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Rewire Recognition to Amplify Employee Engagement: Q&A with Partha Neog

As per the Vantage Circle – SHRM India Report, only 50% of the companies perceive that their recognition programs are effective; What is your guidance to those who do not receive the same? How can they harness the true power of rewards and recognition and ensure that employees value them?

Neog:  The importance of recognition cannot be overstated. Even if we practice it daily, there are certain nuances that companies might miss. It includes genuine recognition and sincere expression of gratitude that connects with the individual and fosters a sense of belonging. Now what are the things that the rest of the 50% of companies cannot picture?

It is not just about the recognition efforts or what a company does to implement a recognition strategy. It is more about how an organization measures its recognition programs effectively. At first glance, it might seem like a not-so-important factor, but in the long run, it plays a crucial role. Once you become aware of it, you can crack the code to run the recognition programs effectively. 

However, certain doubts arise about how you will measure it. And that is an excellent question. We have been doing it for quite some time now, which makes it easier for us. But, for you, it might be something new. More or less an explored territory. 

The idea is to optimize your existing or newly implemented recognition strategies. The first thing that companies need to do is establish clear metrics to assess the impact of their efforts. These can include the frequency of recognition done, employee engagement scores, and gathering data that tells the story about your recognition system. The next step includes systematically analyzing this data and driving desired outcomes while adjusting the system accordingly. 

In the long run, it enables companies to assess the ROI of recognition programs and make informed decisions while ensuring support from top leadership. 

Another critical aspect of recognition is that companies must keep track of the growing trend in the corporate sector. The emphasis should be on becoming agile, adaptable, and resilient with time. Employees today need a tailored recognition system that focuses more on their overall experience, preferences, and values. In addition, the systems need to be updated and virtually available at the tips of their fingertips, which makes it easily accessible and facilitates real-time peer-to-peer recognition that reinforces a culture of appreciation throughout the organization. 

Companies can leverage the true potential of recognition in the long run by making changes with the growing trends and measuring the recognition systems continuously and correctly. 

Can an R&R strategy propel a positive impact inside an organization to have the right image outside? How can it be tied to brand positioning?

Neog: Internally, a well-designed R&R strategy can foster a positive work culture, boost employee morale, and increase engagement levels. When employees feel appreciated and rewarded for their contributions, they tend to be more motivated and productive. This positive energy permeates throughout the organization, leading to improved teamwork, higher job satisfaction, and reduced turnover rates. Employees become brand advocates, speaking highly of their organization, which influences how the brand is perceived.

Externally, a robust R&R strategy can contribute to shaping the desired brand positioning. When employees feel valued and supported, they naturally become brand ambassadors. Their positive experiences and genuine enthusiasm can extend beyond the workplace, influencing their interactions with customers, clients, and the public. Satisfied and engaged employees tend to provide exceptional customer service, positively impacting the customer experience. This can enhance the brand's reputation and differentiate it from competitors, leading to increased customer loyalty, word-of-mouth referrals, and positive brand associations in the market.

To tie R&R strategy to brand positioning effectively, it's important to align the rewards and recognition initiatives with the organization's core values, mission, and brand identity. This ensures that the recognition efforts reinforce the desired brand image. For example, if the brand aims to be known for innovation and creativity, the R&R strategy could emphasize rewards for innovative ideas or recognize employees who consistently contribute to creative problem-solving.

As per the Vantage Circle – SHRM India Report, over 2/3rd of the companies look to base recognition on both results and behaviors. How can R&R be leveraged to drive behavioral shifts needed to aid companies in achieving their ultimate objectives?

Neog:  To drive behavioral shifts and help companies achieve their ultimate objectives, leveraging recognition and rewards (R&R) programs is key. The Vantage Circle – SHRM India Report highlights that over 2/3rd of companies already base recognition on both results and behaviors, and here's how leaders can make the most of it.

As leaders, we need to clearly communicate the link between behaviors and outcomes. By explaining how specific behaviors directly contribute to our organizational goals, employees gain a deeper understanding of their importance and are more motivated to adopt them. This alignment creates a shared vision and purpose across the organization.

Setting challenging yet attainable goals is crucial. We want to inspire our employees to strive for excellence, but we also need to ensure that these goals are within their reach. By striking this balance, we encourage individuals to exhibit the desired behaviors consistently, knowing that their efforts will lead to tangible results.

To facilitate behavioral shifts, we must foster a culture of continuous feedback and coaching. R&R programs should extend beyond formal recognition moments and focus on the little things like a clear set of behaviors, with obvious links to business goals.  Instead of trying to 'keep everyone happy' by limiting the number of times, an employee can be recognized, businesses should develop ways to distinguish top/consistent/repeat performers. Companies should pay close attention to award nomenclature while also creating distinctiveness through the value of the award. According to our report, 38% of repeated demonstrations of behaviors get recognized through higher-value awards. And as leaders, we need to often continue this practice in a more consistent manner to leverage the R&R efforts. 

