Rewards and Recognition

Importance of Having Flexibility in Your Rewards Platform

The definition of total rewards for employees has changed over the years, and encompasses a broader scope including employee recognition, incentivized learning and emotional wellness. However, firms have been slower to move in this direction. According to Deloitte, only 11 percent of employees globally believed that their rewards strategy is highly aligned with their organization’s goals. This discouraging number was found in 2019, before the challenges of a virtualization and increased stresses due to the pandemic came into light.

With the disruption of workplaces, the need for a robust employee recognition and rewards program is paramount to engage and retain top talent. However, to truly increase the ROI of the program, customizing your engagement platform to match your organization’s values is essential. Having a ‘default’ software solution implemented in the firm will always leave you with a wish list of features and functionalities that can’t be fulfilled. No two firms are alike in terms of rewards workflows, behavioral values to encourage or even employee preferences when it comes to selecting rewards. Following are just a few examples in which a flexible recognition software can be configured to meet specific requirements:

  • Hyper-personalized Rewards:

Catalog curation can be done based on employee demographics and their mapped preferences. Moreover, reward options visible to an employee can even be configured down to the location/department/hierarchical level. These can range from shopping vouchers and experiences to offering the option of donating points to the firm’s CSR initiatives.

  • Nominations and Approval Workflows:

The nominations procedure in each firm varies across award categories and frequency. An efficient software platform can configure workflow rules to allow self-nominations, criteria based automated nominations, multiple levels of approval, auto approvals etc. This ensures that the end-to-end process is digitized, lending complete top-down transparency into the rewards process.

  • Segmented Surveys:

Surveys can be targeted to certain relevant sections of the employee based on the questions to be answered. Tired of adding individual recipients from a particular team, department or even coming up with new lists for new joiners, employees who have been with the firm for 5+ years etc? A customizable platform helps you automate segmented surveys and trigger them at defined milestones.

  • Budgeting:

Budgets for rewards often face drastic changes when faced with business highs and lows. Moreover, business unit budgets can often change depending on factors like team growth, performance and attrition. Thus, it is imperative for a platform to be able to adjust to changing budgets by changing reward points present with the unit administrator on a real-time basis.

  • DIY Adaptations:

 An internal platform administrator can only become a sole owner once they have complete control to edit platform functionalities to meet their exact needs. From creation of badges and recognition categories to determination of points associated with each category, DIY abilities give the organization command over the framework while saving on the costs of building a customized system internally.

A successful rewards platform is not only strongly aligned with business goals and organizational culture but is also attuned to changing employee needs. A hybrid workforce means that flexibility in total rewards is going to be the only way to keep a remote workforce engaged. Agile businesses need to digitalize their offline rewards to offer a rich, relevant rewards and recognition program that appeals to a diverse employee base. As the focus shifts from rigid, employer-driven incentives and benefits to more individualistic, performance-based incentives, digital platforms can help managers view performance metrics, offer quick feedback and stay better connected with teams, giving a decisive advantage to not just engagement but business performance as a whole.

Channel Partner

Engaging Sales Teams in the Pharma Sector

Way before our rapid advances with the COVID-19 vaccinations, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has been a flagbearer for creating affordable, effective solutions for the global healthcare industry. However, with economic volatility and increased competition, the pressure on sales teams of these firms has been tremendous. In fact, the very relationship between brands and secondary sales networks has changed over the decades. Earlier, pharmaceutical representatives were the primary source of clinical information about drugs. Today, such information is often sought online. Purchase decisions are also influenced by payers like insurance firms and customer preferences, which means that distributors need to engage multiple stakeholders in the health industry value-chain. Additionally, customers are increasingly looking for a differentiated value proposition from pharma companies and given the increased workload on healthcare providers post COVID-19, getting the most out of sales meetings is crucial for closing opportunities. It is more essential than ever before to ramp up channel partner incentive programs to boost pharma sales.

A channel partner and sales incentive software can help in creating, gamifying and automating a payout program, while engaging sales networks digitally, in the following ways:

Data Visibility

Data visibility, while a common challenge for sales leaders across industries, is heightened in the pharma industry due to geographically distributed operations and dependency on manual/legacy systems for reporting sales data. A SaaS platform will ensure real-time data visibility for the company as well as its’ partners. Visibility can even be down to seeing performance region wise with the help of geotagging facilities.

