Radical Approach to Reward and Recognition

radical approach to reward and recognition

In my previous posts, I talked about why we need an adaptable reward and recognition system. I have been giving examples on cautious approaches. Today, I’ll share a radical approach story. The prerequisite is to have the trust in the level where you want to affect. Please note that all my posts on reward & recognition are for Product Development organization, not Sales or Professional Services groups, which have very different pay structures.

In this company, I asked the teams, “What does it take to get the product into the customer’s hand?” They said, “you mean, what does it take to launch or release a product, right?” I said, “No, because a released product doesn’t necessarily reach the customer’s hand.” They said, “but that’s not our problem.” I told them they should care and make sure customers are delighted. Otherwise, customers won’t pay, and we won’t get our salaries.

So, they started listing out what they do (their own responsibilities) and how those map into that question. They soon realized that this did not come close to answering the question, so they started talking to their managers and others about what their responsibilities were in relation to that question. Once they understood those responsibilities, they realized some functions could not join them as a team (like marketing), but they now knew how to interface with those groups better. They also wanted to take some of their manager’s responsibilities into the team. The managers let them try, and some even coached them how to do those duties.

When the team took on additional duties, they were remapping the roles within the team to include these new duties with the manager’s help. The team and their managers worked together to redefine the criteria for promotions. This way, a clear growth path emerged and levels were redefined. It allows the team members to decide what to learn and which path to choose. It sets the stage for the promotion ladder.

Interestingly, the managers liked what was happening because the team took over duties they didn’t like to do. They thought, maybe this could work with their own bosses. So they went to their directors, and asked, “where do you fit in relation to ‘What does it take to get the product into the customer’s hand?’ Are there any duties related to that which I can try?” That led them to remap responsibilities and redefine levels & growth path. Those managers have good relationships with their bosses, so they felt safe to discuss such matters freely.

The funny thing is, the directors were also liking it, and wondered if they could do the same with their VPs. They were more cautious because some VPs do not like being questioned what their part is in the process. So, for those directors, they told their VPs their managers took initiative by taking on some of their duties (the ones they didn’t like), and they asked, “Are there things you don’t like in your job that perhaps I can help?” When the directors didn’t understand why a VP did a certain thing, they would ask for the purpose. Which sparked some interesting discussions, some duties remapped again, new growth path identified, and levels redefined.

At each level, people now know exactly what the growth path is, how the levels are defined, how they can get promoted, and what being promoted means.

With all the remapping and redefining, we still did not touch the corporate taxonomy. We separated out the roles and responsibilities. For the outside world, they still see people getting salary raises and being promoted to manager, director or VP (which is the older generation’s expectation of reward and recognition) while the responsibilities associated with those roles have changed.

We did this 1 office at a time. We notified local and corporate HR once we redefined the levels and promotion criteria. What started out in a team propagated up the levels and became a radical change.

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