As leaders, we also need to provide ongoing guidance and support, offering feedback that helps employees understand how their behaviors can be improved to align with our organizational objectives. Career progression and development opportunities are powerful motivators. By tying R&R to these aspects, we demonstrate to employees the direct correlation between exhibiting the desired behaviors and their professional advancement.

Leading by example is crucial as well. As leaders, our actions speak louder than words. By embodying the desired behaviors ourselves, we set a powerful example for others to follow. Actively recognizing and rewarding employees who exhibit these behaviors and publicly highlighting their contributions reinforces our commitment to our values and encourages others to emulate them.

In summary, by effectively leveraging R&R programs that recognize and reward both results and behaviors, we can drive the necessary behavioral shifts within our organizations. Clear communication, setting challenging yet attainable goals, fostering a culture of feedback and coaching, linking R&R to career progression, leading by example, and regularly evaluating and refining the program are key steps to aid us in achieving our ultimate objectives.

What key aspects of AIRe framework should companies keep in mind while formulating R&R strategy?

Neog:  The AIRe framework methodology was launched by Vantage Circle to recognize the pressing needs for modern corporations to make their recognition programs more measurable, trackable, and quantitative. It was a groundbreaking and exclusive framework that we were able to come up with after years of research and development. 

It is absolutely free to use where anyone can conduct an online assessment to understand the overall dynamics of their recognition program or even test out a new program design, after which they are assigned an AIRe Score. 

The framework assigns an AIRe Score that is calculated across four core themes of recognition: Appreciation (A), Incentivization (I), Reinforcement (R), and eMotional Connect (e). This framework is all about unlocking the full potential of recognition programs within organizations. It tackles a crucial question: How can we make sure our program delivers the maximum impact? To make it easier to understand and measure, the framework divides the key elements into two categories: Drivers of Authenticity and Drivers of Impact.

Let's start with the Drivers of Authenticity. These elements focus on creating a recognition program that is fair, open, and transparent. When designing the program, it's important to ensure that it treats all employees equally and provides them with a level playing field. Transparency is also vital. People want to know how the program works, how winners are chosen, and what criteria are used. By being open and transparent about these aspects, we foster a sense of trust and authenticity, which is key to the success of any recognition initiative.

Now, let's move on to the Drivers of Impact. These are the factors that amplify the program's ability to achieve organizational objectives. Recognition programs shouldn't just be about handing out tokens of appreciation; they should have a purpose and contribute to the overall goals of the organization. By aligning the program with these objectives, we ensure that it becomes a powerful tool for driving performance, engagement, and productivity. For example, if the organization's goal is to promote teamwork, the recognition program can include team-based rewards or acknowledgments that reinforce collaboration. This way, the program becomes a strategic lever that helps the organization achieve its desired outcomes.

My encouragement to leaders and decision-makers will be just to try out our AIRe tool and significantly look at the results. Based on their findings, they can make strategic decisions in the long run to improve their employee engagement efforts. 

What outcomes can companies expect to achieve by adopting the AIRe framework?

Neog:  The most crucial thing that companies can expect to achieve by adopting the AIRe framework is to develop or create a recognition program that is not only genuine and trustworthy but also impactful and effective. It's about finding that sweet spot where fairness, openness, and transparency intersect with organizational objectives. When these elements come together, the recognition program becomes a true driver of positive changes and success.

So, to sum it up, this framework provides us and others with a roadmap for maximizing the potential of recognition programs by emphasizing authenticity and impact. By designing fair and transparent programs and aligning them with organizational goals, one can create a powerful tool that motivates employees, builds trust, and drives desired outcomes. 

Priya Tikhe

Partha Neog

CEO and Co-founder

Vantage Circle

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Partha is the CEO and Co-founder of Vantage Circle. He has over two decades of expertise in product and executive management. Partha has a proven track record of scaling great businesses and was instrumental in developing and launching 

He gained remarkable expertise in various industrial verticals when he worked for Aricent, Hughes Software Systems, and Bharat Electronics. He has gained deep insights into employee engagement through his experience with several companies and HR departments. His strategic skills in a learning and entrepreneurial environment, where complexity can require a dive into the content and creativity, problem-solving skills, and intelligence are maximally utilized. 

Partha is a strong believer in being able to have an impact together with a team. He leads the company with innovative flair, a reason why Vantage Circle enjoys a sustained competitive position in the market. Partha's leadership has seen Vantage Circle emerge as a recognized HRTech company in Asia and one of the fastest-growing recognition brands in North America and Australia.



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