Four of the Grass Roots Games Makers, Bryony, Cindy, Rozmin and Tim
Francis Goss, Employee Engagement
The recent recognition for London 2012’s Games Makers has been well-deserved, and many are citing this amazing volunteer workforce’s enthusiastic and essential contribution to the success of the Olympics as the ultimate example of engagement at work.
It’s true that a large part of this was down to the fact that only a short-term commitment was needed. That it was a global event. That it was a way to get access to the Olympic Park and other venues for free. And so on.
But anyone who knows a Games Maker or two will also know that some pretty smart work was done in terms of making sure these valuable volunteers were the right people (smart recruiting, with 70,000 appointed from 250,000); who were in the right frame of mind before they started and fully kitted out and trained in advance (an inspiring and thorough induction); that they were kept up to date with what was happening all the time (first-rate communication); and that they were regularly told how they were doing, thanked and praised for their efforts, not just at the end, but throughout the duration of the Games (ongoing, appropriate and timely recognition). Communication, education, measurement, reward – sound familiar?
As well as the obvious success of the event, and the enhanced experience offered to visitors, LOCOG benefited, too. They expected a significant drop-out rate during the Games which simply didn’t happen (thumbs up for staff retention).
Perhaps most important of all, was that thanks to an infectious attitude, a shared vision and excellent leadership, each individual knew they were part of something special, and what they were doing made a difference. Which is what it’s all about.
Paul Bartlett, Reward
Did you see the WorldatWork 2012 Total Rewards Professionals' Career Census?
It surveyed 2,300 HR professionals from around the world to identify key focus areas to move the profession forward, and create a broad view of success factors for top performers in total rewards.
In terms of skills development priorities for total reward professionals, strategic thinking topped the list by a substantial margin, followed closely by influencing and persuasion.
According to the report, the top six future professional development priorities were identified as:
- Strategic thinking
- Leadership skills
- Understanding company/organisation operations
- Executive presentation
- Project management
These all seem very personal, almost introverted to me, and I was struck more by what was missing, particularly when you consider the survey group stated that their top trends were:
- Using total rewards to drive employee engagement
- Using analytics to quantify HR impact
- Ensuring total rewards is communicated clearly and effectively to employees
- Tying rewards to organisational strategy and business success
To deliver these objectives – and therefore surely essential to the skills list - successful reward professionals need to be able to make their plans remarkable in every sense of the word, so that they stand out and are worthy of discussion and dissemination across all sorts of formal and informal groups. And surely strategic thinking needs to be driven by the insight gained from the programmes you manage? Do you know how much you are really engaging with your audience and how much line managers are enabling this process or acting as a barrier?
To really move forward in a multi-channel environment, rewards professionals need to know how to get their messages through to the right audience on an engaging and personal basis. Without great communication, total reward becomes just another staff programme.
Nick Wake, Marcomms
One of the more amusing stories to catch my eye in the last month or so was headlined: “Kit Kat voucher angers Torbay Hospital Staff”. It concerns the decision by the powers that be at the South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to celebrate their success at the annual Health Service Journal awards, by giving each of their 4,000 workers a voucher for a Kit Kat. The award category won by the hospital was…wait for it…”best innovation, ideas and dedication”. With masterful understatement the GMB union which represents many of the workers, described the gesture as “a bit cheap”.
Eyes on the prize
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a Kit Kat as much as the next person. Around about 10.30 in the morning, with a nice cup of coffee, I’d even go so far as to say, it is a bit of a treat (‘have a break, have a Kit Kat’ does it for me). In terms of self motivation theory, it fits nicely into the category of one of those small things that you look forward to, which can have a genuinely positive impact on your mood. And that’s even before those chocolately chemicals get whizzing around your body. But, if my company gave me one to celebrate winning an award, my mouth would adopt a lengthy state of openness that had nothing to do with the anticipation of scoffing the prize.
Where it went wrong
Joking aside, it’s worth considering for a moment, why – and let’s be fair about it, a well intended gesture – was just so wrong in its execution. On the positive front, the strategy of providing a non-cash award was a good one. There is lots of evidence to suggest that merchandise, experiences or a voucher that enables the recipient to treat him or herself, have a far greater connection with a job well done in the workplace, than cash. And can you imagine the headlines if each worker had been given 50p? But the first problem is that there is no trophy value in a Kit Kat.
The second is that the reward was not appropriate to the achievement. As mentioned above, it felt cheap. Far more effective would have been a personal letter from the Chief Executive of the Hospital, to the staff, thanking them for their individual contributions. It would have cost less, but come with greater sincerity and consequently more of the desired impact.
This links to the third issue, which is the lack of personalisation. The Kit Kat vouchers were sent out with payslips. Where is the personal touch in that? If an award is meant to be special, it needs to be treated as such and ideally handed out, in front of colleagues, with a few well chosen words, a handshake etc. The process of the giving is as important, if not more so, than the award itself.
Finally, Kit Kat may be the UK’s no. 1 confectionery brand, with sales of over £170m annually – a true giant of a brand – but it is not everyone’s favourite. Indeed there will be a few among the 4,000 recipients who actually don’t like them, or for other reasons, wouldn’t want to eat one. Awards that show a lack of consideration for individual preference will only leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Four fingers can end up feeling like two.
