Alison Godding, Employee Engagement
On Monday, the ‘Go Live’ phase of Engage for Success - the movement that believes there is a better way to work - will be well under way. The work of hundreds of people will be shared with the rest of the community and the wider world through events, media coverage and the new website.
Steve Baker, Recognition & Incentives
A bit like ‘being grateful for whatever Aunty got you for your birthday’, is having a choice of awards in a recognition or incentive programme important? And if it is, who should define what the choices are, the agency, the client or the participant?
Is there a science behind ‘choice’?
Is there such a thing as ‘too much choice’?
How about different types of awards for different types of programmes?
Nick Wake, Marcomms
I’ve been reflecting on the concept of over-delivery: getting more for your money than you expected. It happens occasionally with your pint of beer at the bar and always puts a smile on your face. Sadly, it just doesn’t happen often enough!
One of the reasons Ryanair gets away with shockingly bad service is that doesn’t promise you anything else. A campaign from Mr O’Leary to over-deliver is about as likely as politician under-claiming on expenses. A hassle-free flight is something to be cherished rather than anticipated.
But isn’t it wonderful when you do enter into a commercial exchange and it does leave you with a feeling of having had more than your money’s worth? An infrequent purchase of a service-based experience lends itself to this possibility. You have no prior experience, just favourable reviews and recommendations to go on. This was the case with a recent wedding reception in Kent and the need to procure some B&B accommodation for my wife and I.
Upon receiving the invitation, a situational analysis quickly identified that the accommodation experience needed to be more than a Premier Inn, even if there had happened to be one in the vicinity. This was to be a rare break from the kids and would involve a considerable journey. These factors combined to propel us from ‘night out’ straight into ‘mini-break’ territory. Consequently, in terms of determining the overall success of the trip, where we were to lay our heads that night would be far more important than the quality of the hokey-cokey with the bride and groom (sorry, Sean and Rachel).
My research began, of course, on the web and I was immediately taken with name of ‘The Old Inn’. The website wastes no time in setting up the promise: good photography creates a great impression of the house, the garden and guest rooms. An array of accreditations at the top of the site and (more importantly) the online guest comment book, are hugely reassuring, as is the sight of the Trip Advisor button at the bottom of the page. The copy is well written with ‘turn on’ phrasing such as ‘boutique bed and breakfast’, ‘19th century property’, ‘locally sourced’ and ‘freshly cooked’ to the fore. The photo of the roll-top bath in the bedroom seals the deal for my wife. An appropriate amount of competitor research is conducted, but a quick mental attribute rating analysis leaves The Old Inn in first place. A telephone call confirms availability and a short email exchange later, the booking is complete.
Although our vibes for the accommodation were good from the outset, what we hadn’t anticipated was quite what a stunning contribution to the whole experience would come from our hosts, Gavin and Lorraine. Their approach to looking after guests was the essential ingredient in a succession of ‘moments of truth’:
- It began with a phone call a few days before we arrived, to ask whether we needed them to book a taxi to get to and back from the wedding reception.
- When we arrived Gavin greeted us outside with a big smile, offered to carry our bag, showed us to our welcoming and spotless room, and then disappeared to make us tea and coffee which he served with cake in the garden. Having anticipated a proposition of bed and breakfast, this was already well into over-delivery territory. What a treat.
- Lorraine arrived shortly afterwards and we were overwhelmed (in a positive way) by their sincere enthusiasm for the history of their house and for us as guests. I was struck by the skilful way in which Gavin was able to respond to prompts rather than attempting to overwhelm or intrude on our space. It was the perfect example of how customer mood can be influenced by service style. We felt great!
- Then there was the helpful advice that included where exactly we needed to turn to find the hotel that evening and then the following day, the best place to park to explore the town of Rye on foot. Even when not in their care, Gavin wanted to make sure that we having the best possible experience.
When we came to leave in the morning, after an impressive breakfast in the delightful dining room, we almost felt we were letting them down by shooting off so soon. Saying goodbye took a good 10 minutes as we exchanged a few more stories which further illustrated how, in terms of communications theory, we had move from the low-risk, uncommitted, basic ‘exchanging pleasantries’ level to the high-risk, but highly engaged level where we were giving up some personal stuff.
So what made us feel so genuinely welcomed by and connected to our hosts? Simple. They showed that they cared - about their inn (their brand), their service, and about our experience as their guests. There may be times when we may have to fly with a certain airline because there is no other convenient option, and you could argue that there’s no need for good old-fashioned customer care when you have a captive market. Maybe so, but the result is that a Ryanair flight can feel more of a grudge purchase than an enjoyable travel experience. However, when there are choices to be made, it can sometimes be the smallest of human touches that can make all the difference.
As we made our farewells to Gavin and Lorraine, we simultaneously retrieved from the memory bank, five final words of departure. Simple, but full of meaning: “Thank you for having us”.
Naturally we will seek to return at the earliest opportunity and have already recounted out stay at the Old Inn to numerous friends. The fact that we are far from the only guests to be doing this, makes the business case for over-delivery feel quite compelling.
