An estimated 42% of the work force is currently working from home. How this number will change following the pandemic isn’t certain, but the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta predicts the number of days worked from home will triple among full-time employees. As more people permanently transition to home offices, companies will need to change how they motivate and recognize employees.
In April, Echo Market Research and Tango Card asked 500 newly remote employees how engaged they were feeling. Sixty-five percent said they felt “very” or “somewhat” engaged. Video technology tools like Zoom and Slack were reported helpful in fueling connection and engagement. No longer considered nice-to-have resources for a subset of workers, these tools have become vital to all employees and will continue to support formal and informal functions for both remote and in-office workers.
Taking a closer look at recognition programs, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) reports that 26% of program owners say they’re communicating more frequently. This is excellent news, as industry best practices show that programs perform better with clear and frequent communication. It’s often an area that companies overlook, however, due to lack of time, money or technology tools. To ensure clarity and frequency, companies should incorporate the proper tools — ones that enable ongoing, easy communication among users. These tools should make it effortless for peers to celebrate achievements.
This desire for increased communication will likely continue post-pandemic if predictions of those who will continue remote work hold true. As the need for technology at a recognition program level continues to grow, it’s possible that tools like TinyPulse will become just as popular as Slack and Zoom. TinyPulse, an employee engagement and recognition tool, empowers employees to recognize and reward each other in a meaningful way. More companies are using tools like this to enable employees to send peers an instant public message and gift card reward. It also integrates with Slack and Tango Card, creating a steady feed of recognition, thank-yous, and general positivity in real time.
In an effort to ensure relevancy, recognition program owners have shifted their focus to goals that are critical within their organizations, which has in turn translated to changing rewards. While travel rewards are down, the IRF reports that merchandise use is slightly up, and points programs have increased by 22%. In addition, prepaid and gift cards are up 26%, representing the largest shift in use reported.
42% of IRF survey respondents who postponed their incentive trips are now using alternative means to recognize or celebrate award winners. Among those who decided to cancel their travel programs, 78% indicated they were providing alternative awards such as branded merchandise, individual travel options, points and cash equivalents.
Starting a program for the new normal doesn’t need to be complicated. Tango Card highlights five key elements to recognize employees working remotely:
1. Keep reward programs simple to administer, understand, and use. That means user-friendly technology for both the awarding party and the awarded.
2. Put recognition in the hands of the employees, not the managers. Don’t set up a process for approvals fearing misuse. Instead, put trust in your people to do the right thing and remove barriers to recognition.
3. Budgets don’t have to be large. It’s the communication that matters most.
4. Give rewards that people want. Don’t restrict awards to fit your ideal or someone else’s business model.
5. Establish the purpose of your program at the outset and be clear about success will look like.
An array of technology providers exist to help companies connect their engagement and reward programs to tools that make them easy for everyone to use. Many of those providers enable robust integrations that make it possible for internal channel communication and rewards to be easily added. The days of handing out rewards in front of the team are gone — for now — but even when it’s possible again, there’s an entire industry dedicated to making awards easy to send and awesome to receive wherever you are.
Cindy Mielke is the director of channel marketing, incentives at Tango Card.