An industry discussion hosted by award-winning reward & recognition and employee benefits provider Xexec, recently looked at how organisations can implement a successful recognition strategy. A panel of experts – which included Michael Rose, Reward Strategy Consultant and author of Reward Management, Sally Purbrick, Head of Reward at Anglian Water and Jamie King, Head of Reward at Xexec – drew from their own experience to identify a number of practical steps for attendees:

“Understand the difference between ‘reward’ and ‘recognition’”

Many organisations failed to understand the difference between reward and recognition, suggested Michael Rose, pointing out that “reward is essentially pay; recognition is a gift”. This was an important distinction when considering how best to motivate staff. “If you give a banker earning £300k a £150 bonus it might be met with derision” suggested Rose, “but a thank you letter and bottle of champagne from the CEO, can have huge positive and long lasting impact.” Moreover, as Jamie King pointed out, tailoring a reward to the “humour, tone and culture” of an organisation, team or even individual is what makes it meaningful.

“Keep it simple”

Criticality of vision is crucial”, argued Roseand this often comes down to asking some fairly simple questions early on. What are the goals of our organisation? What are the goals of our recognition strategy? Why do we have the benefits and rewards that we have?” These answers help organisations develop a clear set of objectives. Given the “continuum of solutions” that now exists for employers, suggested King, this was an important step developing the right strategy.

Rose also discussed the concept of “strategic pragmatism” and the importance of organisations recognising that moving in the right direction is the key thing, even if they are not going at the pace they would like.

All speakers agreed that, whatever the business objectives, at its simplest recognition was about reinforcing organisational culture and values.

“Keep it fair”

Fairness is a critical factor in keeping staff motivated and though perceptions of fairness may differ between organisations, it was down to employers to define what fairness means to their business and stick to those principles. “Internal inequities are much bigger de-motivators than external factors”, argued Rose citing an experiment on Capuchin monkeys which showed that even animals are demotivated by unequal rewards.

Sally Purbrick spoke about how Anglian Water’s experience with a previous Health & Safety initiative had demonstrated how reinforcing positive behaviours drove a reduction in accident frequency rates, emphasising the importance of “recognising and saying thank you to employees”, in driving change.

“Don’t just rely on tech”

Though social platforms such as LinkedIn and Yamma now formed an important part of most organisations’ recognition strategy, employers should not lose sight of the impact of “good old fashioned face-to-face presentations” argued King.

“Monitor trends” 

The panel discussed the wealth of insightful data and management information that can be collected and how this can be used to inform strategy on an ongoing basis.

“The quality of data that we now have access to is amazing” said Purbrick who suggested organisations “use data and act quickly” to learn about elements of the programme that may need changing. In particular, Purbrick’s team were monitoring trends around take-up, engagement and approvals.

King urged organisations to consider how metrics could be used more broadly. “What role can this data play in talent spotting? And how does this fit into your retention policy? Could a reward and recognition portal bring in performance objectives and link these with rewards?”