Paul Bartlett, Employee Engagement
Reward professionals are placing a higher priority on communications, according to the results of "The Evolving Compensation Function", a WorldatWork study released this week. Nearly half of the 656 surveyed respondents said they plan to focus more effectively on communicating the value of total rewards to employees, and especially to line managers. Fewer than 1 in 3 survey respondents reported that they are able to focus strongly on compensation communications today; and nearly 1 in 3 (32%) plan to increase their use of a variety of digital communications to enhance compensation communications.
In a separate study, mentioned in July’s post, the ability to communicate and connect was identified as one of the eight key differentiators of top performers in reward. Yet communication isn’t being seen as a development priority for reward professionals. And as multichannel communications make the options ever more complex, it becomes an increasing concern if they feel they are unable to give it sufficient focus.
I've already talked about how important it is to cut through the noise if you’re to effectively communicate with employees. The answer is to discover what is ‘remarkable’ in your reward strategy, and to build an integrated communication strategy around it, including social media in the mix. Just like any other marketing, this is all about sparking the discussion and getting it to permeate amongst your employees.
To make this really work, your line managers play an essential role. Their ‘buy in’ should translate into support, encouragement and enthusiasm – these people are the advocates who will most strongly influence the employees in their teams, and their role should not be underestimated. When it comes to reward communication, just as in so many other areas of employee engagement, we should and must engage them in the process, rather than seeing them simply as a conduit through which we deliver messages.
Steve Baker, Recognition & Incentives
Two of the most frequent questions I get asked by clients when they are considering implementing a recognition or incentive programme are:
1. How often should I give out awards?
2. How long should the programme run for?
A study conducted by the International Society of Performance Improvement shows that “if selected, implemented and monitored correctly, incentive programs—with awards in the form of money or tangible awards—increase performance by an average of 22%. Team incentives can increase performance by as much as 44%.” The important phrase in that statement is “selected, implemented and monitored correctly.” And frequency of awards and programme duration are key elements in the design and structure of reward programmes. All too often we see programmes that run too long or don’t run long enough. Programmes that have a year-end objective and don’t issue awards until much further out than the year are common. Sometimes awards are so far removed from the actions which earned the award that the employee doesn’t even remember what he or she did to get it.
How often do you do it, then?
Here’s a simple example. If you want to teach your dog to sit on command, you give him a biscuit every time he does it right. That way he associates the act with the reward and carries on doing it until it is learnt behaviour. However, what do you think would happen if you waited an hour before you gave him the biscuit? Common sense tells you that he would probably stop sitting on command and be curious as to why he’s getting random treats. In general, the closer the incentive is in time to the desired occurring behaviour, the stronger the association will be between the incentive and the behaviour. Consequently, incentives that are given days, weeks, or worse yet, months after the behaviour has occurred are not likely to be very effective. The only way to counter this is to increase the intensity or meaningfulness of the incentive —if you want an employee to do lots of things for a long period of time before receiving an award, then the reward had better be big. And everyone should have the opportunity to earn this award, assuming performance justifies it. Conversely, if you can issue smaller rewards more frequently, you may be able to decrease the intensity of the reward itself. When there is a behaviour that you want to occur frequently (i.e. reduced absenteeism, selling to new customers etc.), your incentives should be given out more frequently. The less frequent the behaviour, the less frequent the incentive. This is key, particularly in the early stages of what is known as behaviour acquisition. When you are trying to get a behaviour to occur for the first time, a continuous cycle of behaviour, reward, behaviour, reward is critical. This pattern is known as a continuous reinforcement schedule. Over a period of time the continuous schedule can be changed so that the reward occurs after a set number of behaviours or a set amount of time (e.g. every third behaviour, or maybe every two weeks). If you stretch the frequency out too far, you will see the behaviour start to fall off. This signals that the frequency of the reward should increase or the intensity should increase.
How long do you do it for?
How long do you want to keep rewarding employees? It would be nice to think that after a certain period of time, the behaviour will just occur out of habit. And if it does, then that’s how long you need to keep the programme running for. However, for many behaviours that are taxing and complex, you are not likely to be successful if you remove the reward. Would you go to work for no pay? However, you can space the rewards out over time so that the same intensity (i.e. annual pay amount) is distributed over set time periods (i.e. monthly pay periods). For other more intermittent behaviours such as benefits enrolment, completion of a health risk assessment, attendance at a lunch and learn etc, the incentive can be tied to behaviour within a timeframe. For example, you could enrol in a wellness program within the next two weeks and receive a reward.
Finally, for some behaviours, after a long period of external rewards, the behaviour itself can become rewarding. Exercise, healthy diet and mentoring can all take on reinforcing properties once they have been engaged in for a significant period of time. These kinds of behaviours can be subjected to a fading of the incentive slowly over time. Certainly, employees are complex; each has his/her own individual strengths and weaknesses. If you know your employees well, you can create the most efficient and productive work environment. In that same line of thinking, know your incentives well and you will create a powerful and cost-effective incentive programme.