Complex Incentives Structure

The pharma sector has typically focused on commissions as a source of incentive for sales team, rather than a fixed base pay. However, with the added aforementioned ‘influencers’ in modern pharma sales like online portals and patients’ brand perception, it is difficult to determine the percentage role of a frontend salesperson in closing a deal. Also, the KPIs for channel sales has to evolve with market needs, like value-added services and customer retention, which most incentive systems are incapable of accommodating. A channel incentives platform can structure complex incentive quotas and track multiple KPIs for a single employee, making the program fairer and more relevant.

Automated Calculation and Payout

Manual errors in calculation and distribution of incentives can be eliminated with a channel incentives software, irrespective of the complexity involved. Such software also has in-built performance analytics capabilities, allowing companies to easily measure the ROI of the incentives program at various levels. This granularity of data thus helps in bifurcating sales strategy at the national and regional levels.

Flexible Program Rules

With constant changes in the life sciences and pharma industry, it is of prime importance for companies to stay flexible in devising their sales strategy. If the company chooses to drive a single-product, like immunity-boosting vitamins for COVID-19 recovery, they can get focused reports on product performance, whereas if the focus is on overall profit-generation, commissions can become margin-based. A robust software helps support these essential changes and support C-suite leaders at a strategic level.

Sales Enablement Tools

Finally, a unified digital platform can help maintain alignment in a virtual world, wherein the latest product launches, clinical information, videos and marketing collaterals are accessible to channel partners with a few clicks. This information can then be passed to customers through social media/email/WhatsApp with ready integrations for seamless communication. In fact, a study shows that Indian doctors are most receptive to information in the form of videos shared through WhatsApp.

Information technology has resulted in a more informed customer base and digital selling of healthcare drugs too is a slow but growing trend in India. However, medical representatives still have an indispensable role in the pharma sales cycle and can leverage the power of relationship-building to engage their customers. Companies must remember that only an engaged workforce can deliver a delightful customer experience. A channel partner engagement software can help with seamless engagement and incentivization, while saving significant administrative costs for pharma companies.

Channel Partner

Engaging & Incentivizing Channel Partners in the Insurance Sector

The insurance sector in India is growing at a rapid pace due to the rise of a young, security-conscious, insurable population coupled with favorable regulatory interventions by the Indian government. Policies like 100% FDI allowance, increase in basic premium rates and open architecture have boosted competition in the sector. As per the pattern followed in most competitive industries, there has been a major influence of IoT and innovative ‘InsureTech’ to improve direct insurance sales channels via innovative technical interventions. However, according to PWC, for both the life and the non-life insurance sector, the majority of sales is still accomplished through face-to-face channels like brokers and agents. These channels are not being optimally leveraged, partly because of the continuous change of stakeholders. Studies show that attrition in the insurance sector was predicted at 60% in 2020, the highest among all formal sectors. Primary challenges like lack of collaboration, transparency in data and targeted incentives can only be overcome by adopting technology for structured channel partner incentive programs. Following are some of the benefits insurance firms can get through a channel incentives platform:

Increased Data Transparency

Information flow across hierarchies and functions increases the trust between the management and the agents, thus boosting brand loyalty. This can be facilitated through user management, real-time sales campaign data and role-based dashboards. Agents/dealers get complete visibility into how their rewards are calculated and how their performance measures up against their peers. Collaboration tools like discussion forums and announcements can ensure effective two-way communication regarding new policies, schemes, products etc. These factors equip sales teams to learn more about the differentiators of their products in an easy-to-understand format. Sales enablement documents can also be accessed easily accessed through a single portal.

Data and Analytics

Often, firms are unable to make sense of customer data and sales numbers, which can be a huge opportunity missed for an insurance firm. With data being captured in multiple formats and systems, a powerful BI tool is essential to collate the myriad sources and present them in a readable, prescriptive format. A channel partner management software comes with in-built reports and analytics, which can help both the firm and agents get crucial information at the right time. For example- agents will know about the best performing products real-time, which can help them make recommendations on the field and close sales opportunities faster. For the management, reports can be used to determine the progress of a region, zone, cluster, teams and also individuals.


