Today’s guest post is written by Tom Dupre
Let’s begin at the end. I always advise people who are looking to start a suggestion process, or who are revitalizing/redesigning a current program, to address the topic of recognition after they have designed the other areas. Rewards should be considered within the broader context of the process and therefore deferred until the end when the broader context has been determined. That said, let us proceed to discuss the role that Rewards and Recognition (R&R) plays in employee involvement schemes and some key elements of this critical component.
R&R is actually nothing more than acknowledging certain behaviors that you wish to have repeated. So the first role of business is to decide what attributes of the result of a suggested idea do you want others to see and emulate. Unfortunately, we usually get caught up in the “what” should the award be and not “why” and “when” do we interject recognition. As to the “what”, there are basically two major thoughts on this. The first is the traditionally more common one of providing cash for the implementation of an idea. The other is to provide non-cash recognition for these same ideas. Let’s discuss cash.
Historically, cash was the only type of recognition for suggestions. The components of the cash approach would be based almost exclusively on the amount of money saved by the idea, the percentage of those savings that a company was willing to pay out, the amount of time that the savings would be accredited to the idea and when to provide the recognition relative to the implementation of the idea itself. Generally there is a minimum and more importantly a maximum award amount. Ideas that did not result in tangible savings often get the minimum award under this process. Maximum awards need to codified so that an individual cannot contest an award outside the organization in the courts. There are cases of companies having to pay out large award amounts due to not having established and published suggestion award limits. Over the years, companies would adjust the percentages, limits, timeframes and eligible topics to “improve” their process. Usually this approach produced a bump in participation initially and then a receding to previous numbers of employee involvement. This reward approach is basically a commission system whereby the suggester knows in advance that they will get x percentage of the value of their implemented idea. All we have to do is to agree on that value – far easier said than done and often the basis for reevaluation requests and other contentious actions taken.
Beginning in the 80’s, there was a contrast drawn between Quality and Suggestion processes, largely around the need for cash awards and the burden of evaluating ideas to determine savings and therefore the award basis. So non-cash became appealing to organizations to use as recognition based on financial considerations in the administration of the process. All kinds of items including vouchers (really just funny money, but still considered as non-cash), catalogue items, time off from work, premium parking space, etc. Debates arose as to what is the best form of recognition. And adjustments were now being made to suggestion schemes by converting to non-cash or changing up the non-cash items. Cost of awards was often the guiding light of those discussions.
All of these forms of recognition are good and valid, as is cash. But they need context to ensure that they are the correct or appropriate type for each organization. Recognition needs to be Appropriate, Public and Timely to be successful in its basic goal. And that goal is to promote behaviors you want to see repeated. These attributes, when properly reviewed within the process, ensures that your recognition will indeed become the fuel that drives employees to participate. All to be reviewed in my next article.
Tom Dupre was a Thought Leader in the Corporate IBM Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration Team. Tom’s background in Suggestion Schemes dates back to 1976, when on his second day of employment with IBM, he submitted his first suggestion. Tom’s intense interest in this topic brought him up through the ranks as an evaluator, evaluator manager, suggestion department manager and program manager of IBM’s suggestion scheme. In this position Tom represented IBM in the Employee Involvement Association and was elected to the Board of Directors and served two terms as the EIA President. For the dedication and commitment that Tom gave to the EIA, he was presented the Founders Award.
Tom has been instrumental in the revolutionary changing of the suggestion scheme into the new IBM Ideas Programme for which he was recognised by the American Management Association as Manager of the Year of Large Corporations. Tom represented the EIA in international conferences such as ideasUK and the DiB. After serving the EIA, even though Tom was no longer ‘obliged’, he has continued over the past nine years to support ideasUK during its annual conference as well as supporting Communications Contest, acting as a judge and offering help when needed. IdeasUK has bestowed on him the prestigious Honorary Fellowship. In the past few years, he has adapted to related disciplines such as Knowledge Management and Corporate Learning. Tom was called upon to assist the transformation of the IBM Ideas Process into IBM’s new ‘Think Place’.
Tom has spoken on the subject of global submission, evaluation, implementation and the recognition of innovations throughout the world, most recently at the 5th annual Ideas.Arabia conference in Dubai, and has suggestion scheme friends he considers ‘family’ on all five continents.