How to run a global recognition scheme

Recognition schemes are a great tool employers can use to reinforce their corporate values, which can easily be forgotten.

If you read nothing else, read this…

  • Recognition schemes can help to reinforce corporate values.
  • Pre-paid voucher cards are an easy gift to offer globally.
  • But employee recognition ceremonies can have a longer-lasting impact on a business.

For example, an employer may send a thank-you card to an employee who upholds the organisation’s aim to offer unbeatable customer service by staying late to ensure a customer order is delivered on time.

Recognition schemes can also help to encourage certain expected behaviours within an organisation, such as teamwork.

Global recognition schemes are no different, and tend to be driven by such organisation-wide objectives, irrespective of the countries where they are implemented. 

John Sylvester, executive director of motivation and performance provider P&MM Motivation, says: “[Behaviour] tends to be focused around the culture of the corporate business rather than necessarily around any major influence from local businesses [across the globe].”

But a successful recognition scheme must acknowledge differences between countries when it comes to recognition type, to help optimise the reward’s effectiveness. For example, if an employer that operates in multiple international jurisdictions wants to offer a points-based recognition scheme that enables employees to cash in their points in return for firearms, as happens in the US, it must have total regard for the legality of firearms outside of the US.

Paul Calnan, managing director at incentive motivation and reward scheme provider Cottrills, says: “Employers have to have an eye on the locality and what [its employees’] local needs are.”

So where should employers start?

Objectives for a scheme

Employers should first consider why they want to run a recognition scheme. Jon Bryant, executive director at JLT Employee Benefits, says: “Employers should make sure a scheme is strategically aligned. What are they trying to achieve with a recognition programme, and is there a clear line of sight between the recognition programme and their strategic objectives?”

Employers should then identify what they want to recognise and how they want to recognise it.

Riaz Resh, sales and marketing manager at incentive scheme provider Ovation Incentives, says: “The desire to be recognised and appreciated regularly is a fundamental human need, so the size and sector of a business should not be a consideration.”

Resh believes that pre-paid incentive award cards, which involve employers loading, for example, a Visa card or MasterCard with cash for employees to spend as they see fit, are particularly suited to global recognition schemes because they can be loaded from anywhere in the world and offer employees choice about the type of incentive they would like to buy. This removes the risk of breaching any local cultural taboos.

But Bryant says: “Does that actually do anything? If employers want to have a discount card or a pre-paid card they can use globally, yes, they exist, but has that got anything to do strategically with recognition? No, it just allows [employers] to pass cash out in a relatively easy way, and as soon as [employees] proceed to spend their cash, the longevity of the scheme has gone.”

Global recognition scheme differences

Recognition ceremonies

Bryant says employers should instead consider recognition ceremonies, which can reward employees for excellence in either their role or their corporate behaviour, based on nominations from peers within the business or customers they work with externally. “These have a huge impact on organisations because they are driving the behaviours employers want and are giving publicity to high achievers,” he says.

Sylvester adds many of the employers he works with are interested in peer-to-peer-based recognition tools, such as thank-you messages. “It’s a personalised e-card or printed card to thank people for helping out or doing simple things that make corporate life go round in an easier way,” he says.

Whatever recognition tool employers choose, they must be sure that employees can access them wherever they are based in the world.

Cottrills’ Calnan says: “If [employers] are putting an online reward scheme together and the employee either can’t access the internet or isn’t comfortable accessing the internet, or if the workforce demographic is little bit older and perhaps not so tech savvy, they will never get to see the reward.

 “Employers can have the greatest reward behind that wall, but unless they provide multiple forms of access and make it easy [for employees], then they are really wasting their time.”

Recognition budget

Another way for employers to avoid wasting money is to base their recognition scheme budget on the sector in which they operate. For example, a City law firm may decide that £100 is an appropriate amount to spend on recognising an employee, while in a call centre, £10 may be more appropriate and equally effective.

Ovation’s Resh says: “Reward budgets should be calculated on the assumption that, as a minimum, 60% of the workforce is recognised or rewarded at least once a year. Employers should remember that recognition doesn’t always have to involve monetary-based rewards. As engagement and performance levels improve, this figure should rise to between 80% and 90%.”

Resh adds that employers should involve employees in the planning stage of their recognition programme to optimise engagement. “That will encourage employees to be enthusiastic about its inception and results,” he says. “This process will also help employers to find out what incentives their staff value most.”

Merlin Entertainments Group

Case study: Merlin Entertainments Group aligns global recognition schemes

One of the biggest challenges for Merlin Entertainments Group when creating a global recognition scheme was securing the buy-in of the heads of HR across its business, which spans 21 countries and four continents.

Samantha Owens, corporate HR manager at Merlin, says: “Each head of HR already had schemes in place that worked well, so it was about getting their buy-in. The other challenge was how we communicated the scheme.”

To optimise the buy-in of each manager, Merlin involved them in scheme design and, once the plan was launched in April 2011, each head was then allowed to take local ownership, which means each of them can decide how to communicate and run the scheme in their own country.

The objective of Merlin’s scheme, the Star Awards programme, was to create a single recognition tool spanning its global business. “The attractions globally either had their own recognition scheme that they were running locally, and that was branded locally, or they didn’t have anything at all,” says Owens. “The whole aim was to create one harmonised global programme, but also to ensure we were being consistent.”

The online programme, created by motivation scheme and event provider MotivAction, features a profile for each employee through which they can send virtual stars to colleagues at any of Merlin’s 94 attractions, seven hotels and two holiday villages in recognition of them excelling in their role.

The system automatically emails star recipients to notify them about the recognition, so they can log onto the system to see who nominated them for a star and why.

Attraction managers review the stars sent to their employees each month and identify a star of the month, who receives £25 as a thank-you for their efforts, and a runner-up, who receives £10. But financial rewards depend on the country in which the programme operates, so some winners will simply receive a certificate and a badge.

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“Some countries, such as Denmark, don’t give money for cultural and tax reasons,” says Owens.

More than 150,000 stars have been sent through the programme since it began in 2011.