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13 Oct 2021

How to recognise a globally distributed workforce

With the explosion of technologies and communication platforms that have made the world smaller, it’s become commonplace for organisations to operate on a global level while streamlining goals, processes and structures.


An important challenge organisations still face is the need to implement a comprehensive reward and recognition programme that works across different offices, countries, time zones and languages.  A global approach rather than one that rewards teams locally fosters better employee recognition, engagement, motivation and wellbeing across the board. It also ensures consistency across the different offices in which an organisation operates and can increase efficiency of administration, human resources, and ultimately cost.

Employee recognition can be used to address some of the challenges that arise from having a global workforce. Organisations often struggle to create a culture and set of values that ring true across the globe. Workplace culture can be hard to define but is essentially the character and personality of an organisation and encapsulates the values, beliefs and behaviours of its people. Culture has a huge role to play in attracting, engaging and motivating employees.

Employee recognition can make a notable difference here. By being clear about which behaviours are being rewarded, how and why, employers can clearly reflect the values that really matter to their organisation, thereby supporting workplace culture, wherever in the world a team or individual may be based.

Employee awards should be directly linked to the behaviours that support your global culture. These can range from being performance-based to softer, values-based behaviours, such as creative thinking, showing integrity or self-improvement. By aligning these behaviours directly with recognition awards, employers can make a clear link between how employees act and how they are rewarded.

In order to ensure success across the board when implementing and running a global employee recognition scheme, employers and global management teams need to grant local managers the power to localise elements of the strategy. This will ensure better engagement, while still maintaining a set of strict parameters within which the scheme should operate.  

There are various factors that need to be addressed when building a scheme to reward and recognise a globally dispersed workforce. These include:
1. Adopt a fully automated, centrally managed recognition portal
The most effective employee reward and recognition schemes use fully automated, online portals that can be accessed within the workspace as well as remotely via a mobile and tablet, 24/7. By using a centrally managed online portal as the hub for all employee reward and recognition-focused activity for a globally distributed workforce, organisations can make it easy for their teams, no matter where they are located, to be involved in nominating and receiving recognition awards, while at the same time ensuring there is a consistent strategic roll-out.

The technical functionality of portal-based programmes allows for superior social recognition, via in-built tools such as winners walls, message panels, likes and colleague notifications. Automating the approval process for granting recognition awards can create operational efficiencies on a global scale, while also capturing insightful data about how a scheme is operating and how employees are engaging with the platform.

2. Currency, cost and language

These are key when looking how best to recognise a globally distributed workforce, since so many different factors come into play, which may ultimately affect the bottom line. Different languages and cultures will shape the programme, so too will the currency used, as well as exchange rates and reward values. Remember that living costs differ dramatically from country to country – what may be a generous reward in one country in terms of its value, may not be so in another. For example, a £50 award in India will have a different value to a £50 award in the UK.

It’s therefore sensible to create a currency cost of living (parity) index to ensure consistency and price parity across the board, which is aligned with both local and global recognition budgets. Factors such as foreign exchange, the process of attaining consumer goods for rewards, administration costs and reward costs need to be factored in. Within this, additional elements such as reward delivery need to be considered (for example, whether rewards are administered electronically or need a fulfilment agency). These will, in turn, also influence the backend of the programme and its required functionalities.

3. Segmentation based on culture and demographics

On a macro and micro level, each country and office will have their own set of cultural nuances that do not necessarily translate on a global level. Local managers in each region should have autonomy (based on trust, skills and expertise) to make the scheme relevant to their own internal teams within  a set of programme guidelines and parameters.

Local managers should undertake and encourage spontaneous and timely acts of recognition as and when they see fit, and in accordance with any cultural dates and norms. In addition, it’s critical to ensure that recognition awards are localised and relevant, and potentially come from local suppliers who best know the market and its delivery and logistics. It’s important to take into account cultural differences, so resources and money are not wasted on inappropriate rewards. For example, some countries have different weekend days (UAE and the Middle East), others have different attitudes to certain leisure activities.

4. Use employee recognition to unify a distributed workforce

Employee recognition can be used to directly address some of the challenges that arise from having a widespread workforce – after all, recognition is a global human need and expression. It’s not an easy task to create a unified, authentic culture and set of core values that ring true across the globe. By having a personalised set of criteria that puts a spotlight on the behaviours and attitudes that run central to the business, a global platform can bring consistency and unity and ensure processes are simple and streamlined.

5. Take a centralised approach to communication

It’s important to develop a detailed communication plan around the launch of a reward and recognition scheme, even more so when on a global level. Local managers need to be engaged from the outset, so it’s important to clearly communicate the benefits and value of employee recognition, as well involve them in the process from the start. Managers are a key group, it’s they that will be the recognition ‘ambassadors’ within their local regions and be responsible for reinforcing positive messages about recognition.

The more communication touchpoints, the better as different communication methods suit different sets of employees, for example, digital versus face-to-face. These should incorporate a range of different channels, including posters, presentations, email, internal intranet platforms, social media platforms, SMS messages, induction sessions, employee handbooks and more.

To discover more about global reward and recognition and gain insight from an exclusive case study from Colt Technologies, download Xexec’s e-Book.

This article is provided by Xexec.

In partnership with Xexec

Xexec is the UK's leading Reward and Recognition and Employee Benefits provider.

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