Best Recognition and Rewards Programs for the Post-Recession Economy

At Plus Delta Consulting, we are committed to creating a brighter future for those seeking to improve individual, group, and organizational performance as well as those focused on transforming organizations in ways that produce better business results. Broadly speaking, we are part of “OD” (Organization Development), but we also push the boundaries of the field and what many call “new OD” to connect communities of organizational professionals from other arenas. We not only seek but also strive to share new theories and practices that serve the 21st century organization with others. Towards that end, we launched a LinkedIn group called the “Future of Organization Development (OD)” last fall (see http://bit.ly/FutureOD) and regularly participate in other online conversations to facilitate these discussions.

Here is an excerpt of a recent discussion about the Best Recognition and Rewards Programs for the Post-Recession Economy:

[Jeremy Lurey]: A couple weeks ago, I facilitated a great session with a local NHRA (National Human Resources Association) chapter. The topic was Recognition and Rewards programs, and we used a World Cafe (see www.theworldcafe.com) format to bring everyone – and their richly diverse perspectives – into the room. During the World Cafe rounds, groups were asked the following 3 questions:

1. What are the top three MONETARY recognition and rewards approaches that you use in your company?
2. What are the top three NON-MONETARY recognition and rewards approaches that you use in your company?
3. What are the underlying assumptions of your recognition and rewards system, and does the absence of receiving a reward equate to PUNISHMENT?


Provided below are some of the key themes that emerged from the group. I’m curious if this is in line with your experiences or if you have other “best programs” you would recommend.

– MONETARY programs included spot bonuses, spot awards of all denominations, sales incentives, and structured commissions for sales people. Some of the best suggestions actually included having the program guidelines approved by management but then having the awards themselves appointed by others without management intervention.

– NON-MONETARY programs included everything from hand-written Thank You cards from senior leadership to deserving employees to more visible Employee of the Month/Year awards to more individualized service pins and other tokens of recognition, including honorary parking spots. Some of the best recommendations were actually based on assigning special project tasks (i.e., Tiger Team assignments) to people to recognize their abilities and unique contributions.

– Some of the final thoughts about PUNISHMENT may have been most interesting of all. A significant number of participants remarked on how many rewards were removed in 2009 due to the economy and how this simple act of cost-cutting was experienced by many as punishment. So the resounding recommendation of the group was to not implement something that may not be sustainable, because any improvements in organizational culture and performance that may have been gained initially surely would be lost – and then some! – as soon as those rewards were taken away.

[Future of OD Member]: This sound[s] like it would have been [a] fascinating meeting. I couldn’t agree more with the final comments. Once the bar has been set, anything that lowers the bar is experienced as either punishment or taking something away. We create the expectation of recognition when we initiate a recognition program. If we, for any reason, have to stop that program, we then fail to meet the expectations that we have created. This gives us a very fine line to walk, but it’s worth it if we can find our way.

[Jeremy Lurey]: Thanks (Member). It really was a great meeting. Not often, we as professionals get a chance to focus on knowledge transfer and learning in this type of intimate group forum. And the ideas that came out of the discussion were powerful and tremendously rich. Everyone very much agreed with what you just described which is the basic tenet of “Don’t do it if you aren’t serious long-term” and “Fight to keep it once it’s already in place.”

So what are your thoughts about recognition and rewards for the post-recession economy? As you can see, we are blogging about a discussion that is now taking place online even though it originally formed from the ideas discussed in a separate in-person group. Help us continue the conversation here via this communication media by commenting below. Or better yet, take an excerpt of this blog post and start another discussion in yet another form. We welcome it!

Posted in Accelerated workplace, business, economic recovery, Groups/Teams, topical, Workplace Culture, Workplace Policies Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
4 comments on “Best Recognition and Rewards Programs for the Post-Recession Economy
  1. AliceWonderland42 says:

    Thank you!

  2. Jeremy S. Lurey, Ph.D. says:

    You're very welcome. Glad this is useful for you.

    Take care.
    Jeremy

  3. AndrewHobs says:

    I am currently member of the blair rewards program. I have started with other small size rewards programs varying from groceries to flights or car rental rewards and I am trying to get the most of the free things(or money) that a customer can get. I am trying also to keep a record of all the saving I have done and I think that it will evolve into small study project. So far I was interested only in getting the most of it but after I have read your article I can see the two different approaches: the creator and the consumer of the program.
    Now I am teaching my nice and her group of friends how to save money. 🙂

  4. Jeremy Lurey says:

    Thanks for sharing that perspective Andrew. It's often difficult to show the softer “ROI” of programs such as this. Hopefully, yours will continue to produce not only your intended but also several of these positive unintended results.

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