Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Customer Experience Pt 8 - Reward and Recognition

Post series written by Andrew McMillan (Principal Consultant at Charteris specialising in customer experience). Before joining Charteris, Andrew had a 28 year career with John Lewis and spent the last eight years of that career being responsible for the quality of service and selling across the UK department stores.

So, now we have a business that knows what it wants to be both for its customers and employees, has communicated those aims to its existing staff and embraced those aims in its recruitment procedures, is frequently measuring its performance against those aims internally and externally and has a leadership structure aligned to delivering improvement – we’re almost there! We’re now on to consistency and sustainability and a key element of that is reward and recognition. It’s an area that is commonly overlooked and possibly seen as unnecessary or frivolous. Nevertheless a clear reward and recognition strategy, frequently used and consistently applied can have a disproportionate positive effect on the culture of an organisation.


What’s appropriate depends, of course, on the culture of the organisation and what might be seen as childish and possibly condescending in one organisation could be seen as motivating and fun in another. If an organisation has followed all the stages in previous articles, by now they should have a very strong sense of what is appropriate for their business and what will be engaging and motivating for their employees. This doesn’t mean having a complex structure or spending huge amounts of money either, but it does have to have an explicit and direct link to the sort of behaviour the organisation is trying to engender. Many years ago Ken Blanchard wrote ‘The One Minute Manager’ and for those of you who have read this now legendary book you may remember ‘catching people doing something right’ as a prerequisite of leadership. The challenge for many managers today is that they are just too busy to find the time to ‘catch people doings things right’. Well, if you have implemented the leadership changes from the last article you will have found some time to spend in each day with the people you lead, and if you are doing that you have the foundation for a reward and recognition process in place already! In other words, frequent verbal recognition for something done well can have an incredible effect within an organisation that hasn’t been used to it in the past. Often in these organisations managers have usually spoken to their teams when something has gone wrong or at their annual appraisals so recognition for very small routine things done well can come as something of a surprise. However, stick with it through the potential incredulity and the team will start to respond and change their collective culture in ways you would have never imagined possible!
Supplementary approaches might include written notes of thanks for a job well done. This might be for something that warrants a little more than verbal recognition and a handwritten note is often the best medium. In a world of instant communication and e-mail a handwritten note shows you have made a little extra effort and really care. If you want to start spending a little money at this stage you might even include a scratch card with the note for a bit of fun. Initial reactions might be “I was just doing my job”, but that’s just the point. What we are trying to engender here is a culture of excellence, self esteem and pride in a job well done.

Going Further

The next step is to implement a formal reward and recognition scheme which will require a budget. This doesn’t have to be significant and a budget based on headcount – perhaps £10 per head, per annum - can make a really big difference and is a small cost compared to training or marketing budgets which won’t necessarily produce such tangible results. That’s not to say you should mechanically spend £10 on each employee each year, but it does give a scale and set a budget requirement for the scheme. Rewards here should be made through a formal process and that process should allow for peer to peer recognition as well as those awards nominated by managers. Even on such a small budget, this would allow for occasional rewards such as a bottle of champagne, theatre tickets, flowers or even a weekend break.

The Pinnacle

The pinnacle of any recognition and reward scheme should be an annual awards ceremony. This can be a culmination of all the smaller awards given over the year or it could be a collection of categories voted for by the employees. Either way, it is important that the categories reflect the behavioural aims of the organisation such as ‘leader of the year’, ‘most support to their colleagues’, ‘most customer focussed’ etc. In a large organisation this can be funded from the residue of the £10 per head budget as it is unlikely every employee will have justified a smaller award throughout the year. I have seen prizes at these awards vary from weekends away in New York to an engraved glass trophy, but both approaches have an equally beneficial effect on the organisation. If the ceremonies are well executed the benefits go way beyond just the recipients of the awards as other employees will be quick to celebrate the recipient’s success and will have a sense of pride that someone in their team has been a winner.
If you remain doubtful, then just start by trying the first two steps which will involve some effort, but very little cost. Providing it is positioned with care within the culture of the organisation you will be amazed at the power of a simple ‘thank you’.


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