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7 min read

How do you improve a reward and recognition program that isn’t hitting the mark with your employees? Redesigning the experience and framework so it strengthens your culture and supports company goals can be tricky.

In this HR Heroes post, Jennifer Bass, Employee Experience Manager at Cuscal, shares how she took employees and managers on a journey from an R&R experience that was misused and diluted. Read on to discover how they relaunched an exciting and impactful peer-to-peer recognition and reward program that reinforces company values and a strong employer brand, and has 95% of employees actively participating.

Let’s start with the recognition and reward experience at Cuscal. How has it evolved over the years?

Jennifer: When I first started working at Cuscal, we had a traditionally-run reward and recognition program in place, where the prize was a Learning and Development grant. We had to chase nominations constantly, and it was a very manual and tedious process. Not everyone appreciated that reward.

Four years ago, we decided to use a digital platform for recognition and reward. That was a huge step for us as we’d never done anything like that before. Then about 12 months ago, we partnered with Reward Gateway to deliver a fresh, digital recognition and reward experience to our people, and that really helped to evolve and strengthen our recognition framework.


What was happening with your existing recognition and reward program that made you think it was time to change things up?

Jennifer: When we first introduced digital recognition and reward, we did have awards that were linked to our values. But two things happened that really caused the whole program to become quite diluted. On one hand, busy managers weren’t reviewing nominations that came through and they would just approve awards that didn’t really demonstrate our values. Some employees cottoned on to this and started using awards on a bit of a bartering system. On the other hand, some managers would decline really strong award nominations. So people became really skeptical and the disjointed nature of the experience created a bit of angst.

Can you walk us through what the new recognition framework looks like at Cuscal now?

Jennifer: We started with the foundation of creating eCards with no monetary value, because we really wanted all employees to have multiple ways of saying thank you to each other.

Then we looked at the rest of the recognition pyramid and started to consider other types of recognition and reward.

reward-gateway-recognition-pyramidWe created awards that were linked to Cuscal values, and looked at options to encourage managers to recognise employees and escalate moments that deserve higher recognition. Then on top of that, we have our company awards. At the end of every year, we look at all the instances of recognition that have flown through the program and call out the really great achievements, as well as the people who might fly under the radar.

How do you use this new framework to reinforce your company’s values?

Jennifer: We communicated that our values are really important; they’re important to what we are delivering in our strategy, so we want you to be recognised for demonstrating those values. In the new program, we increased the dollar value attached to values-aligned awards so that people knew that being recognised for our values is meaningful. We also made sure that when people nominate someone for awards with a financial reward attached, they have to choose a company value associated with the action and write a nomination that demonstrates relevance.


How did you walk your managers through the change process and achieve consistency and buy-in as you launched the new program? Can you tell us how you took managers on that journey?

Jennifer: We got manager buy-in first because we know they are really critical in the process. With our old program, some managers hadn't been reviewing some of the nominations, or felt that some of the nominations were okay to approve even though the link to our company values was a bit weak.

So we ran some focus groups with them. We discussed what recognition is, what reward is, in what circumstances you should actually approve these awards and what circumstances can you also escalate the nomination for a bigger award as well. We really tried to work very closely with them and get their feedback on what they wanted to see in the new program. They gave us some great ideas that we've got in place today.

We do ongoing workshops with managers now because it's still a journey to get them on board, growing their understanding of recognition and reward, and making sure that they are giving it in a timely way as well.

Do you think engaging managers in those focus groups right from the beginning played a part in making sure this was an inclusive journey, rather than just a People Team initiative?

Jennifer: Yes, definitely, and we took all of our employees on board right from day one. We knew that many people were a little bit disgruntled with the old program and we knew that this was really important to them to get right.

If you don't involve managers in the journey right from the beginning, you may as well just not bother trying to change anything.

Our people had a big input into creating all of the e-cards that we've got now, and we constantly refine these. They also came up with the name for the hub, which is Central.


How do you get continual engagement with your program now that you have invested in redesigning and reframing it?

Jennifer: Central is our employee engagement hub, and there’s a character, almost like a bit of a mascot, called BOB, and he stands for Be Our Best. He has been in place ever since the program was created. He’s around all of our office floors, he's around all of our communications collateral and he’s across the entire employee hub. Everybody knows BOB and meet him when they come into the organisation during onboarding within their first week through our digital onboarding tool.

cuscal-mockup-ecardsHe really covers the whole employee journey and when people first log into Central on their first day and every morning after that, he brings the values to life. The good thing about Central is that employees see the recognition program in the same place as our people news and our employee benefits.

All of the information that they need about what it’s like to be an employee at Cuscal is in one place.

You’ve got about 95% of your people actively using the platform, so you’re obviously doing something right! What is your advice for people looking to foster an environment where they have both continuous and impactful recognition in their organisation?

Jennifer: The first thing is not to expect people to get on board straight away. I am really passionate about recognition and reward, and I went out thinking everybody else would be really passionate and totally understand what I meant. But you really do need to take your people on a journey, involve them right at the beginning and get their feedback.

Second is understanding that what recognition is for you is not necessarily what it is to everybody else. Everyone's got different ways of recognising and rewarding and you have to find a recognition formula that works for your people. We have a lot of introverts in our organisation who don’t like being called out at big events, but giving them opportunities to be recognised using eCards has received such a fantastic response. So providing simple, consistent ways to recognise and reward keeps it nice and easy for people to get involved.

And the third tip is to have great technology – really supportive, intuitive and centralised technology that supports the goals for your program. You want your managers to be able to go onboard and approve things in a timely way and you want what your employees are doing to be fun, engaging and seamless.

Need support with improving your employee recognition and reward experience? Talk to our team today.

Talk to an Engagement Consultant

Joy Adan

Joy spearheads RG's research about employee experience and engagement, and as our resident presenter, loves to inspire and challenge people to think critically about how to improve the way we work together. Joy’s passion for creative and inclusive storytelling, combined with experience in change management and corporate communications has allowed her to partner with global organisations to improve connection, culture and community in the world of work for over 15 years.

Senior Thought Leadership Manager

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