Bridging the disconnect between design and impact

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All men seek one goal; success or happiness. The only way to achieve true success is to express yourself completely in service to society. First, have a definite, clear practical ideal – a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends – wisdom, money, materials and methods. Third, adjust your means to that end.

- Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.

People like to perform well. Just as a sculptor will claim that inside every block of marble there is statue, inside every individual there is a top performer. So how can we unlock the potential? Incentive and Motivation initiatives are launched for a variety of reasons, in fact there should only be one, that it will deliver growth to your organisation. As obvious as it may seem, very few businesses, once past the business case, pay much attention to one of the most easily measured activities in the business toolbox.

Has your incentive or motivation programme worked?

If you are asking yourself this question in the past tense, chances are you might never find the answer. The likelihood is that 90% of the time spent on planning the motivation programme was spent on the rewards. Which gi cards, what reward prizes, which event options and who will be doing the hosting! If this sounds familiar don’t worry, you are in good company, but “getting a bigger bang for your buck” (or “result for your rupee”) is what pays for your next promotion so how can we ensure that it will work before we start?

Theory into practice

Maslow, Mayo, McGregor, Hertzberg, the X-Y theory, the Hawthorn experiments and more are all good stu, and well worth reading up on if you are into the theory. Suce to say that it all started in the 1860s with "Scientific Management" then the behaviourists got in on the act and it end up with the conclusion that if you oer the individual the right thing at the right time you can eect behavioural and even attitude change.

Does this sound familiar? Right proposition, right customer, right time, right place. And this explains why this predominately HR topic oen ends up in the hands of marketing and not in HR. The discipline belongs to classic marketing and with some subtle dierence to the dynamics, all the same rules apply.

Setting objectives

The start point is setting clear and precise business objectives. A study in the US monitored the career fortunes of an entire years' graduates from the Harvard Business School. On leaving only 10% of graduates had clear objectives in mind for their impending careers and only 3% had committed these objectives to paper. Twenty years on, that 3% had an asset value greater than the remaining 97% put together! The message is simple-set good, SMART business objectives at the outset. If these objectives do not define precisely how this initiative will deliver incremental bottom line benefits (increased revenue, reduced cost or improved margin) then start again. You are then ready to start the 4-step model:

Analysis, planning and review

Do the research into the profile of your target audience, and what has gone before. Identify what the barriers to performance are and using Hertzberg's conclusions divide these into two groups: hygiene factors (salary, company policies, security, personal life, relationships with peers / supervisors / subordinates, etc) and motivators (achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility and advancement). If in the overall analysis hygiene factors dominate, the best you will achieve is some short term promotional gain. Whilst this has its own place, don't kid yourself about changing the face of the corporate world, it won't happen. If on the other hand the motivators dominate consider this a green light and continue. A good “lifestyle” profile will help select the right reward options in due course.

Measurement and structure

This element of the process could get you tied up into a knot of alternative organisational agendas. If you have set good objectives you are half way there, this will allow you to define exactly what you want to measure and to relate this to bottom line business improvement. The next challenge is to set a clear strategy for performance improvement. Be clear about where you can get your biggest wins. It is unlikely to be your top performers because they are already giving 100% and don't have much more to give. This group are the ones that should be targeted with recognition type awards that recognise top role models. Try and focus more of your reward budget on the next segment down. If you can get your middle 50% to deliver just a bit more, the impact will be significant. Segmentation techniques such a leaguing, best improvers, and target related measures can be used to achieve this. Provide a hierarchical structure of opportunity so that early goals are realisable within a realistic time frame. This will vary with the culture of your organisation and will stretch from weekly to annually. A typical structure would be:
  • Monthly measurement and reporting
  • Quarterly reward and regional top performers recognition
  • Annual top performers recognition event

Reward and Recognition

Now for a bit of light relief! First the semantics: Recognition refers to the awards that deliver status and acknowledgement of achievement. Depending on the organisational culture, this could be anything from a badge to a top performers incentive travel trip to an exotic location. It should be high profile and well-reported to peers. Reward refers to intrinsic reward where the value of the prize or item is paramount. Gi cards, reward catalogues, merchandise awards, and personal travel tend are commonly used. Recognition without reward is considered cynical and reward without recognition is missing a trick! All the research that you did at the beginning will give you some guidance. What you are looking for here are the recognition and reward options that will "turn on" your key target groups. Remember, the theory has told you that all you have to do is find the right key to unlock the potential! The real disappointment is that you find you have a large number of individuals and no single key fits all the locks! Look for a recognition solution that delivers something that is unique and exclusive and a reward proposition that broadly targets your audience and is very flexible – you are seeking the master key here. The new breed of online technology solutions that provide points systems and reward catalogues provide all that you could want in this area.

Communication

Do not underestimate the importance of this element of the process. In the majority of cases your target audience will be carrying your product messages and costly brand values to the point of customer contact. Maximise this opportunity not only to inform them about the incentive proposition and their progress but also to reinforce your brand values, you have to tell your audience not just want you want people to do but how you want them to do it to make sure all your investment in brand advertising doesn’t go up in smoke at the point of customer interface. Make sure you answer the following questions on behalf of each of the audience segments that you have identified:
  1. What do you want me to do?
  2. Why do you want me to do it?
  3. How do I do it?
  4. How am I doing?
  5. What is in it for me?
Launch the proposition with style and conviction and keep it alive. Put your systems to work to produce performance data that can be reported to individuals in the form of personalised campaign reports, leagues and forecasts of potential rewards. Be innovative with your reporting using personalised graphic reports, provide access via your internal intranet, mobile platforms and any other appropriate corporate media that is available. Tell them what you want them to do, tell them how they are doing against their objectives, and tell everyone when they have done it! Use teasers items to merchandise the high-profile recognition events. It is possible to run good motivation programmes without rewards but it is not possible to run them without eective communications!

Keep it real

I was always very impressed with the references to "Business Confidence" in the models used by economists to predict the future commercial environment. It is nice to see that the greatest intellectual brains pay homage to the "gut feel" factor. So, if your view is that this is all very well but in a fast-moving business environment it is simply not possible to wade through the whole process, take heart, you probably know most of the answers. Use this approach to structure your approach, engage a good quality Incentive and Motivation company to help you orchestrate the process and your next campaign could be the start point for real and significant performance improvement through the people side of your business.

The Checklist:

  • Set objectives
  • Define the target audience
  • Map the profile
  • Research competitor activity
  • Research reaction to historic activity
  • Define measurement and campaign structure
  • Develop an appropriate reward proposition
  • Get the creative team to develop a creative and communications strategy
  • Draw up an implementation plan
  • Do it!
  • Review against objectives and start again
For more information contact: John Sylvester – Chairman Sodexo Benefits and Rewards UK john.sylvester@sodexo.com