Any highly visible program – recognition and rewards, benefits, health and wellness, safety (and many more) – will not achieve your program objectives if your senior executives are not highly visible and supportive of the program.
I’d go so far as to guarantee this 100% of the time. A recent article in HR Magazine illustrates this point well:
“It’s 8.30am on launch day. The banners are up, the stand looks fantastic and the champions are in place brandishing flyers.
“As employees arrive we go to work promoting the new health & well-being service that's being launched. All is going well except that the executive HR sponsor is nowhere to be seen. By lunchtime there's still no exec sponsor or even anyone from the executive team. The day passes and while staff are interested and engaged in what they see that one key ingredient critical for project longevity is still missing: visible senior management buy-in.
“Sadly this is not a fabricated anecdote but a real example where a company has spent a long time weighing the pros and cons of various wellness initiatives and solutions, found and committed money to a programme they like, but then walked away before the fire is really lit.
“Management support, particularly from HR which carries the baton for staff well-being, is a key feature of a successful people initiative.”
This point cannot be emphasized enough. It’s one of our five tenets for strategic recognition program success and a top line factor in our benchmark of recognition and reward programs.
The tempo must start at the top. Full stop.
If your executives are not fully bought in – and visibly so – into a program your team has researched, funded and implemented as critical to your organization’s success, the program will fail. Some will say this statement is too strong. I believe, however, that if you have properly defined your program up front (including the metrics for success) and you do not achieve those metrics because employees did not buy into why they should follow the new program largely because the executives didn’t lend their support – then your program has failed.
What are the steps to securing executive support and visible sponsorship?
1) Build a strong business case for your program, showing the benefits in terms that matter to the C-Suite. For example, you wouldn’t sell a new Health and Wellness program to the C-Suite by telling them employees will be healthier and sick less often. No, you would work out the numbers to show them the impact of the new program on employee health, the projected reduction in sick days and an medical benefits costs, and how that translates into direct savings to the bottom line.
The same applies to recognition and reward programs. Build a strong business case showing, based on proven research, how strategic recognition increases employee engagement and retention and what those numbers translate to in bottom line savings, specifically in your organization.
2) Show executives the power of your program to change corporate culture and thereby your reputation in the market. A strong reputation is a powerful contributor to customer buying decisions as well as to recruiting high potential candidates into difficult-to-fill positions.
3) Make it easy for executives to show their support. Create communications tools and mechanisms for the executive sponsor to facilitate sharing with the employees. Involve your marketing and communications teams to ensure the messages are in the proper voice. Think beyond email and posters. Consider videos, social media and other more personal methods.
Have you ever launched a program that did not achieve your goals for success? What did your executives think about the program? Or, more importantly, what did your executives do?
As Globoforce’s Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.