Friday, August 25, 2006

Would You Get An Award for the Way You Reward Your Call Center Employees?

By Ray Hansell

We see people get awards on TV all the time. These days the award program most watched by movie goers over the years is probably the Academy Awards held in Hollywood each spring and attended by a host of celebrities and Hollywood stars/starlets.

The reason for their popularity is probably related to the need people have to be acknowledged and recognized for their achievements. To be so acknowledged by their peers in a public forum for very specific achievements represents the penultimate in the performance art field.

However, the opportunity to acknowledge people in many other fields is there for each and every person who holds a position of authority over people. The model for how to behave in such situations is certainly there for us to witness at many of these ceremonies and yet so often in the corporate world, attention is mostly paid to the mundane or logistical side of things and very little to the personal.

Plaques are purchased carefully and certificates of achievement are procured in advance, but how much time is taken to care for the manner that employers use to acknowledge the person and the deeds they did to receive this honor?

After all what provides the most motivation to the employee? Is it the actual award itself and the value of the gift that is received? Or is it the recognition that provides the stimuli needed to sustain their passion?

If you believe it’s the latter then you should pay as much attention to how you actually perform this very important task as you do to the logistics of the task itself.

The following story chronicles some of our experiences in awarding and rewarding employees.

“The Wall of Fame” – Case Study

RMH Teleservices was like a motivational laboratory where we as owners frequently experimented with a number of ingredients to find the right formula to motivate our employees. Some of these worked and some didn’t. Starting with what seemed to work, let me begin by reconstructing the story of our “Wall of Fame”.

All of our clients rewarded us for superior results but they also wanted those results to emulate from consistent sales processes. In order to ensure this consistency they frequently required that approved sales scripts be read verbatim or close to verbatim. This of course posed a great many challenges not the least of these were how to inspire our people when the challenge of the job was so tightly constructed by reading a script.

We arrived after much consideration with creating a training program that would help our people deliver “Great Performances” similar to the way actors and actresses perform a script. In a fashion similar to the acting profession, we created a mechanism for evaluating and acknowledging “Great Performances” and then posted these recipients on a gold star on our Wall of Fame which was located prominently in each of our offices. In addition, we acknowledged the recipient of the award in our monthly newsletter so that employees from other locations could be made aware of the honoree’s accomplishments.

As a reward we presented them with chocolate Oscars and provided free movie tickets at AMC movie theaters so that they could see a version of a great performance on their own time. Overall, the representatives liked the rewards and liked the way their accomplishments were acknowledged for their peers to see. In addition, our clients liked the concept of creating a reward that supported their objectives and elevated the performance of their scripts to an art form.

However – It didn’t always work the way we planned it.

As we grew we gave some freedom to the local managers to select the representatives and before we knew it, one of the names appearing on the gold star was a person with borderline, if not problematic, behavior.

In effect the Wall of Fame was looking more like a Wall of SHAME.

How did this happen? – Well as we questioned our local managers we found that rather than confront the bad behavior of some of the personnel, the manager thought that by rewarding them with a “Rep of the Month Award” this would somehow turn their bad behavior around. Unfortunately, the old maxim – “Don’t Reward Bad Behavior” – or better yet – “What You Reward Gets Repeated” – played out exactly.

What we did was immediately tighten up the criteria by which candidates were selected to virtually eliminate the arbitrary nature of the local managers decision.

We automated the process for gathering the data used to determine the selection and made it available to us in advance of the selection. We were, therefore, able to redirect the reward program by reforming the processes before it got out of hand.

The lesson was that regardless of the good intentions we have as managers we need to pay close attention to the ways we implement a reward systems so that they continue to provide positive rewards for positive behavior. Sometimes even a simple inexpensive award or reward given in the right spirit and in the right way can mean the world to an employee.

What constitutes the right way? Well, here’s a short list of rules I consider important in this regard:

Rule 1: THE GOLDILOCKS FACTOR – make the reward match the deed. Too large of an award will create unreasonable expectations and too small will give the impression that you’re a miser. Keep it just right.

Rule 2: SHINE A LIGHT ON IT – when possible present the reward publicly and give specific reasons for why the recipient deserves to be selected.

Rule 3: TAKE CARE TO BE FAIR – make sure that the reward is implemented and administered in a fair and impartial manner – nothing turns people off more then a rigged contest

Rule 4: KISS – “KEEP IT SIMPLE” – too many rules will only serve to confuse and de-motivate participants.

Rule 5: “PUBLISH OR PERISH” – Publish in hard copy form, fax, email, or poster format and make peers/coworkers aware of the achievement. Click here to see an example of an animation we create and distribute at MaraStar to acknowledge employees.

Keep in mind that rewarding employees is one of the more positive aspects of managing people – you get to do something positive by acknowledging and applauding people who richly deserve to be so treated. SO…DO IT POSTIVELY, ENJOY IT AND TAKE THE TIME TO DO IT WELL!!!!


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