Remote Recognition

Ask Madison: Talking dollars and sense – how do I make the case for budget changes to my employee recognition program during recovery?

January 25, 2021
| ByJudd Weisgal
  • A budget squeeze shouldn’t necessarily lead to reducing investment in your R&R program. In fact, research suggests programs that engage employees are good for the bottom-line.
  • Employees need to feel that leadership is genuine when potential dollar reductions are considered for R&R programs dedicated to them; what could leadership do to adjust?
  • As with most company matters, stakeholders must exercise transparency.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent fiscal uncertainty that emerged at its onset in early 2020 led organizations to reevaluate many aspects of their overall budgets, including operation costs, staff costs, and more. Some organizations were faced with imminent decisions to cut and at some points, nothing was off the table. However, stakeholders quickly came to realize that in order to survive, and thrive in the future, the focus on their employees’ well-being could no longer be something relegated to “personal time.” This not only included a review into the basics of employment (hours, pay, bonuses, benefits, healthcare, working conditions), but also the parts that transcend the P&L: how we recognize, incentivize and engage our valued members to create a workforce that is inspired.

Stakeholders understood the importance of a substantial and official program that continued to celebrate their teams, despite any financial uncertainty surrounding them. Then and now, as we continue to adjust to new business operations while simultaneously managing on-going pandemic waves, leaders can repurpose and devise new ways to continue and even expand the much-needed support and recognition their teams deserve.

Heed the Numbers: Your Rewards and Recognition program is a high priority business imperative.

If you treat your R&R program as a pillar of your organization that contributes to success, and the research suggests most certainly that it does, the inclination to cut does not make fiscal sense. Studies show that satisfied, engaged employees are productive, have lower unexpected absenteeism rates, and lead healthier, less-stressed lifestyles, saving in insurance-related and work-downtime costs. Turnover, which is a contributor to increased costs, is often reduced as well.

For instance, research tells us:

  • “…a study of 1,500 respondents showing that disengaged employees cost companies between $450 and $550 billion a year.” (Joint study from The Engagement Group - a collaboration of The Conference Board, Sirota-Mercer, Deloitte, ROI, The Culture Works and Consulting LLP)
  • “…in a three-year study of 41 global companies, we found that operating margins improved nearly 4% on average in organizations with high employee engagement levels and declined about 2% in those with lower engagement levels.” (Willis Towers Watson)
  • Companies that invest in employee experience outperform companies that don’t in average revenue by 1.5 times, revenue per employee by 2.8 times, profit per employee by 4.0 time, and more. (Wellable)
  • More than half of retailers worldwide (52 percent) see a direct correlation between poor employee engagement and increased staff turnover, with retailers in the U.S. (61 percent) and U.K. (55 percent) seeing the strongest connection. (Kronos Report)
  • …health care expenditures at high-pressure companies are nearly 50% greater than at other organizations. The American Psychological Association estimates that more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress, and 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job. (Harvard Business Review)

Model an open, empowered environment

#AskMadison has maintained that facilitating open, honest communication with your team is the first and foremost requisite for building an inspired workforce. Numbers are clear; it’s hard to justify to employees taking something away and not having the evidence for why.

  • Communicate clear messages, like “our sales are down by XX, therefore we may need to rethink X for a period of time.” At a minimum, this conversation brings your team into the fold and makes them part of decision-making process.
  • Hold a town hall meeting (can be done both virtually or in-person). Just like you are obligated to stockholders to provide earnings updates, your employees can benefit from this information, too, especially if the message is prepared and delivered in way that relates to them. Publicly acknowledging what’s at stake and garnering feedback and suggestions for solutions empowers your team and encourages a culture of trust.

Get creative with your resources

Early on in our #AskMadison series, during the first stages of the pandemic, we noted that analyzing budget creativity to maintain a program that celebrates your team is worth the energy. That thought-process continues to ring true today.

  • With health top of mind, consider marrying resources into programs that support health and well-being, which is a much-needed way to appreciate employees at this moment.
  • Rely heavily on social recognition methods, which can be cost-effective and useful, especially as we struggle to stay connected in a remote working world.
  • Be charitable as a team. Sometimes costs don’t have to be high to work together as a team for a cause. Helping the community as a team, even with simple time, shows the type of organization you are, aligns with core values and engages your workforce to promote inspiration as well as feel it.

After an unprecedented global health event, we all need a little inspiration. By being open, you dispel resentment and misunderstandings while managing expectations. Especially during a recovery time, the effort by employees is instrumental in keeping a business afloat. It costs money to ignore employee engagement, which includes recognizing their hard work. The upside to having a comprehensive R&R program is clear.

At Madison, it’s not business as usual, but instead, we are focused on support. Supporting our invaluable customers by maintaining business continuity, sharing advice about new working models and providing an opportunity to connect with others. 

While you adjust to your new working routine – whether it be at home or part of an essential service - please join the conversation. Ask Madison is an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions and help create our ‘new normal’, together. We believe that employee recognition is an essential business function and that, now more than ever, it is our responsibility to celebrate each other, recognize every milestone and collaborate together—even though we may be sitting apart.

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