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12 Oct 2021
by Kerry Drury

Is it time to rethink traditional reward and recognition structures to meet new working practices?

When normality left the building in March 2020, we all had a feeling it wouldn’t be coming back. Now, a new landscape of work and business is emerging from the pandemic, and it has drastically changed.


The days when employers seemed to hold all the cards, dictating working conditions, pay and benefits, are a distant memory. In many industries, employees now call the shots, insisting on flexible work environments, modern leadership and competitive flexible reward offerings that combine both monetary and lifestyle benefits. Reward priorities also vary by generation, with younger employees placing more importance on learning and development opportunities, whilst baby boomers and those with more established careers, seek rewards that offer work/life balance and enhanced health benefits.

One crucial factor is the need for inclusive, fair and ethically strong reward policies, such as equal pay, equitable bonus strategies and visible career development opportunities. Employees are willing to change employer if they feel that the reward strategy is unfair or not aligned with job expectations. With companies competing to attract and retain top talent in a climate where skills shortages are increasing across many industries, it’s more important than ever for reward teams to rethink their reward and recognition strategies.

A forward-looking recognition strategy

In an employee-focused job market, companies should redefine their rewards and recognition offerings to suit the current and future workplace. Companies will need to take into consideration shifts towards lifestyle benefits such as additional leave, working from home, health and wellness programmes and other non-monetary benefits, such as medical cover and access to learning opportunities. Furthermore, having an effective recognition programme is no longer seen as a fringe benefit, but as an essential culture building element that helps develop meaningful connections and collaborative teams.

Companies should seek to implement programmes that frequently recognise both large and small efforts, and continually improve recognition technology to make it as frictionless as possible. Integrating recognition apps and tools into the flow of work helps employees feel connected during their regular day-to-day. Adding tangible awards such as merchandise, gift experiences, retail vouchers and e-courses heightens the impact of recognition, and to many employees is more meaningful than cash alone.

Building and maintaining connections

After a year and a half of remote or hybrid work and social distancing, the need for connection is universal. Helping employees feel connected to purpose, accomplishment and one another no matter where or when they work, is more important than ever. Connections at work do more than support employee happiness, they help employees perform better and make teams stronger.

In a hybrid work model, organisations may struggle with how to evolve their recognition programmes, particularly since employees won’t be physically together as often. However, meaningful recognition doesn’t have to be complicated. Rethink how recognition fits into your new employee experience. What systems or processes might you have to change or enhance? Can a percentage of payroll be apportioned to developing a new recognition programme which is proven to have a greater impact on employee engagement and performance?

Developing a strong and compelling company culture with inclusive and diverse reward and recognition strategies will become a differentiator and distinctive factor in engaging and retaining employees in the current and future workplace.

The author is Kerry Drury, senior director at O.C. Tanner Europe.

This article is provided by O.C. Tanner Europe.

In partnership with O.C. Tanner

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