Employee Recognition Key to Engaging Global Workforce

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By Genevieve Douglas

Aug. 10 — Employee recognition programs can be an important tool for engaging employees working remotely or in far-off locales, but such programs can't be the same as those used when all employees worked side-by-side in the same office, practitioners tell Bloomberg BNA.

While there are many programs that can engage remote employees, a recognition program is crucial because that “thank you” is so valued by workers, Susan Brown, senior director of compensation for Siemens USA, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 8. Employee recognition programs that identify how remote employees are contributing allow managers to give direct feedback in real time, which is essential, Brown said.

The technology and innovation giant started its “You Answered” employee recognition program in 2010 as a revamped version of disparate recognition programs throughout the U.S. and abroad. It allows for managers to recognize employee achievements, and for peer-to-peer recognition and congratulations in a web-based format. Rewards can range from congratulations to gift cards and cash awards, Brown said.

“We needed to know what we were spending and where, but now we are looking at what recognition can actually drive and how it can be used to maximize business strategy,” she said.

The Siemens program has simple standards for recognition, and all employees can see which workers are being recognized. Employees appreciate the rewards, but the recognition is what really makes a difference to workers, Brown said.

Looking forward, Brown said, Siemens' goal is to develop more analytics to see how or if the recognition program is driving greater employee retention and maximizing productivity. The company is also focusing on how recognition programs best work in other cultures and countries.

Learning to Engage a Global Workforce

Recognition programs continue to be a part of the solution to engaging a global workforce, Derek Irvine, vice president of client strategy and consulting for employee recognition platform Globoforce, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Aug. 10. “Regardless of where employees are working, social recognition is a proven way to drive business outcomes and elevate employee engagement, productivity, happiness and retention,” he said.

According to Irvine, one key element to keeping remote workers motivated is leveraging the power of peer-to-peer feedback to create communities “where all employees within a company, no matter where they’re based, are encouraged to offer real-time insights, recognition and validation for their colleagues.”

When managing workers in remote locations, Irvine recommends leaders shift the focus from traditionally one-sided performance management practices, such as annual performance reviews, to more crowd-sourced approaches that focus on continuous, real-time feedback. This type of feedback recognizes and rewards immediately and makes an employee feel more valued, he said. It will also likely yield richer data on employees, offering managers a clearer picture of a team's or company’s strengths and weaknesses and a more realistic sense of how employees are performing.

Recognition Starts With Culture

Employee recognition programs may boost engagement and loyalty but creating a culture where employees want to come to work and do their best must take root in interactions that make people feel valued, Teresa A. Daniel, dean and professor in the Human Resource Leadership Program at Sullivan University in Louisville, Ky., told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Aug. 10.

“Stuff” is nice, but in most situations, it is the relationship between the employee and his or her immediate supervisor that creates the high-performance culture where people feel valued and respected, Daniel said. “Programs are really not necessary if the culture is right because managers and leaders are making employees feel special in their day-to-day work lives when good things happen,” she said.

For example, organizations should celebrate important employee milestones, such as achieving a particular length of service, meeting a tough challenge or finishing a big project, Daniel said. Both individual and team celebrations are critical to creating camaraderie and a sense of united purpose among employees, she said.

Daniel warned that employers often think that implementing a policy or program can “fix” things for employees. However, “companies that spend time cultivating a culture of kindness (build on respect, fairness, and appreciation) will reap the rewards of that effort in terms of attracting and retaining the most talented workforce possible,” she said. “Employees are motivated, engaged, and stick around those companies that treat them with respect, are fair, and who regularly show appreciation for their contributions,” Daniel added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington, D.C. at gdouglas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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