According to Gartner’s recent September 2020 publication (“HR Leaders Monthly“), companies should prioritize recognition as a strategy to drive value and business outcomes. Our new HR ecosystem reflects a combination of remote and in-person employee populations, geographically dispersed with multi-cultural and generational delineations. Somehow within this dimensional puzzle, HR leaders are being tasked to miraculously create cultures where employees can feel individually appreciated and seen as contributors to their companies’ performance and culture. 

Compounding these demands is the cold and harsh reality that 2020 HR budgets will not include sufficient discretionary funds to accommodate the end-of-year bonuses and CPI wage increases HR has come to rely on. 

How can HR leaders be expected to drive engagement and improve operational performance under these circumstances?

Don’t Fret – Get Creative! 

HR leaders (at least those on the creative forefront) are taking the current conditions as an opportunity to revisit and revamp their rewards and non-monetary recognition strategies. Our new business reality is the ideal time for HR leaders to consider sunsetting their anachronistic legacy recognition programs and replace them with the more contemporary and generationally meaningful program approaches common at most of the highest-ranked employers. 

In examining your current reward and recognition program approaches, consider these key points. 

Emphasize Alternative Rewards and Heighten the Value of the Recognition

According to Ben Szuhaj, author of Rewarding Performance During the COVID-19 Pandemic, employers should “use alternative rewards to recognize employee contributions on an ongoing basis.” Non-monetary rewards, when delivered correctly, can be particularly effective, especially when employees seek recognition and validation that their work is meaningful. Research shows that “non-monetary recognition can still increase performance by 3.2% (was this sighted).” Therefore, HR leaders should expand and emphasize non-monetary incentive programs to increase employee engagement in the workplace. 

Furthermore, HR can further drive employee engagement and increase positive business outcomes when emphasizing recognition as a valued behavior (at both an employee and managerial level). Examples include “informal recognition, mentions in companywide newsletters,” or better yet, a digitalized, systematized recognition, rewards, and engagement platform—all which are increasingly relevant to a remote/ in-person and multi-generational employee population. 

Considering that repurposing or revamping existing reward and recognition budgets doesn’t cost much – finance will appreciate HR making meaningful impacts that don’t increase operating costs.

Impact of Non-Monetary Recognition Programs During Covid-19 (and beyond)

Szuhaj explains that “employees will remember how they were treated during the COVID-19 pandemic.” HR leaders should be making extra efforts to encourage leaders and managers to recognize and reward their employees for their contributions. Recognition programs directly impact an employee’s sense of their value and contribution. If the objective is to increase employee performance and productivity – then “use honey to attract the bees” and reduce the endless cycles of criticism. HR leaders should focus on creating work environments that encourage positive recognition and help counter the negative impact that COVID has caused large portions of the employee population. Non-monetary recognition programs can substantially influence how employees and managers can communicate the value of each other’s contributions. 

Given that the current work-home-office circumstances are unlikely to change soon- emphasizing positive recognition practices into the daily fabric of the business must become a priority and not an afterthought, managed by the newest interim, or classic birthday-ribbon-selection-committee, who are still too often in charge of the arcane recognition programs in place.

Change is Necessary and Inevitable to achieve Operational Excellence

During this unprecedented time, HR leaders are overwhelmed, trying to maintain antiquated methods of engaging their employees. The upside this pandemic has offered brings forth the opportunity to relinquish any attempts to resurrect outdated HR legacies and usher in a new wave of employee engagement and recognition practices. Moreover, “rethinking recognition in this context allows for companies to continue driving engagement and increasing operational excellence, leaving them better positioned for recovery.”

Complimenting the great works of Deloitte, Bain, Harvard Business Review on Managing Practice, etc.… consider the wisdom of Carol McCloud in her children’s book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? Her elegance so aptly articulates the core principal of excellent people management – “‘You need other people to fill your bucket, and other people need you to fill theirs.” 

A systematic and well-designed recognition program will align the business’s goals and objectives with those of the behaviors and actions of its employees. WorkProud helps build programs where employees’ buckets are filled with relevant appreciation, recognition, and acknowledgment —a strategic way to reinforce and drive positive behaviors and build company cultures where employees are inspired to give their best.

For more insights and articles on work, HR technology, and leadership, check out Gartner’s HR Leaders Monthly Magazine.

Interested in learning how WorkProud can create a more positive experience in the workplace, check out our website for more information.