Insider perspective: npower
npower is one of Britain's leading energy companies, serving over 3.75 million residential and business customers with electricity and gas. Benefits lead, Bethany Ridgewell, has been the driving force behind the relaunch of the company's employee recognition programme - a successful project which has led to her gaining personal recognition as a 'rising star' in the annual Employee Benefits Awards.
We asked her to explain why investing in employee recognition makes sound business sense:
Recognising employees is critical, especially in challenging times
"The energy industry as a whole is going through a difficult time. New market entrants have made it increasingly competitive. Constantly keeping on top of changing regulations is challenging. Maintaining staff morale against this backdrop isn't an easy task.
Investing in employee recognition when there's constant pressure for cost savings may seem counterintuitive, but I believe strongly that at difficult times, it's more important than ever to keep people motivated."
It's vital to get the business behind the case for recognition
"Our 'Applause' programme is designed to be at the heart of how managers recognise people performance. It was important to involve line managers from the start so we ran a communications campaign emphasising the link between recognition and productivity. With their buy-in and support from senior stakeholders we've shifted the perception of recognition strategies from a 'nice to have' to a 'business essential'."
Make recognition easy to give and memorable
"When we designed the scheme we asked people what they wanted. They said the whole process had to be easy to work with. So our scheme is deliberately simple.
If colleagues think a co-worker deserves some Applause, they can send them a digital e-card. When this happens, the individual's manager is automatically notified and they then have the option just to acknowledge the praise or also give a financial reward, in the shape of vouchers that employees can redeem at a retail or leisure outlet of their choice.
The programme covers agency workers and third party suppliers too. We have a lot of people working in contact centres, for example, who aren't contractual employees - and although they are not eligible for the financial reward, it means we can acknowledge the valuable contribution they make too.
The ability to do this through one quick sign-in has transformed the way our business does recognition."
Marketing a programme well doesn't need to be expensive
"When it came to marketing, we did quite a lot with very little budget. We promoted the programme across all our communication channels and asked teams to take part in a competition to nominate their #everydayheros. It created a real buzz and got teams talking not just about who they would put forward, but also about the wider issue of employee recognition.
We still take every opportunity to keep the profile of the programme high. If we're running a story on one of our communication channels about an employee doing a charity event, for example, we'll drop a line in saying 'that deserves some Applause'. We're constantly reminding people that the Applause platform is there. It works because it delivers something really tangible for employees. It also shows that even in a difficult business context, you can achieve a lot with a little."
Peer-to-peer recognition is a powerful motivational tool
"'Applause' has had great feedback from employees. They really like the programme and usage levels have been great. Since the relaunch, we've seen a 53% increase in the number of recognitions being given across the business. It's a great way to encourage positive conversations between managers and their people and creates a real feel-good factor.
We've added a billboard feature to the platform, which automatically displays the latest recognitions on the home page. That's been really well received. People love seeing their name up there in lights and being able to see when their colleagues have received some recognition too."