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When is a suitable time to start your employee R&R plan?

Let’s begin by telling you when not to ‘start’ planning for your employee R&R program:

  • When your employees are already disengaged.
  • When the office grapevine is buzzing with murmurs of discontent.
  • When the company is losing money!

Take General Motors, for example.

In the 2014 General Motors recall scandal where GM CEO Mary Barra had to appear before Congress to answer for the company’s failure to recall defective cars leading up to 13 deaths, what emerged as one of the underlying causes was the company’s flawed rewards and punishment process.

GM’s environment discouraged individuals (employees) from voicing their concerns instead of rewarding them for being conscientious. Post this, the company’s R&R program underwent a complete revamp but not before the damage had been done!

The best way to get the behaviors’ you want is to provide rewards for doing them.HBR

Your rewards and recognition program must be embedded into the fabric of your company’s culture right from the time it is envisioned.

87% of employees report a high level of inclusion at their company when there’s a strong culture of recognition. Forbes

But there are several steps to take before your plan transforms from a sketch on the proverbial drawing board to a working reality.

When to Start an R&R Program: A Chronology of Events

If this is your company’s first-time implementing a rewards and recognition program, planning it might seem like an uphill task.

Research shows that employee perceptions of rewards systems tend to degrade as you go lower in the organization. HBR

This happens when a rewards program is rushed out without careful thought and planning. You are powered by the enthusiasm and passion for doing things right by your employees but don’t jump in headfirst without a plan!

From the day you envision the program to right up until the actual launch, a well-strategized, cautiously executed plan of action will ensure more tremendous success in terms of launch and participation.

when to start planning for employee rewards and recognition program

1. The 6 months plan

  • Once you have aligned the organization to the idea of an R&R program, make sure to set your plan in motion at least a year ahead of the actual launch.
  • Start with the goals you want to accomplish. Evaluate your business objectives, your employees’ needs, and how to achieve them successfully.
  • Prepare a rough estimate of the timelines and keep checking it to ensure the launch is on track.
  • In the following months, put together the right team to help you research, execute, and implement the program.
  • Research about different employee recognition platforms or providers. Look at the incentives, benefits, and reward options they offer. Make sure that everything aligns with your overall business objectives.

2. The 4-month milestone

  • At the 4-month mark, it's time to contact different providers for quotations. Take an internal call on program logistics.
  • Several factors play a significant role in evaluating an R&R provider or platform, including licensing fees, selection of features, and the level of customization.
  • At the same time, it is crucial to set a budget and choose the reward categories within that budget.
  • Create a list of KPIs that can help you measure the program's success. List your employee goals, and set the reward categories to help your employees align with those goals and fulfill their needs.
  • Once you set the criteria, use the next few months to a comparative analysis of the providers/platforms based on samples, demos, testimonials, referrals, and pricing to help you make an informed choice.
  • Decide the scope and range of the program. Will it be company-wide? Or will it be targeted at a specific location or department? What will the highest and the lowest reward be like?

3. The 2-month mark

  • With only two months left, it’s time to get down to the actual implementation. Settle on a provider/platform based on your evaluation and share the list of KPIs you want to embed into the program along with the measurable metrics.
  • Provide a list of program goals, reward categories, and values, branding details, guidelines, lists of employees, reporting requirements, etc. Detailed consultations with your provider will help prep and optimize the platform for your initial launch.
  • Finalize a budget and communications plan for the launch. Then it’s time to market your program to the employees using a 2-pronged strategy aimed both at the launch itself and the benefits of the program.

4. 1-month before the launch

  • By the 1-month mark, your platform should be up and ready to preview. HR and the company's senior executives should go over the program, testing every feature and functionality to ensure the platform is fully ready before it goes live.
  • Take time to test the links. Look for bugs in the system, check the custom features, and ensure clear communication lines with your provider to make the final adjustments. You might want to use a bug tracker to save you time with this task
  • Kick your launch communications up a notch and use a multi-channel approach. Leverage emails, campaigns, posters, town hall meetings, intranet popups to pique employees' interest and showcase the program's value.

5. 2 weeks to go

  • It’s crunch time! With only two weeks to go, your platform should be now up and running.
  • Set regular touchpoints with your provider to fine-tune the platform and validate the program data (including employee details).
  • Start training your HR teams and mid-level managers, use Q&A packets to familiarize them with the tool and its reporting.
  • Conduct regular stakeholder meetings to iron out any last-minute wrinkles.
  • Continue to give your employees sneak peeks into the program with tantalizing previews of rewards, details about how to achieve goals, and the benefits of the program for their professional and personal development.

6. 1 day left

  • The day before the launch usually dawns with nail-biting suspense. It’s time to conduct the final checks with your platform provider to ensure everything is ready to go!
  • Set off a series of pre-launch events to amplify the anticipation. You could hold a pre-launch party, some team-building games, an offsite, or probably anything to show your employees it’s a rewards program for the employees.

