Using Baby Carrots To Motivate Staff In Big Ways

How do you thank your hardest working staff? Is it through once-a-year raises, or perhaps with occasional bonuses? Some companies are using Web-based services to recognize outstanding employee performance throughout the year with small rewards that can really add up in goodwill.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Senior Writer, InformationWeek

June 4, 2008

5 Min Read

How do you thank your hardest working staff? Is it through once-a-year raises, or perhaps with occasional bonuses? Some companies are using Web-based services to recognize outstanding employee performance throughout the year with small rewards that can really add up in goodwill."People don't work harder if no one notices," says Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce, a software-as-a-service provider that helps employers manage workforce incentive programs. Globoforce provides a Web-based platform (that's customized to the look and feel of employers' own sites) that allows managers or co-workers to nominate individuals for recognition that can range from a mere thank you message to gift cards or even cash.

So, what are companies thanking these workers for? Some employers use the program to recognize (and motivate) people for meeting important project milestones, helping out bravely in a pinch, smoothing over an important client's ruffled feathers, or coming up with a great new idea. It's really up to you on the reason to give thanks. But most employers try linking the rewards to efforts that contribute to a company goal or desired business outcome.

The majority of the time, the recognition is for smaller, but important accomplishments, which might otherwise be forgotten (or overlooked) by the time the worker's next performance or pay review is due.

Once an individual is selected by another, Globoforce automatically handles the approval process workflow, sending the nomination along within an organization for the final OK. Once approved, the awarded employee receives an electronic message that can be personalized by the manager or whoever nominated the individual. The messages also can be tailored to create printed out certificates.

Best of all, the thank you also can include awards that can range anywhere from $10 up to several hundred or even thousands of dollars. The awards are most often gift cards from retailers, including stores like Macy's or Best Buy, as well as online businesses like Amazon.com. The award recipient gets to choose from the "thousands of gift cards from merchants in 80 countries," says Mosley, making the incentive programs flexible for multinational companies who have employees scattered across the world. Awards typically range from $100 to $200, but have gone as high at $5,000, he says.

Of course, some "best places to work" employers have been offering workers incentives for years -- whether it's a free turkey at Thanksgiving, or a gift certificate for dinner at a local restaurant. But the online capabilities from services like Globoforce -- which handles the processes involved on the back end -- makes it a lot easier for employers to launch these programs and spread the gratitude.

Globoforce says it's got about 100 global customers with a total of 1.7 million employees using the system.

Programs like this open the door to improved worker morale, because depending upon how an employer wants to set up the nomination and approval rules, it gives a chance for people further down the pecking order to recognize the efforts of peers or direct reports that might not otherwise be highly visible to others.

Among GloboForce clients is financial software and services company Intuit, which has offered employee incentive programs since about 2002, but ramped up its efforts once the company moved the management of its system over to the Globoforce platform in 2004. Since then, Intuit's employee recognition program, called "Spotlight" internally, has really exploded, especially this year, says Jim Grenier, Intuit VP of HR. Over the last 10 or 11 months, about 80% to 85% of Intuit's 8,600 employees have received some kind of Spotlight recognition, whether it's a monetary, a gift card, or a "take a bow" thank you message.

And many of those Intuit folks were acknowledged more than once this year. To date, 26,000 individual Spotlight recognitions have been recorded this fiscal year, which ends July 31, says Jennifer Lepird, Intuit compensation business partner and Spotlight recognition program manager. Last year, Intuit recorded a total of 25,000 recognitions, but by the time fiscal 2008 ends next month, Intuit predicts it will record about 27,000 Spotlight acknowledgments for the year.

Intuit budgets about 1% of its payroll for its Spotlight program, says Grenier. Globoforce's best practices recommend clients set aside 1% to 3% of payroll for these incentive programs. Globoforce is paid a commission on the amount of each award, says Mosely.

Intuit uses the GloboForce system for many different types of employee recognitions, including those for members of Intuit's engineering teams who are often entrenched in projects that have "long tails," says Greier. "We help celebrate milestones, you need to energize these people," he says. Other frequent recipients include Intuit's call center personnel. "These people aren't only answering questions and solving problems, they can take a detractor and turn them into a promoter," of Intuit products and services, he says.

"It's taken six or seven years, but this has become a part of our culture," says Grenier. "It's integrated in how we do performance management," he says. And when you're an employee who hasn't received a thank you lately, it can open the door to self-evaluation or at least a dialogue with others about performance, he says. "It creates excitement and conversation," he says.

Intuit's Globoforce data is integrated to Intuit's payroll and HR systems. So, when it comes time for an employee's performance review, the person's "Spotlight" achievements are reflected in that evaluation.

How does your organization show its appreciation to employees?

About the Author(s)

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Senior Writer, InformationWeek

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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