Debra Corey: how similar my various reward roles have been to Supernanny

As I was watching the TV show Supernanny the other night, I thought how similar my various reward roles have been to what the nanny does. The show is about a professional nanny who goes into homes and helps parents learn how to deal with their troubled children. I’m not saying business executives and employees are like troubled children (well, maybe sometimes), but there are similarities in the techniques we use to achieve our goals.

The programme begins with Supernanny going into a home and assessing the situation by observing the parents and children. This gives her a clear picture of the situation and points to the parenting techniques needed. When I look back at reward programmes I have developed and/or implemented, those that succeeded did so because I “got it right” from the beginning. I took the time to understand the climate in the organisation by speaking with management and employees, and conducting focus groups or employee opinion surveys.

In the TV show, Supernanny then develops a solution for each child, making sure to deal with their specific issues. Looking back at what I’ve done with reward programmes, when the implementation strategy was targeted at the business and employee population, it succeeded. But when it was done in a more generic manner, it did not work so well.

Once Supernanny develops the solution and the parents are given the tools to cope with their children, the next part of the programme involves her reviewing videotapes of how they are doing. I can’t say I’ve put video cameras into workplaces to review reactions to reward programmes, but I have used a similar means of assessment by taking the pulse of the organisation as a scheme is launched. This has helped to tweak the programme early on to ensure its success.

In the final part of the programme, Supernanny revisits the family six months later to see how they are getting on. This is the part of the process we often forget, but it is critical. It allows us to plan for the future.

As you can see, there are some great techniques reward professionals can pick up from Supernanny. Maybe one day she will even speak at one of our benefits conferences and share more of her secrets with us.

Debra Corey, former rewards director at Honeywell and Gap