Reward and recognition: tackling barriers to change

Reward and recognition are two things that, deep down, we all want – especially when it comes to our professional lives. High-profile business leaders highlight the importance and value of thanking staff, and our own research has found that employees want to be rewarded spontaneously for good work. So it is hard to imagine that the implementation of a reward and recognition programme could be met with any resistance at any level of the business. Surely employees should welcome with open arms any scheme designed to acknowledge their achievements?

Whilst you could be forgiven for assuming that this will be the case, the reality is that change in any form can often be difficult and unsettling. If barriers to change are not considered and planned for from the outset there is a risk that the scheme will not meet its full potential; it may receive limited take-up or even demotivate staff – the opposite to what it is designed to achieve.

Here are some tips for avoiding or overcoming common barriers to the successful implementation of reward and recognition programmes:

Start with a solid business case and clear budget
Starting with a coherent business case that directly links the benefits of the scheme to wider business objectives will help mitigate potential challenge from the board when it comes to its implementation. You should be able to provide your finance director with an accurate breakdown of the costs involved and ensure that these are all agreed from the outset – surprising them with unexpected expenses further down the line could make it harder to get buy-in and stall the process. Be clear on what you are spending and why.

Have clear measurable results and consider all of the benefits that the scheme can deliver rather than focusing solely on the bottom line; return on investment (ROI) can take many forms – for example, offering employees learning and development opportunities can increase their engagement with the business and also expand their skill-set.

Secure employee buy-in early on 
Resistance to change can be avoided by working to ensure that people are engaged in the process early on; especially those for whom the scheme is likely to have the greatest impact. Whilst the successes of any scheme are usually dependent on top down support, it is equally important to involve a formal or informal consultation process with specific employee representatives at all levels of the business, or perhaps a company-wide survey to establish how people would like to be rewarded and recognised. Whilst this could feel time-consuming or logistically challenging, particularly in larger organisations, securing engagement and buy-in at the design stage of the scheme will significantly increase the likelihood of its acceptance when implemented, as well as the degree to which it is valued and utilised. People are much more welcoming of change if they have been invited to have input into it.

Consider cultural fit
A reward and recognition programme that matches the values and personality of the organisation is far more likely to be embraced than one that feels at odds with the company culture and its existing working practices. You may have a clear sense of the advantages of the changes you are proposing, but if staff are used to more traditional rewards, such as pay rises or bonuses, the sudden introduction of a scheme that emphasises benefits such as flexible working, for example, may be viewed with confusion or suspicion. Establish and communicate your company values and highlight how the scheme reflects them. It is also important that the scheme is fair, and offers something for everyone. Employees are more likely to accept and value rewards that are tailored to them or the business than they are generic or unsuitable gestures.

Make it easy
Ease of use is critical to ensuring employee engagement in the scheme and it is important that it is both accessible and user friendly. Online portals and apps can be a great way to offer employees access to reward and recognition programmes, but if they are not familiar with using them, it is unlikely that the scheme will achieve its potential. Factor in necessary training and consider different levels of computer literacy amongst your workforce. Lastly don’t forget to ensure that your existing software is compatible if you are planning a tech-led scheme. In our experience, many businesses benefit from the development of bespoke software that can take into account issues such as outdated browsers.

Keep communicating
Plan how you intend to communicate its introduction and consider whether some staff may respond better to face-to-face, traditional print or email communications about the benefits on offer before being introduced to new technology. Also, don’t stop communicating after a scheme’s launch: put posters up around the workplace, send emails and ensure you celebrate its successes.

Ask an expert
There is a lot to consider when introducing a reward and recognition programme and it can, at times, feel like a minefield. If you haven’t run your own similar initiative before it can be tricky to foresee all of the potential barriers to change that may arise. It is important to do your homework and this can include consulting an employee benefits provider, who can call upon many years of experience to advise you as to the possible pitfalls and common mistakes. It is likely that they will have worked with other businesses in your sector and can provide insight into what has worked well in the past.

A successful reward and recognition scheme can offer huge benefits to a business of any size, and taking the time to plan ahead will enable you to fully maximise your ROI.

Speak to one of Xexec’s Recognition Experts for a free demo to find out more about how a reward and recognition scheme could work for your organisation.