I do empathise with the management team of Torbay Hospital who have to practice a reward and recognition strategy under the inevitable ‘public money’ constraint. I for one, would be more than happy to see some of my taxes go towards recognising hospital staff and other public sector workers, for going the extra mile. It’s no surprise that the hospital’s ‘crisis management’ communications felt compelled to emphasise that the chocolate indulgence was funded from hospital donations. What a relief to know that the Kit Kat celebration was not only possible because the X-ray machine had been turned off for a few hours!
Recognition and discretionary reward is vital part of stakeholder management strategy. Saying ‘thank you’ and doing so thoughtfully, creatively and tangibly can be incredibly motivating. But as this example shows, without careful consideration, sweet intentions can easily end up as bitter reality.
Paul Bartlett, Reward
To get maximum value and impact from our reward strategy, we all want to make sure our employees get involved. We want them to take up benefits options, participate in programmes and appreciate the value we’re adding to their overall package. When that happens, we know we have achieved our aim of driving engagement, and being recognised – internally and externally - as first-rate employers who invest in their people.
In a perfect world, that happens. But back here in the real world, it has long been a widely held view that a lot more could be done to make the communication to employees 'sexier'; and that organisations should be marketing reward more effectively. Even as an employer, this means competing for an individual’s attention – and that can represent an increasingly significant challenge.
We know when we're being sold to
Under the constant bombardment of information, most of us have become adept at recognising when we are being sold to, and simply blank those messages out. It is becoming harder to spot a leaflet or ad that grabs our attention, and more and more difficult to separate brands selling the same or similar products (despite all the catchy tunes and cute animals, I really cannot distinguish one insurance comparison quote site from another!). And because we are all busy people, we find ourselves generally happy to stay with brands we know and trust, even if they are not necessarily the best for our needs. The same is generally true for reward and the wider employee value proposition.
Cutting through the noise
So how do we get our employees to take notice of, and appreciate, what’s on offer for them? If showering them with more information is not going to work (any more than launching a new toothpaste will work by relying on advertising alone), what approach should we take? The new marketing paradigm is difficult to ignore and has a profound effect on the way reward should be communicated.
Why being remarkable matters
In recent years, the most successful products seem to have grown into our collective consciousness, rather than been thrust there. In many cases, this has been caused by seeding the idea with the early adopters and influencers: those people we all know from our home and working lives who actively seek out the newest and latest ideas, and then can’t wait to share the latest and greatest with us. And this approach works best when you have something remarkable enough to cause the product to self-propagate. This idea - that your product has something so worthy of discussion that it will spread – is compelling, and one we should all be looking at closely by developing advocacy within our organisations. Perhaps we should all be watching Gardener’s World rather than Mad Men!
As an aside, while I don’t recommend it for reward, it’s interesting to see that what makes a product remarkable doesn't even have to be positive. I am impressed by the continued growth of Ryannair. Last year, during a time of austerity and rising fuel costs, the airline achieved a 5% increase in passenger numbers and a 25% increase in profit. It seems that Michael O'Leary has recognised that the most powerful marketing approach he can take is to keep Ryannair remarkable and worthy of discussion by stoking up discussion and debate - any ridicule it receives is just a way of cutting through the noise about its competitors.
So it’s fair to say that to get your product talked about means you need to know who and where the opinion formers and influencers are, and how you can best reach them. Social media is one way of course, and a whole topic in itself, but it’s certainly not the only way, especially when you consider most major brands achieved success well before Facebook existed, let alone the internet as we know it today.
Apple is often quoted as an example of a company that has thrived by creating niches and then filling them. Now those niches have become mainstream, and their logo is everywhere, yet Apple has sustained the art of making each product launch remarkable, inviting discussion, tempting early adopters and existing advocates, to create a noise that we all hear loud and clear. Apple’s approach should be a mantra for us all – to ensure that we build the remarkable into all that we do, and allow time within the product lifecycle and programme for it to continue to grow.
Integration is key
When it comes to getting the best from any reward strategy, it’s my belief that the best approach is an integrated one. Organisations need to have marketing embedded into their reward programmes right from the start; rather than creating a new scheme, then putting together a plan to communicate it afterwards. Every new programme should have that ‘sense of the remarkable’ at the heart of its design, which means clearly identifying what is going to prompt discussion and invite the opinion formers to start the chatter – right from the very beginning.
Cindy Withey, Corporate Social Responsibility
Last month, we published our 2011 CSR report; and although it's only our fourth annual summary, the concept of corporate and social responsibility has been part of our DNA since Grass Roots was founded in 1980. Many of our staff are local, their children go to the local schools, play for the local sports clubs and visit the local theatre; and it gives us all enormous satisfaction to see what a difference our skills, money and time can make.
I'm often asked which achievements I'm most proud of, and this year it was definitely the first Friendship Garden that we created with Kidscape (our current corporate charity) for Tring's Grove Road Primary School. We had nineteen 'Rooters' working to design, clear, build and plant the garden, and what was a patch of disused playground is now a haven where children can relax and sit quietly.
As well as contributing to Kidscape's valuable anti-bullying activities, we also benefit from activities like this at an individual and organisational level, as working together on a project like this boosts team spirit and employee engagement. Everyone at Grass Roots can take time for volunteering; and being supported and recognised by our employer for giving something back to our own community is a real benefit that costs little and means a great deal