As a Compensation practitioner, have you ever seen the use of the "Red Envelope?" In Chinese and other East and Southeast Asian societies a red envelope or packet is a monetary gift given during the holidays or special occasions such as weddings, graduation or the birth of a child.
Multiple cultural distinctions exist between various countries, from Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand to South Korea, Japan and the Philippines and other countries. A monetary gift to children by their relatives, or from married couples to those about to be married, or simply best wishes from elders to the younger generation. The uses seem endless from one country to another.
Various cultural traditions dictate that the amount of money should end with an even digit, while odd numbered amounts have other purposes. Other traditions require that the money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount. Apparently the pronunciation of the number four is the same as for the word death.
Connection to Compensation
That's nice, you're probably saying, and an interesting tidbit for the next time a conversation lags, but as this practice of handing out cash envelopes is used outside of the company, how does it relate to an organization's reward program?
Think Spot Award Program. Think Recognition. Think outside the box to consider how you might be able to influence your own reward & recognition programs to tap into the unexpected - to achieve appreciation by employees for a gesture of recognition or simple goodwill, not simply for doling out more cash under a standard pay-for-performance scheme.
Think about the possibilities of your own Red Envelope program, or call it Green or Yellow or even Purple.
But first, consider the scenario of two people having a coffee at a local Starbucks. One of those people works for you. Now somewhere in the conversation, the topic turns to where these two people work, and comparisons are quickly made. Those comparisons won't be about how much money each of them make (unless they're really close), but about their work environment. What it's like to work at their respective employers. What each of them feel about their employer.
All the money in the world won't make your employee say good things about your organization if the boss is a tyrant, if employees are not treated fairly, if the company doesn't seem to care about its workers, and if the employee would prefer to work elsewhere. Reputations are made and lost in these conversations, as word of how organizations treat employees will spread.
I once worked for a short period at an employer where the Staffing Manager privately confided to me that "The word is out. Quality talent are being advised by local search firms to avoid us."
Worst case scenario? Perhaps. But it happened. It can happen where you work too.
Make A Connection
Think about it. What can you do to improve morale, engagement, the working atmosphere, even the reputation of your organization among employees?
What if your organization instituted an employer-sponsored program of ad hoc cash grants to employees, and/or their families, not for performance but in recognition of something significant that happened in your employee's life? That's like treating them like extended family themselves, isn't it?
Your own Red Envelope program.
It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. You won't need a big budget. Because the largest impact of such a feel-good grant is the positive message it sends that you (the organization) cares.
Now think again about that Starbucks conversation. Think about your employer saying to their companion, "Let me tell you something that my company does, just out of the blue." Indeed, this can be where good reputations are born and spread.
Positive stuff. And yes, such a payment would be a reward, in the broader sense of Total Rewards.
Something to consider when you're looking outside the box.
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image,"Red Envelope," by Christian Bjarnson