Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid gets a recognition award


I love introducing a new benefit programme or benefits system, but it is very tedious updating something I’ve done at least once already. We are now on our second recognition platform, and Big Bad Boss tells me that the Higher Beings in C-suite want us to look again.

In fact, they’ve even told us which vendor to look at. So, either one of the new Higher Beings liked the one in his last company better or, and I think this is more likely, there is some sneaky nepotistic link. Time will tell.

Getting up and running

I really like our current recognition platform. I would; I chose it. It links to our internal systems without too much complexity and more importantly it runs itself. There is very little administration apart from the running the odd report, which I’ve even managed to get Lazy Susan to do.

There are very few things I can safely leave with my colleague. Any work with spreadsheets is too high risk, as she randomly overwrites formulas.

Any written text is a bit of a worry because she’s not very good with words either. So, when I find something completely fool-proof, like running a predefined report from a system, it is a big thrill to be able to hand the work over. If we move to another platform, all that careful set-up will need looking at again.

The suggested new platform is called Pat, short for ‘pat on the back’. I don’t like it already. Looking at their website, at least it has most of the core functionality of our current system. You can offer gifts or experiences, or cash. But I am no longer taken in by a vendor’s glossy sales pitch. I need to see a live demo of the system and I invite Big Bad Boss and Lazy Susan along for the fun.

The account manager, Darren, is very charming and he starts off by asking us why we are looking to change platforms at this stage. Because we’ve been told to, I think.

Big Bad Boss is mute, so I make something up: we want to take advantage of any new functionality on the market. Darren flicks through the menus very quickly and it is a bit hard to take it all in. I ask lots of awkward questions about interfaces with HRIS and single sign-on, and he bats them away with smooth practised responses. I still don’t believe it will be that easy.

Different experiences

He demonstrates setting up three levels of award with appropriate levels of approval. This is something we have already. He then goes on to demonstrate going in as a manager and selecting a gift category. There are glossy pictures of branded goods. Nothing new there either, but it looks like there are fewer options to choose from.

He moves on to selecting experiences, showing all sorts from pizza nights to flight simulator days. I cringe when Lazy Susan wants to know if there are spa days. I am further embarrassed when Big Bad Boss wants to know about golf days. Oh please, can we look at this system without thinking about ourselves?

Darren moves on to options for long-service awards and employee birthdays. He then demonstrates using the platform to send non-monetary awards using a very clunky looking messaging system, which gives a virtual ‘pat on the back’.

I can’t see why we would use it when we already have an internal messaging system. Can we turn that bit off, I ask? Of course, Darren says, the system can be customised exactly how you want it. I am concerned about workload. When it comes down to it, who will be doing the customising? Yours truly. I ask about their implementation support; I think I am going to need it.

At the end, Darren gives a list of major companies that are using the recognition system. It is impressive. He also talks about their leadership team and their commitment to sustainability. A percentage of all profits goes to plant trees. I’ll admit I like that bit.

As he flicks through photos of the leadership, I realise why exactly we are here: the COO looks like our CIO’s wife. Big Bad Boss and I exchange a look. This little beauty parade is a charade. Whatever we think, we will have to say yes.

I was right about another thing. Implementation is not as easy as Darren made out and I am working late for weeks getting the Pat platform set up. The support team is based in California and will only talk to me at the end of my day when I am already exhausted.

In my head, Pat is short for ‘pathetically awful technology’. But with great perseverance and tenacity, the system is live within a month.

Communicating the change

Next comes the communications on the change: first to the Higher Beings, then all managers and then all employees.

I wait for the stupid questions to begin. I suggest that Lazy Susan takes on the ongoing support, but as dealing with questions involves actual thinking, she still refers most of them to me.

I am worn out and fed up. Big Bad Boss pings me for a catch-up and I am about ready to give some very unhappy feedback when he cuts me off. He acknowledges how hard I’ve been working and says he’s selecting me for a ‘pat on the back’ via the new system.

If this is a mere internal message to say thanks, I may respond with a virtual ‘slap on the face’. But no, he has awarded me with a spa day from the new platform so I can rest and recharge. I am quite choked up.

Later, I find out that Lazy Susan got one too, and Big Bad Boss got a golf day for signing up. It took the shine off the award a bit.

Next time… Candid hires a contractor.