Automation helps in the smooth running of sales campaigns and significantly reduces the need for manual intervention for sales and incentive management. For example, automated notifications for milestone achievement and target reminders can keep channel partners engaged and motivated. Accurate incentive payouts are often a cause of friction between finance and sales teams. Incentive calculation for complex networks including the internal sales team, bank tie-ups/cross selling, independent agents or website conversions can all be done through a single channel incentive software within minutes. This ensures a seamless workflow saving time, manual efforts and avoiding workplace conflicts.

Instant Rewards

A channel incentives software comes with increased options for dealers and agents to choose their rewards from. Reward catalogs can be curated and customized as per industry needs and give channel partners the freedom of choice for their rewards. A robust system offers the options of payroll additions, instant e-voucher deliveries and high-value physical products to the persona’s homes. Since rewards are linked to live performance data, pay-outs can be configured for each milestone, instead of making agents wait till the end of the campaign, resulting in higher engagement and gamification of the sales process.

Manual methods of channel partner engagement are no longer feasible for the fast-moving insurance industry, where best-in-class customer experience is important to gain an edge. Centralized data and automated workflows can prevent incentive calculation errors, delayed commissions and ensure program measurability, resulting in increased channel loyalty and overall success.

Employee Engagement

Ensure a Personalized Employee Onboarding Experience to Boost Employee Engagement

A quick and faultless onboarding of employees acts as the first step to a seamless employee life cycle. Moreover, as the economic recovery from the pandemic creates a surge in demand in a number of industries; hiring, retaining and engaging new workers is a top priority for organizations today. However, what most organizations fail to understand is that beyond formal documentation and offer letters, employee engagement starts from Day 0. A personalized employee onboarding structure acts as a precious opportunity to increase alignment, productivity and brand loyalty. In fact, Harvard Business School states that 23% of new hires typically leave their organization within the first 12 months. Thus, making new hires feel welcome, appreciated and included is of paramount importance. Here are some simple ways in which you can enhance the same:

  • Joining Gifts

The first day for employees tends to be hectic, with a focus on extensive documentation, orientations and general overload of impersonal information. A small, tangible token of appreciation in the form of states like stationery, water bottles, t-shirts or bags can bring the much-needed spark of joy and make an employee feel welcome.

  • Executive Communication

Effective leadership connect in an organization has to be fostered from day 1. This can be easily achieved with a message from the CEO/senior executives personally welcoming all new hires and conveying the values the company was built on. In a virtual environment, messages can be sent out through collaboration platforms in various formats.

  • Employee Onboarding Survey

Employee Surveys are key to any effective onboarding process and should be conducted on the first day and then again at intervals of 1, 3 and 6 months, giving an insight into a new employee’s engagement levels. These surveys can be automated and even targeted to certain employee segments through a robust engagement platform. This data can be crucial to uncover larger gaps in org-level systems and processes, thus helping HR teams improve overall employee experience for new joiners in particular.

  • First Month Completion Recognition

Organizations need to switch their approach from waiting for a year or more to acknowledging employee milestones earlier if they want to keep their millennial workforce excited and motivated. Automated recognition can be triggered on occasions like the first payday or first month anniversary. While recognitions can be monetary or non-monetary, the opportunity to share the same publicly allows an employee and their loved ones to bask in their achievement.

  • Social Connect

In a previous blog, we spoke about the importance of fostering friendships in the workplace. Orientation for fresh recruits is a great way to establish the same early on. Instilling a sense of belonging in an employee is a challenge greatly exacerbated in a virtual environment. Having a virtual internal social network can help employees blend into organizational culture effortlessly. In addition, team bonding exercises, hobby clubs to connect those with similar interests and entertainment events can help break the ice for new associates.

At a time of interviews, candidates try their level best to create a great first impression. It is only right then for a firm to return the favor by making a great first impression on their new family member. In today’s multigenerational workforce, millennials and Gen Z’s tend to switch jobs more often than their predecessors. Thus, it is essential for HR teams to go beyond just basic enablement of an employee’s initial work period to helping them find a sense of purpose and meaning at their new jobs fast. Your organization’s contingent workforce requires an added layer of personalization when it comes to your RnR and engagement program. Starting on the right foot with some simple measures can go a long way in helping employees stay longer and perform better.

