The Changing Scope of Rewards and Recognition in a Remote World

Rewards and recognition have always played a role in employees’ level of motivation. It sounds simple: When you feel appreciated for the work you do, you are more motivated to repeat that same behavior. Many workplace processes have been turned on their heads this year, but recognition doesn’t need to be one of them.

The research is in: there’s a clear link between recognition and ROI.

In our 2019 survey, 75% of respondents said that morale and motivation would increase if leaders said: “thank you.” And, Gartner confirmed that recognition would improve job performance – with 82% of respondents agreeing.

The flipside is true as well: lack of recognition leads to demotivation, resulting in declining productivity, quality of work, and overall wellbeing.

 The Reality of Rewards and Recognition Today

The “remote” element of the work that we’re very familiar with today doesn’t diminish the power of a strong recognition and rewards program, it actually does the opposite. In today’s world of disruption, rewards and recognition can play a crucial role in reinforcing company culture, connecting a dispersed team, and ultimately motivating employees to continue to deliver solid work.

However, despite the potential, the reality is that the traditional take on rewards and recognition (R&R) is broken.

To mark an employees’ fifth year anniversary, a reward can be a nice way to show appreciation.

But, standard milestone awards often fall flat, and employees are likely to be left with items they don’t want or can’t use.

Rewards based on a points system are great for employees who perhaps want something in the available catalog, but the points-value of a certain product often doesn’t match the actual marketplace price and the delivery time is typically extensive – again prohibiting the employee from receiving a reward that’s meaningful and ultimately reducing the impact of the reward.

From the employers’ point of view, success is measured by time, cost, and demonstrated benefit, but HR teams are left burdened with all the administration and responsibility the process entails. Many rewards programs also lack proper reporting or analytics, so it’s extremely difficult to gauge how the program is performing or how budgets within the program are being spent.

As a result, HR teams are forced to spend extra time on the rewards program when they can’t even see the ROI.

Getting It Right in a Remote World

There’s an opportunity here to realize the full potential of rewards and recognition while prioritizing the experiences of both the employer and employee. To do this, we must understand what’s important to both parties. According to our 2021 research, choice (41%), transparency (33%), personalization (26%), and immediacy (22%) matter most to employees in this process. Breaking this down further shows that people want options, they want to know the real value of what they’re getting, they don’t want it to be generic, and they don’t want to wait forever to get their reward.

A  rewards and recognition solution that can seamlessly integrate with a company’s existing HR stack, while also incorporating choice, transparency, personalization, and immediacy, can relieve the burden placed on HR’s shoulders and the power is handed back to all employees.

So what does this look like?

The goal is to establish a culture of recognition. Too often, the pressure falls on the shoulders of the leadership team and managers to do all the recognizing. With this, if one party fails to offer proper, frequent recognition, the team fails. That’s why it’s important to have a solution that allows you to “spread the love” so success doesn’t hinge on one person. This can be done through a layered approach.

Think of recognition like a pyramid:

  • Bottom: This is the base of the pyramid, which means it’s the foundation of the recognition program and is designed to touch the bulk of employees. The focus in this area of recognition is moments of everyday continuous recognition. These are non-monetary recognition moments, and digital eCards are a great example.
  • Middle: This is where the pyramid narrows a bit, symbolizing that these are reserved for moments of excellence and going above and beyond to get the job done. Here, monetary rewards are introduced to carry higher impact, either manager-led or peer-to-peer.
  • Top: The tip of the pyramid is reserved for those that went above and beyond the most. Holding the highest value, these are often company-wide rewards reserved for few employees. Perhaps it’s an experiential reward like a virtual lunch with the CEO.

Looking at recognition like a pyramid ensures that organizations take a multi-pronged approach to R&R.

It allows recognition moments to feel authentic, in turn strengthening the employee’s connection to the company and incentivizing them to aim for even higher moments of recognition on the pyramid.

The pyramid sets the foundation for R&R, but a third ‘R’ – redemption – is what sets programs up for success. This redemption experience must be rooted in the choice, transparency, personalization and immediacy mentioned earlier. In doing so, this puts employees in the driver seat of choosing their top reward, therefore leading to a better employee experience.

So, goodbye for now, water cooler chats, hallway hellos and quick caffeine trips. For the time being, we will go without these spontaneous moments of connection and recognition from our managers and coworkers. Though we can’t offer a quick “good job” to co-workers on their presentation or buy a drink for our managers , today’s environment presents an opportunity to elevate rewards and recognition programs.