7. Launch Day

  • Congratulations! As you announce your program with a grand launch party or a town hall, it’s time to unveil its full extent and features.
  • Monitor the initial interactions and reactions, hold an extensive Q&A session to assure your employees about its advantages and benefits.
  • In the following days, make your program team available to answer the flood of questions, which are more likely to come, as your employees start using the platform. Review the platform and tool at regular intervals to keep pace with changes.

R&R Success for Companies that Timed it Right

Though the timelines mentioned above can be taken as an average, companies that have seen remarkable success in their R&R initiatives have not only factored in size and market standing but also changing employee needs.

To put it simply, these companies have taken an agile approach to R&R, planning or adapting their program according to the need of the hour.

Measure the value, cost, and impact of a particular reward to determine whether to scale it up or down or remove it entirely. — Gartner

Taking such companies as examples of R&R done right, you can estimate the right time for your company to plan for its employee R&R program based on the following criteria:

Startup vs. Established Company
Established Company
As a start-up company with a reputation to build in the market, you would want to hire and retain the best talent to write your organization’s success story. This is possible with an attractive and relevant rewards portfolio.

Embed your R&R program into the foundations of the company’s culture from the very beginning and you might make it to the next Best Place to Work list!
An established company usually has some R&R program in place. But this does not guarantee an automatic place in the Best Employer list. You need to plan a dynamic R&R program to keep pace with changing employee needs.

If you’re an established company, you should plan a dynamic rewards portfolio that takes your employees’ preferences into account and can adapt to changes based on real-time feedback.

Simplus, a startup Salesforce partner and CPQ provider, founded in 2014, has already made it to Glassdoor’s 2021’s Best Places to Work and several similar lists alongside established names like Google, Microsoft, etc.

In the words of the company’s employees, this success can be attributed to their R&R policies.

When a highly productive employee at Simplus announced her sudden decision to resign stating burnout, the company did not sit around. They immediately offered her a month’s leave, under their R&R program, after which she returned rejuvenated and highly performant.

If the company had ignored the employee or waited around to implement its R&R program, the outcome might have been quite different.

‘A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail,’ – this motto adopted by the employees of Boston-based management consulting company Bain and Company established in 1973, is also reflected in their employee-centric R&R program, earning the company the #1 spot on Glassdoor’s 2021’s Best Places to Work List!

“Bain & Co. really takes care of its people” - reviews such as these on Glassdoor are enough to show that the company is truly invested in its workforce and rewards them accordingly.

96% of employees agree that they would recommend the company to their friends! This positivity is reflected in the company’s profits.
Recent reports show that the company’s UK branch recorded a 7% growth translating into a revenue boost of approximately £10m.
Small vs. Mid-Sized Company
Small Company
Mid-Sized Company
The size of a company determines the R&R program budget and indirectly affects the implementation timelines.

Some companies may choose to wait while others may start on a smaller scale with a provision for expansion in keeping with the company’s growth.

As a small business, you could launch a basic version of the program and scale up when the opportunity arises.

Since your business growth depends on your employees’ productivity you must launch your program at the earliest to attract and retain the best talent in your industry.
A mid-sized company that is progressively making its mark in the economy should consider upgrading its generic R&R program (annual awards, bonuses) to a custom rewards portfolio that reinforces positive behaviors and can be tailored to your employee’s needs and preferences.

If you do not have a comprehensive program in place, this is the time to plan and revamp your R&R initiative to achieve greater business success.

A good rewards program will not only attract and retain talent but will also boost your employee’s productivity and increase the overall employee satisfaction.

A classic example of a small company that has made it to Fortune’s 100 Best Small Workplaces list, The Educe Group, a leader in Talent Management Services is adept at recognizing and rewarding the potential of its employees.

With a rating of 5 stars on Glassdoor, this company takes its R&R very seriously. A healthy mix of bonuses, employer-paid benefits, and work-life balance forms the core of its R&R program.

A classic example of rapid growth from startup to mid-size, Airbnb’s progress can be attributed widely to its remodeled R&R program that shifted the focus from HR policy to individual contributions and tailored experiences for its employees.

How popular did this make the company? Statistics from referrals and employment data showed that, in a certain year, the company received 180,000 CVs for 900 vacancies!

Time is money!

Time is of the essence when planning your employee R&R program. Though it's an exciting journey from vision to go live, it doesn't end there. The most crucial part comes post-launch, when it is time to monitor the adoption, usage, progress, and participation rates and tweak the program to make it the best possible gift to your employees and your business.

You will achieve the desired business objectives of retaining your skilled workforce, hiring new talent, and accelerating business growth.

In a tight labor market with more open jobs than people to fill, rewards play an increasingly important role in attracting and retaining talent. — Gartner
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Mary Madhavi Reddy

Mary Madhavi Reddy LinkedIn

Mary is a content marketer with 20 years of experience. Her career spans GE Money, Google, and some growth-stage startups. At Empuls, she handles product messaging and positioning.