Norma Jeane Mortenson was busy at work in a US military factory when a photographer, out of sheer coincidence, took a picture of her and sent it off to a magazine where it was published.

It led to a modeling job for the lucky Ms. Mortenson and, in time, several Hollywood movies - many of which are considered classics today. You know Norma by her 'other' name, Marilyn Monroe.  

This article describes why your rewards and recognition strategy needs to cover such 'talent-spotters' of your organization.

Happy discoveries such as this – you may call them serendipities – aren't uncommon for famous success stories. Harrison Ford was a carpenter on an errand at George Lucas' house. The director just casually looked in his direction and found him suitable for his upcoming movie; The rest is Star Wars history.

Johnny Depp was lazily hanging around the studio (where his friend was giving an audition) when director Wes Craven spotted him and asked whether he was interested in providing an audition himself. Luckily for Depp's millions of fans, Johnny nodded with a 'yes.' It was Quentin Tarantino's dogged faith in Samuel L. Jackson's potential - Quentin could well be described as Jackson's first fan in that sense - that led to the actor's meteoric rise.

That photographer – just like George Lucas, Wes Craven and Quentin Tarantino – deserve at least half of the glitter and ovation that have been generously showered on their Famous Finds. After all, they spotted the diamond first. Aren’t they the real stars of the story?

There are Georges, Wes, and Quentins at the workplace too. However, they play a stellar role, not just HR or the team in charge of the R&R (Rewards and Recognition) programs. All those who spot, acknowledge, and salute performance are 'Star Makers'. And standout performers themselves - by the very dint of their selfless and valuable act.

The need for public recognition (and the gratification and fulfillment it produces)  traces itself to a fundamental part of our psyche and is present in every worker. In the business context, the role of rewards and incentives in moving the needle for P&L and balance sheets is well documented.

Nearly 85% of respondents said that they felt more engaged and motivated to deliver their best performance when there was an incentive attached.

After all, the only thing that engages a rockstar performer (indeed, any worker) more than the PROMISE of incentives and rewards at work is the ASSURANCE that they will be distributed relatively and disbursed promptly.

A sound and fair R&R strategy – along with an interactive and responsible culture that is quick to recognize and compliment good work - lends credence and validation to that promise by converting it into reality. In the process, it generates what is probably the most potent fuel for employee productivity and business results.

Let's now understand the significance of rewards and recognition for Talent spotters.

Spotting rare talent is a rarer talent.

Simply put, it isn't easy. A big reason for that is that it is not always, and not entirely, a 'process and technology' game. Yes, it is important to have appropriate frameworks, methodologies, and technologies to deploy, measure and manage the vital KPI of nurturing standout guys in the team. But just like in cricket, the score or the stats don't often tell the whole story.

Sometimes, it’s equally about the not-so-obvious or overt things : ‘Ambient factors’ like pitch conditions, match situation, stakes, rivalry, ambition.

Similarly, in the workplace, while technology and process will undoubtedly help you understand who's-who-exactly (and what each is up to) in the value chain, personal intuition and passion often help to plug the logic gaps, implement the true intent of R&R and 'complete the jigsaw' in the right spirit.

In other words, the 'human element' that can help you separate deep-fakes from deep facts, differentiate between reality and truth (the two aren't always the same), place your finger on the 'defining moments' that make a project successful - and most importantly, map it all back to the performers who made them happen even if (indeed, especially if) these souls prefer to live under a rock or operate behind-the-scenes.

That intuition – the missing link or ‘X Factor’ in the equation – is as much a ‘natural gift’ as an ‘acquired taste’, and can come from anywhere (department/function) and anyone (role/hierarchy) in the organization.

It comes from years spent sharpening the skill and perfecting the art of spotting a panda in a bunch of teddy bears. It comes from a passion for making a 'genuine difference' to the business bottom-line by backing the right horse. It comes from zeal for delivering credit where it is truly due. It comes from a conviction that a 'Thank You!' delayed note is a pat-on-the-back that is denied.

And it comes from pride in the overarching organization's purpose and journey. Put together. It makes for a rare kind of talent. And put a new spin on the term Human Resource: Yes, 'Talent Spotters' are the 'human resource' you need to start tracking and pampering with equal rigor!

Time for a return gift?

It's time for R&R programs to evolve from an 'evening of claps and cakes' to a universal mindset across the organization. The practice of saluting hard work, courage, and commitment correctly and consistently is a strategic and powerful business tool.

It attracts the best talent from the market by positioning the company as a ‘Great Place to Work’ and helps the organization maintain competitive edge by unlocking the true potential of its employees and teams.

Therefore, the considerable emotional involvement and unquestionable impact of anyone who recognizes excellence and dignifies it with kudos & laurels deserve an appropriately reciprocatory gesture.

To these fine folks who add the extra drive to business results (without appearing to do so), it is, therefore, time to say, "Thanks for doing the right thing, dude!" Let's make it a habit.

Help your R&R heroes to do their jobs better

  • Recognition for Awardees: ‍Devise a special Employee Rewards and  Recognition program for anyone who R's and R's.
  • Milestones: ‍Celebrate their milestones at every step – at team meetings, over the intranet, in staff newsletters.
  • Empower: ‍Optimize authority zones flows to help them function free.
  • Maker RnR integral: ‍Shuffle the organizational matrix to integrate R&R (both letter and spirit) with core workflows.
  • Make rewarding easy: ‍Offer everyone across the organization the nuts & bolts needed to spot top talent and incentivize productivity accurately, efficiently, and quickly by having the appropriate technology innovations in place.

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Manoj Agarwal

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Manoj Agarwal is the Co-Founder and CPO at Xoxoday. He is an MBA from IIM Kozhikode comes with 14 years of experience in building companies, technology, product, marketing, & business excellence.