By Michelle M. Smith

Organizational growth – and the growth and development of incentive, recognition, human resource, sales and marketing professionals – more often than not now involves an international component. We all need to lead the way in championing workforce cultural sensitivity and guiding organizations through complex global reward programs. International programs are exceptionally challenging, complex, and fraught with subtleties that can dramatically derail your best laid plans if you’re not extremely careful. No leader wants to take a chance on any recognition or incentive program, but once you cross a country border, the odds of something going wrong increases signifcantly. This 5-part series will drive the odds back into your favor by sharing what’s necessary to avoid risk and to improve your success levels internationally. Whether locally or globally, incorporating recognition and incentive programs into your corporate strategy has rapidly evolved from a discretionary corporate initiative to a ‘must have’ business imperative. Across the globe, corporations are wrestling to improve productivity in their organizations, reduce expenses, increase retention of employees and customers and stem the tide of an increasingly disengaged and restless workforce.

Global corporations now lose up to 30% of their customers each year, half of their customers in ve years, half of their employees in four years, and half of their investors in less than a year. In some countries and industries, the metrics are much more alarming. The bad news is that all indicators predict that these challenges are only going to increase in the future. Voluntary resignations are rising again; demographic shifts point to shortages of skilled and key talent worldwide, and executive mobility is doubling each decade. Each one of these issues individually could derail the best-laid plans of any multinational organization – collectively they raise an enormous red ag. Fortunately, incentive and recognition programs have proven to be one of the most effective vehicles for combating challenges like these. A wealth of data now exists that demonstrates the power of these programs to achieve their objectives and studies have shown that companies who embraced a culture of recognition and engagement have signifcantly outperformed their competitors who focused their e orts elsewhere. Engaging your global workforce through incentive and recognition programs can vastly improve productivity, employee morale, customer loyalty and corporate profitability.

Companies who have rewarded employees for behaviors critical to corporate objectives have outperformed their counterparts in revenue growth, net income per employee, job growth and stock performance. Complexity is by far the biggest obstacle – and often the biggest deterrent – when implementing or expanding a program internationally. It is possible, although perhaps not advisable, to self-administer a global recognition or incentive program, but I’d suggest that you’d be well advised to seek professional help. The sheer number of different issues that must be addressed – even in a modest program in one other country – make professional guidance a worthwhile investment and will help to ensure that your program seamlessly and cost- effectively achieves its objectives. We will address all these issues in this article series. While moving a program across a border can be a challenge, don’t ignore the opportunity to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace – it can literally mean the difference between thriving as a company and perhaps ceasing to exist. The research and data strongly support what many of us have known for a long time… incentives and recognition programs are very good business.