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Unlocking the Secrets of Sustainable Employee Recognition: The AIRe Framework

AIRe framework has the potential to be a transformative force for organizations aiming to master the art of harmonizing employee engagement, turbocharging productivity, and fostering unwavering loyalty in the dynamic landscape of the modern workplace. By understanding the principles of Appreciation, Incentivization, Reinforcement, and eMotional Connect, companies can create sustainable recognition programs that not only reinforce desired behaviors but also foster a culture where employees feel valued and connected.

In this Q&A, Saurabh Deshpande, Director of the Center of Excellence for People and Culture at Vantage Circle, answers some of the pertinent questions on AIRe framework.

How will the knowledge of the AIRe framework help strike a balance between driving employee engagement, boosting productivity, and promoting loyalty in the workplace?

A well-designed and well-executed Recognition program:

  • Makes employees aware of behaviors that align with organizational priorities and the context in which those behaviors were demonstrated - Reinforcement

  • Encourages them to demonstrate those behaviors by showing a line of sight to monetary, social, and emotional value - Incentivization

  • While amping up that value drastically by appealing to employees' feelings and addressing fundamental human needs - eMotional Connect

  • Thereby creating a culture and environment where employees feel valued and feel that they belong - Appreciation

This is the foundation of the AIRe (Appreciation, Incentivization, Reinforcement, eMotional Connect) framework, which provides a structured, quantitative approach to the design and assessment of recognition programs. The framework is designed to leverage the power of recognition to drive productivity by influencing/ shaping behaviors while enhancing employee engagement by appealing to fundamental human needs of connection (with others) and self-esteem.  

Most recognition programs that start with much enthusiasm tend to lose momentum soon after. How will the AIRe approach help ensure sustainable results?

The AIRe framework cuts across both the design and execution of Recognition Programs. On the design front, the framework looks to optimize program principles and features with a focus on shaping a culture of recognition. We know that good program design goes a long way in setting up the program for potential success and that interventions that impact culture are more sustainable. Moreover, we also understand that it is really the execution that defines actual success. So, on the execution front, the framework provides specific lead measures that enable early identification of expected program impact. This helps companies take pre-emptive action to ensure that the program remains sustainable.

What are the practical ways in which the relevance and effectiveness of the AIRe framework can be utilized to drive the value of employee recognition?

The AIRe framework explains why certain program features are more effective and how their effectiveness should be measured. Through this, companies can make more informed decisions on how much to invest in their R&R programs and how to get the maximum bang for the back from their investments by optimizing the program features they should invest in. By enabling quantification and measurement, the AIRe framework allows both tracking and benchmarking of program success. This is critical because, after all, "what gets measured gets managed!"


Saurabh Deshpande is a seasoned HR professional with over 20 years of experience across HR consulting and line HR. Currently serving as the Director of COE - People & Culture at Vantage Circle, Saurabh has been a trusted HR partner and advisor to businesses. He specializes in working with start-ups and growth-stage organizations as a consulting Head of HR, helping them design and implement scalable HR practices.

Saurabh is also a sought-after subject matter expert (SME) for HR technology companies, partnering with them to drive intellectual property (IP) creation and product differentiation. He has previously worked with top-tier consulting firms such as Hewitt Associates (now Aon) and Mercer Consulting, as well as InMobi, India's first unicorn start-up, in line HR roles.

Saurabh holds a degree from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, and an MBA from the prestigious Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. With his wealth of experience and expertise in HR, Saurabh is a valuable asset to any organization looking to build and strengthen their people and culture strategy.



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