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The Art of Employee Retention Through Data Science

A majority of firms today already have fairly robust offline rewards programs that help them navigate the needs of evolving workforces. However, in today’s competitive world, having a manual total rewards program is not enough. Lending measurability to the same is essential and something that can only be accomplished with the help of a digital platform. The C-suite wants to see returns on investment and impact of employee engagement on the bottom line. McK­in­sey found that ​‘CEOs who insist on rig­or­ous­ly mea­sur­ing and man­ag­ing all cul­tur­al ele­ments that dri­ve per­for­mance more than dou­ble the odds that their strate­gies will be exe­cut­ed, and over the long term, they deliv­er triple the total return to share­hold­ers that oth­er com­pa­nies deliv­er’. Thus, extensive reporting and analytical capabilities are critical to successfully measure the impact of any RnR program thus allowing for early interventions which boost employee engagement and retention levels. Here are some innovative parameters for measuring the same:

  • Surveys

Employee surveys are a powerful tool to get both quantitative and qualitative data on your recognition program. It is imperative, however, to design survey questions in a way that allow for clear insight. For example- a question like ‘Did you receive recognition from your Manager in the last 7 days’ versus ‘Does your manager recognize you’ can give a direct quantitative insight on the frequency of recognition from a manager. Survey analytics, therefore, help in getting meaningful data for the intangible aspects of organizational culture.

  • Employee Pulse

Day-to-day employee behavioral patterns can also provide useful insight into the employee engagement levels of an organization. A Mood-o-meter functionality in an RnR software does exactly that. It captures employee sentiment on a regular basis, provides trend reports and gives an early warning for disengaged employees who pose a greater risk of attrition from the organization. Reports around attendance or absenteeism both in the WFH or WFO setup can also help measure engagement.

  • Leaderboard

An employee recognition tool can provide a comprehensive view of work culture, performance and employee motivation levels. A leaderboard consisting of top recognition receivers and givers can provide an org-wide sentiment map. At the same time, it introduces a level of gamification to the process, encouraging other managers and BU heads to boost their internal recognition numbers. Enabling employee to manager recognition can help close the 360-degree feedback loop, unveiling critical satisfaction data as a result.

  • Accountability

It is often said that “People leave people, not organizations”. No two managers are alike and hence, no two team cultures will be perfectly replicable. However, deep insights can help HR leaders bring consistency across departments by keeping leaders accountable. Reports around metrics like equal distribution of reward points across team members or how consistently points are given across a given quarter can help an organization drill down to the RnR program adoption at a granular level. By monitoring the equity of manager behavior, individual leaders can become brand champions of the organization’s values.

  • Reward Redemption Data

Reward redemption data can include the number of orders received, gift vouchers redeemed and reward points spent via an RnR software. This data can reveal the popularity of reward options when it comes to perks and benefits. Furthermore, the data can be leveraged to structure and hyper-personalize employee rewards to suit personal preferences that are just right for them or their families.

  • Platform Usage Statistics

The usage statistics for an RnR platform can say it all, be it the number of logins or the average hours spent on the platform. High platform adoption means that employees find the tool to be user-friendly and actually feel connected to their peers and organization via the digital tool.

The above data parameters can provide senior leadership with a comprehensive view of the various factors involved in creating a positive employee experience. However, leaders should also focus on measuring overall retention rates before and after implementation to gauge the true success of an RnR and engagement platform, instead of merely looking at attrition percentages. Having a data-driven approach can greatly help HR folks avoid many common pitfalls and tweak their strategy for maximum impact.

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Using Nominations to Boost Holistic Recognition

The process of inviting nominations is a formal, time-tested method to recognize employee contributions and reward top-performers. Typically, firms encourage nominations for outstanding achievements which result in awards for employee of the month, quarter or year. Nominations in recognition programs serve as a signal to employees across levels on the kind of behaviors and organizational alignment that the executive management of a firm is looking for. Having a well-structured nominations module integrated with your total rewards program comes with significant advantages:

360 Degree Evaluation:

Nominations can be top-down, bottom-up or peer-based. Earlier, corporations would allow for only senior management or higher-ups to be the jury for employee awards, which would give a very unidimensional view of performance. Performance analytics and workforce insight tools today can help define KPIs and measure team or individual effort, which can weigh in as a deciding factor for nominations. Additionally, nominations from peers, subordinates and self can give a 360-degree view of an employee’s contributions to a workplace.

