Change Management / Modern Marketing Culture / Strategic Planning

And The Award Goes To…

grammy award employee recognition

One of the hardest parts of change management is getting employees to commit to the new way of the world. Don’t assume that the desire to remain gainfully employed is motivation enough to change. As many firms have documented, resistance or even misunderstanding, is real. You also have to keep up employee moral during these changes to prevent giving up. Beyond that, once you’ve put the effort to teach employees the new way, though, you need to retain these valuable employees. How do you incentivize people to participate?

Start by clearly communicating what you expect the future process to be before you begin implementing your marketing transformation. I’d go so far to say you have to use that future state as a benchmark and identify where each new element you are rolling out fits into the future state. You have to evaluate how well people are doing at each stage. You also need to provide remedial education and support to help them reach the levels you expect at that stage.

Once you have all those pesky details organized (just kidding, these are not small issues, but we’ll come back to review them in another blog post), you need to think about encouraging and rewarding your employees. Incentives are more than money. Different people are motivated by different things. Partner with your human resources team to come up with a wide scope of options that you can use as incentives along the full spectrum of the change management process. Identify the skills or behaviors you’re looking for in the future state and think about incentives that reinforce those skills or behaviors.

Some of the incentives that I’ve seen used well in marketing transformation are:

  • Small celebrations, such as a designation when you complete a training module, similar to a black belt ranking system or a designation related to the accomplishment, like “digital marketing mastery level 1.”
  • Public recognition, such as when top performers are called out for quarterly awards or even highlighting successful activities as a best practice for others. One thing to keep in mind her, however, is that the people doing the selection need to have the same criteria in mind. I see all the time how marketing transformation teams single out achievements based on highly variable criteria, often depending upon the judge’s personal understanding – or lack thereof – of the future state.
  • Helping shape the change by being a beta tester, or giving feedback even earlier in the process. This is a tricky incentive, since you have to ensure that the employees you’re allowing to give feedback clearly understand where you’re going. They might think the process would be much easier on employees if you did X, but X might actually be counter to the process you want to instill in employees. Explanations are tough if you ask for feedback and then don’t take it so use this incentive with care.
  • In-kind rewards, such as managers or members of related teams awarding points that can be redeemed for branded merchandise or other materials that reinforce company messaging. This is a great option if you have employees around the globe, since it avoids issues of different nations having different policies on gift cards, currency exchange rates, etc.
  • Funding for outside education and professional association membership. This sort of incentive is not a lot very costly and you will recoup it when ideas from outside your organization are used to improve your marketing. It’s also a great statement for new hires about how much you value them and new ideas.
  • Team recognition. Affiliations are important to humans, as evidenced by the allegiance to sports teams capable of being so strong that it can lead to violence. Tapping into this sort of soft competition can also help with motivation, since it’s inevitable that the team members will talk about winning the award. This incentive allows you to also engage the managers of these teams to be vested in promoting the change.
  • New career paths or even authorized “stretch projects” are also a great option. Employee reviews and promotions need to encourage a culture of using data, testing, and innovating, generally, but you might also be able to build on your marketing transformation by thinking of new options for employees to use the skills you’ve been working so hard to teach.

Financial incentives are interesting, of course, but you have to remember that the criteria might not always reflect the change you’re trying to achieve with the employees you are trying to influence. For instance, if you set the criteria for success as reaching a certain revenue target using the new processes and tools, you need to remember that many people had to work together to reach that result. Outside forces, from the global economy to your competitors’ behaviors, also played a part.

For that reason, you should consider the criteria of an award very clearly. You might want to look at key performance indicators (KPIs) related to employee performance that reflect the changes you want make in the organization. By looking at more than one KPI or even multiple KPIs in a single area, you can ensure the employee is progressing, rather than benefiting from the work of one or more other people who helped move a single KPIs or KPIs in a single area. Similarly, consider looking at percentage increase as well as just the highest number as another way to use KPIs to reward performance.

There’s a huge shift going on in the HR space regarding calculation of employee return on investment (ROI). Have a real conversation with your HR team about the value of employees who embrace change and how you can incentivize and reward them as part of a marketing transformation process.

Comments welcome, especially regarding how your organization has dealt with employee incentives and rewards.

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