Rewarding Futures

A rewarding future? The state of reward and recognition in 2017

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The need to keep pace with changing expectations in the workplace has been a regular theme of Vana Resourcing’s blogs. And when HRD Magazine recently covered ‘The Future of Reward & Recognition’ it got us thinking about how organisations have been forced to revisit this policy area to ensure they remain rewarding and attractive places whether to current or potential employees.

So what does the reward and recognition landscape look like in 2017?

Employee expectations may change but reward and recognition continues to have a major bearing on retention. A recent study published in HR Magazine revealed that 49% of employees would leave a company if they weren’t recognised for good work. The study, commissioned by Reward Gateway, also suggested that traditional approaches would have to change if organisations wanted to hold on to their talent. According to Reward Gateway’s CEO, Glenn Elliott, “if companies want to improve employee engagement, motivation, and retention they need to urgently divert investments from tenure-based, long service award programmes which aren’t working but are costing businesses a fortune.

As for what should be the foundations of a progressive reward and recognition strategy, an international Recognition in the Workplace survey of over 1000 HR professionals found that three elements combined - celebrating service, rewarding results and encouraging effort – achieved higher levels of productivity and pride.

We spoke with some of our industry contacts to understand their approach to reward, and whether it was consistent with the picture being presented by the industry media.

What we found was that despite variations between individual company strategies, all were built on the principles of transparency, competitiveness, fairness but also flexibility to reflect different skills, performance levels – and in one case a multinational and multi-generational workforce. Importantly they also had to support the organisation’s culture and values – a point emphasised by the founder of a specialist reward consultancy. “The key consideration is to align with and help enhance the company strategy/culture. Of course, principles of being fair, transparent and competitive remain important but recent trends in the workplace mean that underlying designs need to be far more agile and flexible to accommodate different pressures such as demand for niche skills.”

The need for greater flexibility and openness, combined with cost pressures, have driven companies to re-evaluate reward and recognition. Inevitably, the process of changing to a new strategy hasn’t always been straightforward. Existing (bespoke) arrangements and general reluctance to change were given as common barriers to progress, and change was certainly difficult for one business with offices outside the UK where the local culture exerted an influence. But according to a Performance & Reward Director from the financial services sector, these could be overcome through ‘clear, consistent communication and messaging of what it means for individuals’. “The biggest issue is ensuring that management are aligned to the changes and support the messaging.”

What exactly employees place a value on varies also. One individual summed it up this way; “Reward is to some extent a hygiene factor. What is valued by employees will depend on their career aspirations. For some it may be work/life balance and job security, whereas for more senior employees it will be more around recognition of their contribution, empowerment, and career progression.” Employee experience has increasingly become a factor but reward in its purest sense - traditional remuneration - still plays a big part.

So, are corporate reward and recognition policies keeping up with evolving workforce expectations? Just about it seems. New technology is making policy more applicable and engaging to a tech-savvy workforce, personalising reward and fuelling a ‘recognition tech’ industry. For example, the employees of digital department store Shop Direct use 'Shine' – a Facebook-style tool that allows peer-to-peer recognition at all levels/locations. Our source in an international engineering consultancy has followed a similar approach, using mobile phone apps as well as a number of internal social networking resources within the context of reward and recognition.

The challenge for HR professionals - and businesses - appears to be keeping in touch with the infinite possibilities offered by this technology – certainly according to the Head of Reward for an insurance company. “For the first time in the history of HR, tech is ahead of demand. Tech capability is ahead of what HR can handle so we are in catch up mode – the possibilities are endless but traditional businesses… need to start to listen to what the new generation want. Tech costs money and companies need to realise that it’s no longer a choice – to play you have to pay.”

In summing up, corporate reward and recognition has had to keep up with changing work patterns, expectations, and the growing emphasis on ‘employee experience’. We’re seeing a clear link between media analysis and the experiences of our industry contacts. Where change has been necessary, traditional remuneration still holds sway but the scope of reward and recognition has expanded to meet individual circumstances or embrace less tangible elements. Within this context, technology is a significant enabler – and challenge – for organisations looking to keep with the times. But with all of this comes the point that a competitive reward and recognition approach is only one piece of the jigsaw. As one of our contributors put it, “the offer has to be right but culture is more important, and first impressions last - the interview experience and initial engagement, as well as the reputation of the firm.”

A reminder that, even with the best reward strategy, organisations have to consider the complete picture to attract the best talent.

I’ve worked with the team at Vana on many occasions over the years, engaging them to hire senior talent in a number of businesses. Both Debbie and Jo offer great insight and expertise, but above all they deliver results. I would happily recommend their services.

Scott Fishburn, HR Director, DFS

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John Burgess, Head of Talent & Leadership Development, AXA Group

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Kate Banks, ‎Group Director of HR & Legal Services at DAS UK Group

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Helen Norris, Head of HR - Nationwide Building Society

I have worked with Debbie both in the search for talent and also as a candidate, in both situations Debbie has been faultlessly professional. Debbie builds strong relationships exploring briefs to ensure she has a deep understanding of what the business and candidate need, allowing her to deliver a real match.