Increases Trust in the Rewards Process:

By leveraging the power of nominations, the entire total rewards process in an organization becomes increasingly transparent. Employees and executives are able to view (if allowed) nominees and winners at each level of the process. This boosts trust in the firm for rewarding employees on merit alone and not on any preset relationships. Moreover, it also makes managers more wary about continuously nominating their ‘favorites’, thus making them aware of their own subconscious biases.

Gamification of Rewards:

For firms that choose to incorporate an automated nominations process, workflow rules can be enabled that allow for gamification in rewards. For example, in sales teams, all those who achieve 120% of their monthly target qualify to get nominated for the ‘Salesperson of the Month’ award. By incorporating these rules at an initial stage, employees are more motivated to excel and make it to the list of top performers.

Improves Managerial Feedback:

Employee awards that need monthly/quarterly nominations force managers and leaders to keep an eye out for good work, thus ensuring that they observe team members keenly to justify their nominations. Through keen observation, managers often make it a habit to evaluate employee’s performances more regularly and can then give more timely and relevant feedback.

Improves Retention:

According to Deloitte, organizations with rewards and recognition programs have a 31% lower voluntary turnover. This comes down to the fact that all employees and particularly millennials crave to be noticed for their work done. Organization-driven recognitions through manager nominations can be effective in making employees feel appreciated and hence more loyal towards their employer.

Accelerates Adoption of any R&R platform:

Features like notifications can serve as reminders for timely nomination submissions and chat-based nominations can enable employees to nominate their colleagues on-the-go, ensuring high participation and validity for recognition programs.

Encourages Favorable Behaviors:

HR personnel should be able to configure new award categories and event-based awards in an R&R platform on their own and make changes when necessary. This includes nomination categories that can spread across CSR contributions, teamwork initiatives, punctuality etc. By configuring nominations, an HR team can build and convey the ethos of an organization.

Oftentimes, high-performers who are introverts or executives in backend or support functions don’t get the same attention that star sales executives of a firm do, for example. This leads the former group to feel like their work is not respected or valued, ultimately leading to disengagement. Nominations can help bring the spotlight to such ‘unsung heroes’ thus encouraging a wider range of talent to compete for employee awards. Self-nominations also encourage employees to take pride in and highlight their work irrespective of their position within the firm. Well-structured award nominations driven through a technology platform result in a measurable, 360-degree approach to recognition. This creates a merit-based culture within the firm, wherein everyone has an equal chance to work hard and emerge to the top.

Employee Engagement

Improving employee engagement using the ‘Hawthorne Effect’

The Hawthorne effect is a theory derived from a pioneering multi-disciplinary research study conducted by Elton Mayo, a renowned sociologist and his associates in the late 1920s and early 1930s. During that era, the industrial revolution was in full swing. Workers were treated as nothing more than machines, who were assumed to work purely for financial incentives. However, the times also gave rise to labor unions and there was increased media scrutiny on the poor working conditions experienced by industrial workers. Organizations, therefore, began to look into improving their corporate images and investigating possible ways to reduce employee dissatisfaction and turnover. Among these organizations was Western Electric, a manufacturing firm headquartered out of Hawthorne, Chicago.  They began incorporating subtle changes into their workplace practices like changes in floor lighting, work shifts and breaks, introduction of informal interviews etc. With every change, even if it included reverting to the default settings, they were puzzled to see productivity soar. Simply put, the Hawthorne effect finds that employee behavior and thereby performance, changes in response to being observed.

These findings are quite relevant even in today’s modern workplaces. Often, organizations focus purely on financial incentives or token gifts/appreciation to improve employee and partner engagement. Viewing employees as only financially driven individuals devoid of relational needs can be narrow sighted and prevent the management from understanding what really drives them to stay with an organization. The workers at the Western Electric factory felt cared for, valued and heard through the people-focused actions of the firm which sought to understand, rather than assume, how and why they work. Creating an open work culture where employees can express their opinions, needs and feel encouraged to bond with each other results in improved motivation and work performance. Going back to our example, the Hawthorne experiments also showed the importance of inclusion and team work. The scholars had picked 6 women of a department to work in a separate room, as part of a separate study. In the test room, the women felt freer to interact and bond with each other more than they did on the factory floor. As a result, their work performance surpassed that of any other team/department in the plant. While today’s more gender-balanced workplaces do not call for such extreme measures to be adopted, the idea of bringing together forums of like-minded peers to discuss similar interests, challenges etc. satisfies an individual employee’s ‘drive to bond’.

