meaningful and powerful to employees around the world.
But let's face it. Traveling down the road to global program development can be a bumpy, complicated and huge undertaking. That's why many global program experts believe that, first and foremost, the beginning step requires an overall vision: to create a global recognition culture, not just another recognition program or platform.
Creating such a culture begins with what one recognition expert calls a key best practice: "Remembering that people are people, no matter where they are all over the world," said Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce, a provider of global strategic recognition solutions. "Successful global programs start from the premise that a company wants to treat its employees equally and to have one single goal for penetration of recognition around the world," he explained. "That culture of recognition builds on the traction of an equal number of thank you's and rewards happening in each country—multiplying them—and links them to things that are meaningful to constituents around the world."
But that's just the starting point. From here, you need to cater your program to each individual cultural nuance. "If you start at this point, the global program issues to be resolved predominantly revolve around understanding the culture of all these different employees, where they live, what's important to them, what would motivate them, and how you interact with them," Mosley explained.
And that can be a significant undertaking.
To provide insight to these issues, we asked Mosley and other global program experts to pinpoint their most important caveats and suggestions.
Involve Worldwide Stakeholders in the Planning Stage
Gaining absolute buy-in and top-down support from senior executives along with built-in accountability is often a challenge even for domestic programs. But a lack of stakeholder support is even further magnified at the global level, according to Kurt Hosna, solutions manager at Maritz Motivation. "To achieve global goals you must garner the explicit support of stakeholders worldwide during the planning stage," he said.
"You must stress the return on investment," added Carol Wain, president of The Incentive Depot and a founding partner of the World Incentive Network. "Recognition is not just a nice thing to do; there is a real business case for practicing it. Executive leaders must understand that recognition campaigns have to tie to a viable business need, then get behind it and drive it whole-heartedly. After that, everything is easier."
Senior management support is important on both a global and local level, she added. "With that support in place, think globally for strategy, technology, reporting, training and reward value," Wain recommended. "Think locally for recognition champions, training, implementation, rewards, support and budgeting (including reward value)."
Build Collaboration Between the Global & Local Level
In developing the first phase of the Scotia Applause program, Scotiabank and Carlson Canada created a steering committee composed of different representatives from different countries. "It allowed us to have a couple of different streams going on, almost like two different project teams," explained Martha Barss, senior vice president, Client Services at Carlson Marketing Canada.
"One stream was a cross-functional, international head-office team that provided stakeholder buy-in and could navigate the political waters. A lot of build happened with this team. Then there was a local lateral team of representatives from all the different countries we launched with. As a result, we gained local support ahead of the launch," Barss explained. "It allowed each of the countries to put their own individual spin on the program during and after implementation."
Mosley added, "I would always advise companies to include representation from foreign human resource department heads, particularly if they decide to use a phased approach to launching programs."
Establish Global Values & Objectives
Mosley finds that few global recognition programs are built around business objectives that differ from region to region. "For example, a multinational company may have a huge focus in Latin America on increasing market and a huge focus in Europe on increasing market share. Recognition programs can't be built around these because they are different," he said. "But you can build your programs around and link them to the central values of the company, such as commitment, integrity, respect," he added. "If a company values integrity, this quality is valued the same in Melbourne as it is in L.A. This gives a company an amazing insight into the traction of values around the world."
Hosna believes that in order to achieve these objectives, the tactics must be customized to the local culture and market conditions. "For example, if the global goal is to motivate employees to ultimately boost top-line sales growth, you must understand the local markets and adopt regionalized targets and objectives to achieve the appropriate increase by market. You would have a completely different growth expectation and program structure in an emerging market versus a mature market."
Beware of Ethnocentrism
"From a strategy perspective, it's critical to do your research and to understand information in both a company context and a country context," said Jennifer Rosenzweig, global employee practice leader at Carlson Companies. "Otherwise you might go at it with a U.S.-centric sensibility, without even recognizing it, and make incorrect assumptions about a global program—from how it's designed and where to start to respecting country- or culture-specific practices."
To that end, each expert advised companies to avoid going it alone. "Sometimes companies are like fish in water—they are so surrounded by their corporate culture that they don't see it," Rosenzweig said. "In my experience it works best to do the research collaboratively between client and partner. On one hand, companies are experts in their own culture and behavior. On the other hand, they don't always see it and understand the meaning behind it. It's important to get into the next layers down that outside help can really uncover, in order to develop the best program."
Evaluate & Consolidate, If Necessary
When Richard White, vice president of Brand and Marketing Management at Canada's Scotiabank, learned that up to eight of the bank's different business lines each owned and drove multiple, disparate recognition and reward programs, he called for a hiatus to evaluate the situation before going back to the drawing board.
He found that there was inequitable program design, decentralized program management and product-focused staff objectives. He also found that field sales management staff, responsible for overseeing branches, had no control over all of these separate programs, which tallied up to a $6 million annual expenditure. Within each line were two to three different kinds of employee reward programs going on for various things.
To streamline its programs, Scotiabank spent about six months meeting and brainstorming various ways that programs could work. Carlson Marketing Canada, which previously had been engaged with the bank, was brought into this process.
"The bank recognized, as many companies do, that it had too many programs operating within the organization, and these programs weren't aligned," explained Carlson's Barss, "In that situation there are obviously a lot of opportunities to take out costs, to create consistent messages, objectives and strategies."
Roll Out Globally in Phases
Rather than implementing the first phase in just the United States, Mosley advises companies to implement the first phase in the United States plus one to three other non-English-speaking countries.
"The reason for this is that it's essential to make decisions knowing that there are global issues that will start to play out when the program is rolled out," he explained. "If you just implement in the U.S. you're never exposed to these global issues, and you'll end up having to rewrite and reconfigure the whole project, and start again."
Phasing in programs also helps in the budget arena. "Typically, first-year program budgets are burdened with one-time startup costs and will dictate compromise," Hosna said. "If you have employees in 30 different countries, it may not be feasible to provide communications (print and/or electronic) in 15 to 20 different languages. Rather, the first year you may start out with the languages that cover the largest number of program participants and, as budget allows, phase in additional languages."
Use a Flexible, Adaptable Design Process
"Local customs, styles and trends have to be considered when creating a culturally appropriate program design," Hosna added. "It requires patience to modify business objectives, rules structures and payouts to fit culture and local market needs. For example, it may be more cost-effective to operate a regional sales incentive program in the beginning, but then subdivide into country-level programs later down the road. Continuous improvement can be achieved through monitoring, analysis and ongoing program enhancements."
For that reason, Rosenzweig recommends creating a phase in the design process to allow unknowns or misconceptions about other countries or cultures to bubble up to the surface. "There isn't any magic formula. It is always collaborative in understanding the current state of the business, the future they are trying to decide, an understanding of the culture and what will work best," she explained. "It's the nature of program design to keep asking the questions, to keep collecting the data, to keep having the conversations that allow you to make sense of the situation and ultimately make the best recommendations."
Provide an Equitable Payout Model
Barss advises global program planners to have all of the information up front, including what the rewards and payouts will be. "There are going to be very different payouts, depending on the country, which need to be normalized. For example, we developed a methodology that ensures that all tiers of recognition and reward are equally meaningful, whether it's in Guyana, Canada or Puerto Rico. To do that we look at average salaries in all of the countries and factor that earning power into the calculation of redemption values. So ultimately the rewards will redeem the same, but how we get there will be different."
Ultimately, the goal is to build a culture of recognition in which employees' positive contributions toward reaching corporate-wide objectives are acknowledged. And that's a win-win in any language.