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Turbulent Times Call for a Rewards & Recognition Upgrade


The year 2020 took a lot out of the global workforce, employers and employees alike. With the world coming to a painful pause due to the emergency lockdown from almost the beginning of the year, the chaos we cumulatively experienced was one of unprecedented levels seen in modern industrial history. Amidst the backdrop of demand for product and services free falling in most sectors and no recovery in sight, many companies were forced to down their shutters permanently and many of us that did survive were drawn under an overbearing cloud of insecurity and tough organisational decisions. Innumerable jobs were lost and pays were cut to infinitesimal levels.


When the economy did start breathing slowly again, towards the middle and end of 2020, as the fight to regain what was lost ensued, the insecurities of stability for tomorrow persevered. As work hours increased, the pay cuts or lack of salary hikes made their presence felt even more strongly. Understandably, this has left people struggling in certain quarters. The year 2020 was a tough year for all, and happily, it is behind us.


So, does that mean with 2021 the equilibrium will be restored?


Despite the veil of lockdown almost fully lifted and the demand rising at a steady pace, unfortunately the news continues to be grim and will probably remain so till at least the middle of the New Year. Amongst the many other predicaments, one of the biggest challenges any company will face this year then, is to keep the employee motivation elevated while their (employee’s) pay, and therefore their fidelity towards the company, continue to dwindle. As a company your biggest challenge will quite rightly be of losing high performing members of the team at the time that they are needed the most and at wages that are probably back numbered at least 2-3 years. Are team building activities enough? Or should companies invest a little more and hire a project management consultant to execute more goal-oriented corporate team building activities? Or alternatively, can employers continue as if nothing is really wrong?


The answer, incidentally, lies beyond all of this, in the implementation of a robust talent management system that prioritises rewards and recognition. What's important to note, however, is:


The “Best Employee of the Month” won’t do the trick


Rewards and Recognition programs have come a long way in keeping the morale of employees high. Glossy certificates, dinner coupons and shopping vouchers, stays at fancy places, team bonding activities and many such side perks that came with the recognition gave the timely boost employees sought at the deeper level of purpose, acceptance and acknowledgement, all while their pays continued to rise almost annually.


2021 brings a situation quite unique. Organisations will have no choice but to work even harder than before to keep their employees engaged. The remote work model that many are still following, and may continue to do so for a while, makes this process even more complicated, or even more interesting – depending on how one sees it.


Value-Based Rewards & Recognition

It is also quite apparent that the Rewards and Recognition will have to be highly value-based and inspiring to the employees, curated in a way where the employees see the sacrifice of today as an investment for tomorrow. Skill and job enhancement courses will go a long way in achieving this. Not only does this fit in with productive R&R solutions, it also helps build a talent management system that values employees' potential and offers them growth opportunities as a reward for a job well done. Not all employees are looking for gift certificates or spa vouchers. Especially in trying times such as these, many are looking to upskill themselves and add an edge to their resumes.


Personal Development is Also Rewarding

Even personal hobbies or well-being classes that the employee is geared towards, especially in scenario where budgets are tight, can prove to be a great reward. Whether it is a voucher for a dance & music session, or the option to choose an instrument to learn in a short crash course - These may sound like expensive options, but they can cost less or as much as other reward options, while adding value and being an investment for the long term - Especially at a time when increments are hard to provide.


Let Instant Appreciation Prevail

Of course, a simple handwritten note of Thank You to the one who goes above and beyond work expectations is also a great, inexpensive and personalised way to show recognition. This is also a good method of instant appreciation, showing an immediate and spontaneous acknowledgement of an individual's efforts. The employee is sure to treasure it for long and maybe even show it off to friends and family creating a ripple effect of good feelings. This also emphasises the importance of widespread R&R. While you cannot provide rewards for everyone, a staggered method where your organisation has multiple appreciation options based on the magnitude of the contribution, will also help.


The task ahead is less than simple for the HR consultants and the companies at large. But the newer times call for new ways of thinking. And through thick and thin, it's important to remember that your employees matter above all. They're the ones pulling the company through crisis, after all.


How prepared are you for 2021? What are the methods you have up your sleeve to ensure a smooth, productive and successful new year?


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