The Hawthorne studies form the tenets of modern management and look at employees in a social context. For organizations today, they serve as an important reminder of keeping employees engaged through:

Careful Listening

Employee listening is crucial to understanding employee behavior and the possible changes that can improve their morale and increase their loyalty. Surveys and other listening tools on an employee engagement platform can provide structured insights for the management to act upon.

Ongoing Performance Reviews

A 365 day performance feedback module can be extremely useful in providing prompt, ongoing feedback to employees, making them feel like their work matters and they are valued.

Employee Recognition

The best way to gratify employees is to share a word of appreciation for a job well done, through an employee appreciation tool, which makes the recognition formal, public and transparent, while creating an accessible ‘log of compliments’ for the employee

Team Bonding

A single, unifying work purpose and strong allegiance to the team are driving factors for performance, retention and in turn, an organization’s profits. Strengthen them by encouraging virtual team activities and peer-to-peer recognition modules.

The industrial revolution had stripped society of strong communal relations and shifted the source of bonding and relationships to the workplace about a century ago. Today, COVID-19 has shifted workplace dynamics yet again. This time, the challenge for organizations is to show their employees that work culture resides with the people, not a physical space, and that team relations still matter. Competitive organizations will take this into cognizance while planning a powerful virtual employee experience in today’s stress-ridden workplaces using an effective employee engagement software.

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Improving Employee Engagement Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Framework

Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy is a powerful, holistic roadmap from which one can understand the needs of the modern workforce. With the post-COVID economic slowdown, talent optimization has been a business priority. Maslow’s theory helps with just that- it helps organizations hone talent and improve employee engagement through the right kind of gratification.

Maslow’s theory comprises of a pyramid with 5 levels- Levels 1 and 2 comprise what we call the bare minimum or basic needs of a human being like water, food, shelter, financial security and stability. Levels 3 and 4 are higher-order needs which are more psychological in nature like the need for connection, social status, appreciation and recognition. Maslow’s hierarchy can be rearranged and applied in multiple situations. In the work context, it supports a bi-directional model- a two-way exchange between employee and employer. From the employee’s perspective, it provides a scale through which to measure job satisfaction and move towards increased fulfillment and impact at work. From an organization’s perspective, it helps create a positive work culture which in turn improves motivation, engagement and ultimately, performance.

Most organizations are able to cater to the first 2 levels of needs in the form of an employment contract, office space, financial compensation and benefits. It is levels 3 and 4 where the gap exists. As later researchers such as the American psychologist Frederick Herzberg explained, fair compensation and decent working conditions are just ‘hygiene factors’ that prevent disengagement. In other words, their absence can lead to disengagement but having them in place does not create positive engagement. Hence, organizations need to focus on levels 3 and 4 to improve engagement.

To pursue the twin goals of connection/belonging and self-esteem/recognition, a comprehensive R&R program structured by a robust technical program can help. Having an employee recognition software can ensure timely appreciation for good work in a public, transparent way. This can build self-worth for employees while helping them feel deeply connected to their peers and the organization. A platform like Gratifi can help digitize employee engagement through 360-degree recognition, physical and digital gifts, badges and points-based rewards, virtual social clubs, events, surveys and mood-o-meter. Such a platform can help organizations map employee sentiment while giving data-driven insights through intelligent reports. As well, flexible workflows can help accommodate any changes in R&R strategy as well as organizational hierarchy/workforce.

While Maslow’ hierarchy of needs has proven to hold true for people and cultures around the world, Maslow himself had remarked that the theory describes a general order of needs and can vary for individuals. For example- some people may value emotional connection more than financial security while others can value status and respect more than group associations. Hence it is important for organizations to understand which category of Maslow’s needs pyramid best relates to individual employees and map relevant recognition categories on the R&R platform accordingly. A technical platform can support HR leaders in getting the data they need to personalize and continually iterate their employee engagement program for best results.