Ian Marchant, Retail HRD, Greene King plc

Candidate experience is really important to me in recruitment, because that is someone's first experience of an organisation - your organisation. As I see it, the recruiter is part of YOUR brand and their actions impact on YOUR reputation when they act for you. The candidate remembers the experience of applying for a job and not always the recruiter involved.

My experience as a candidate of Jo's was exceptional. Jo kept me informed at every stage, questions were anticipated and I always knew where the process was. Also, Jo was present as a person and not as a remote handler. This shows me that any candidate that Jo places would be treated in exactly the way I'd want them to be. I recommend her without hesitation.

Geraldine Buckland, Director of People, Bristol Water

Debbie and Jo are great recruiters of HR talent; they have successfully worked on a number of key senior hires for us both in the UK and internationally.

Jonathan Wright, Group HRD, Murphy Group

Debbie has recently supported me in securing my first HRD role. Her observations and feedback were very insightful and assisted me greatly in navigating the recruitment process and learning about the company and environment I'll be stepping into. Totally dependable, unbiased and a good judge of character, I would highly recommend her to act on your behalf with prospective employers. I haven't worked with Debbie yet as the employer but wouldn't hesitate to do this if the need arises.

Anita Calverley, HR Director, Yeo Valley Farms

The thing about Vana Resourcing is that Debbie and Jo actually care – about you as a person, your career and your business. Yes they deliver great candidates and opportunities but they make sure that the fit / opportunity is right, challenging both sides in a positive way when needed. They’ve supported my career for the last 10 years, including introducing me to my current HRD role, and I have no hesitation that they will be my first point of call for future candidates and opportunities.

Suzie Noble, Chief People Officer, Brightside

“I have worked with Debbie and Jo several times, they stand out from the crowd as a sourcer of talent and when managing you as a candidate, I simply haven't worked with anyone better. Commercial, thorough, expert and with a sense of integrity that means you are only ever recommended to organisations that suit you - and as a hirer you only get talent that works for your organisation. As a hiring organisation, working with a partner like Vana is simply irreplaceable.”

Head of OD, Vodafone

Debbie brings accurate and current insight on HR Talent. Her ability to recognise top people in their field and actively nurture relationships over a long period of time sets her apart from her peers. Debbie is refreshingly honest , she keeps confidences and is not afraid to challenge both candidates and hiring Executives to ensure the right outcome for all parties. I would have no hesitation in recommending Debbie or Vana Resourcing for a critical HR hire.

Barbara Duffy, International HR Director leading on Talent, L&D, Resourcing,OD

“Debbie introduced me to OVO Energy, and she not only found me the right role, but an organisation whose ethos matched my values.  I have since worked with Vana to recruit almost my entire senior HR team! From HRBP's to a Reward Lead and most recently a HR Director. Vana really understand the importance of culture fit."

Kim Atherton, Chief People Officer, OVO Energy

I have worked with Vana Resourcing for a number of years representing me in my own search and as a client. Debbie and Jo are professional and efficient but unusually for this sector, genuinely caring about both client and candidate experience in equal measure.

Jonathan Edge, HR Director UK & Ireland at Ideal Standard International BVBA

“Jo is highly professional, knowledgeable and proactive. It’s not often that a recruitment consultant really interviews you in the same way a prospective employer would.”

Simon Amesbury, SuperGroup plc

What a refreshing delight to work with a commercial partner who understood my business, had national and regional awareness, a handle on the market, an effortless connection with candidates and could tolerate my Everest-like expectations.

I will continue to work with Debbie and Jo again on my incessant drive to solve the talent conundrum of the coming years.

Keep up the great work, you are a credit to the industry.


Stephen Robson, HR Director, Global O&Supply Chain at Kingfisher plc

"The team and I have worked with Jo now on a number of occasions for various recruitment assignments. I have always found Jo to be consultative and considered in her approach but above all honest and straight forward! She has a great understanding of her market place and is always at the end of the line to offer insight and market knowledge. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vana and look forward to our continued relationship."

Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society, Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society

I've known Jo for a number of years and worked with her as a client and candidate. What's great about working with Jo is that you're guaranteed an honest perspective and terrific insight to the market. She nurtures her relationships in a natural and engaging way: put simply - she knows her stuff!

Marie Aitken, Chief People Officer

I initially engaged Debbie to undertake a search for a Head of OD. She is consultative in style, and took time to gain a comprehensive insight into our organisational culture and HR journey, delivering an excellent shortlist of candidates and a super hire. The feedback from our candidates on their engagement with VANA has been equally positive. Jo and Debbie has since supported me with several other senior hires within the People organisation at RLG, and we enjoy an effective working partnership.

People & Corporate Affairs Director, Royal London Group

“I have worked with Debbie as both candidate and client. In both contexts I have found her to be super-efficient, thorough and a pleasure to do business with. She listens really well, responds quickly and is flexible to evolving demands. Debbie is up there in my top 3 recruiters.”

Sue Round, Head of Talent and Organisational Effectiveness, BP

I have worked with Debbie and Jo for many years as a candidate looking for opportunities and a manager looking for talent.  I have always been impressed by how Vana strive to ensure that there is the best fit in terms of candidate values and company culture.

Sarah King, Head of HR, Triodos Bank