Rewarding staff fairly is a key element of the employer-employee relationship. Owain Thomas explores how getting this right can boost productivity and loyalty
Asda realises that recognising its employees’ work is an important process.
In fact, you could almost say it recognised it too well. The supermarket was so keen to ensure staff were fairly appreciated that it had just too many ways of doing so.
“What had happened over the years is we just layered more schemes on top of each other and called it our recognition scheme – it evolved without anyone sitting down to think of what our strategy for recognition is. We weren’t really sure what everyone was doing in different areas and there was a lack of consistency,” said senior director for reward Jane Earnshaw.
So three years ago Earnshaw’s team set about a project to bring it all together in one programme that could be applied across the firm’s 170,000 nationwide staff.
This included three distinct populations: 500 shops with about 150,000 hourly paid colleagues; 30 distribution centres with a mixture of hourly and salaried staff; and about 3,500 head-office colleagues.
“As part of our whole people strategy, we went and looked at what our colleagues actually want,” she told an audience at EB Live.
“What we came back with after about six months’ work was: we have customer pledges; we need colleague pledges. Fairness, opportunity, respect, pride – everything we do from a HR perspective is to fit under one of those pledges.
“We had a very well-established satisfaction survey which we used to get a 90-95% score on, but what were we actually measuring? We wanted not just satisfied but engaged colleagues – and that’s really where the recognition scheme came in.”
The lack of strategic alignment was a concern, while fears were also raised that there was too great an administrative burden on HR teams for a service which was not used or appreciated by enough employees.
“We were doing really good stuff. We were thanking our colleagues, but we weren’t thinking about why we were doing that. And we had very limited reward choice, with everything being paper-based – so you can imagine that gives its own challenges with a total headcount of 170,000.
“People couldn’t accumulate prizes, it had to be claimed immediately, and there was not a very varied choice,” Earnshaw added.
So after a trial period, the Asda Stars online reward scheme was launched to the retail and distribution centres. Managers on each site were given a framework, but they were free to manage it themselves.
The system uses a simple currency of one Star point to equal £1 and staff are able to save up for items from the catalogue or use them to redeem on Asda gift cards – a popular approach coming up to Christmas.
“Our most challenging population for recognition is our head-office staff. I always get surprised at that, but it never changes,” Earnshaw continued.
“But we wanted one way of doing it and although we use the Asda Stars site, banners and home page for everybody, what we do for our head office compared to distribution and retail is a little different within that. We’re still measuring the same things; it’s just the tools and reward and mechanics of doing that are slightly different to make sure we’re meeting the needs of each individual population.
“We can now specifically say we recognise our colleagues against our beliefs.”
The comprehensive management information has been particularly well received, especially within the finance department, as the company can now be fully accountable for what it is spending on reward.
The move has saved about 60 days of administration time and, during 2013, 177,000 Star rewards were issued (meaning that colleagues were uniquely recognised in some way 177,000 times) while £1.7m worth of Star points were redeemed. And the system is accessible from all sorts of new technology including mobile phones and tablet computers.
The service heroes team (which recognises exceptional customer service) also uses the scheme, so the reward is in the same currency although they have different targets.
Earnshaw’s most recent development has been to encourage colleagues to use the system just for a simple thank you by sending e-cards when a cash reward may not be necessary – something which she admits is done very well in stores, not so well in distribution centres, and really badly in offices.
However, despite these challenges, the Asda Stars scheme is growing and there are also plans to tie it in with the supermarket’s annual awards.
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