3 Things We Can Learn From India About Employee Recognition

I recently had the opportunity to travel a bit in India. How excited I was to pick up a Times of India newspaper on my first full day in the country to encounter the article pictured at right.

In “India Inc rewards staff to tide over slowdown,” there are quite a few points made that prove my oft-cited truism that recognition has real power globally – across all cultures and nationalities.

1. Recognition is particularly powerful in difficult economic times

Recognition is about far more than a pat on the back. Strategic, social recognition conveys to employees how valuable they, their contributions, and their behaviours are to the success of the organization. Making this message clear is never more important than in a stressed economy. As the article points out:

The general sentiment at an organization during a downturn can be draining with discussions surrounding cost control and return on investments. Companies are, therefore, now walking the extra mile by strengthening existing rewards and recognition programmes and setting up new ones to drive performance.

“Companies have realized that recognition can reinforce desired behaviour in employees, helping them achieve targets. In a Gallup poll, 82% of employees said that the recognition or praise they receive at work motivates them to improve their performance. So companies are tweaking such programmes to make them more attractive.”

2. Recognition rewards behaviors, not just outcomes

I’m pleased to see our best practice of strongly linking recognition to company values and the behaviors behind those values taking center stage at Indian companies:

“Employee engagement at Ambuja Cements is aimed at working towards improved outcomes on safer work places, improved productivity, better customer satisfaction and enhanced profitability. The company wants to build this into the culture of the organization.”

3. Attitudes are shifting from money to an enriching work environment

In India as elsewhere in rapidly rising economic powerhouse countries, a maturing employee base is realizing more and more the benefits of growing a career in one organization with a strong employee brand vs. constantly job hopping in search of more pay.

A key element of building that strong employee brand is strategic recognition. (Other research also shows that employees who view their company favorably do a much better job of delivering on that company’s brand promise for the customer.)

Article Continues Below

While India has suffered less than many other economies during the global downturn, there has been a marked change in the outlook of employees and employers. The opportunistic, job-hopping Indian employees of recent times are realizing they cannot sustain that trajectory, with its lack of opportunities for learning and development. Employers are also finding themselves under examination from candidates who are looking for long-term career prospects. Recruitment discussions are moving away from the boom-time focus on ‘how much money?’ and ‘when will I get an increase?’ to ‘what is the business plan?’ and ‘how will this enrich my career?’”

And one final parting thought from this Indian article:

Engaging the entire team in the potential success of the organization in tough times helps in extending the success during the recovery, and beyond that.”

How true. What is your organization doing to engage employees today? Do you see those efforts building a stronger company once this recession is well and truly behind us?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.