GE Appliances: Changing Culture Through Recognition
GE Appliances, a Haier company, is dedicated to making life better by building the best products for its owners. That extends to creating the best possible work experience for its employees—a big part of which is accomplished through employee recognition.
“Recognition is just part of our culture,” says Natalie Snyder, Senior Director, Compensation and Benefits, “and the company has worked hard to get here.”
Searching for a better recognition experience
Only a few years ago, due to the sale of GE Appliances to Haier, recognition at GE Appliances consisted of cash rewards and was managed through payroll. The sale of the business to Haier gave the leadership team at GE Appliances the opportunity to review their recognition practices. Wanting to move away from recognition as compensation and remove any sense of entitlement, Snyder and her team looked for a recognition partner who could help them create the truly meaningful recognition experiences they really wanted.
Says Snyder, “We spend millions of dollars on employee recognition. If we are going to spend the company’s money, we want a return on investment. The data is unequivocal, the recognition experience vs putting cash in someone’s pocket is going to get you a better ROI every time.” The team wanted a solution that looked and felt like their company. And they needed a vendor who understood them and their culture. O.C. Tanner offered thought leadership, strategic solutions, demonstrable impact, and brought a true partnership to the relationship. So, GE Appliances decided to partner with O.C. Tanner for their recognition and service award needs.
A cross-functional team of IT, communications, marketing, and other areas was put together to create a collaborative, meaningful solution with O.C. Tanner. The team discussed the company’s purpose and values, and how to manifest and reward employee contributions based on those values. They met with executives to get feedback and engaged HR business partners and employee “cultural ambassadors” for their input.
Recognize YOU was launched in August 2017, with strong senior leadership support. Everything about the Yearbook solution was an instant hit, from the ability to submit comments and photos, to the brushed nickel/steel look that replicated GE Appliances’ product finishes, to the use of actual employees in the photos. Everything is made to look and feel like GE Appliances and embody its culture.
“Your recognition solution should reflect who you are. The look and feel, examples, photos…it’s an extension of us at GE Appliances. Companies should make recognition a part of their value proposition and engagement strategy—make it about who you are.” —Natalie Snyder, Senior Director, Compensation and Benefits
Employees also loved the ease of use of the recognition program. Any employee can easily nominate another employee for an award. Snyder’s team removed many of the approvals needed for lower level awards to empower managers. Managers now appreciate having the ability to approve awards for their employees quickly.
James Darmstadt, Supplier Quality Product Senior Manager, loves that the recognition tools are available to everyone and that people are encouraged to use them. As one of the top users of the Recognize YOU program, he’s seen how recognition motivates his colleagues. “People are more engaged and willing to partner with you in the future; they’re more likely to help you. It helps build partnership and collaboration.”
Another manager, Jeremy Eaton, in SmartHome Digital Technology Solutions, agrees. Eaton uses the program to encourage collaboration across teams. Because his group works with several different teams, he encourages cross-functional recognition. “It’s easy to be internally focused, but we want employees to lend a hand and look out for other teams. It makes us function better and makes GE Appliances a better place to work.”
Meredith Yu, Compensation Analyst, manages Recognize YOU and runs reports often to see who uses the tools the most. She highlights employee accomplishments and shares stories and best practices through internal campaigns called “Thankful Thursdays” to encourage employees to send out eCards and recognize one another. Says Yu, “We have managers who say it’s really easy to send ecards and encourage their employees to use the program. Our IT teams in particular love peer-to-peer recognition.”
Results that speak for themselves
Employees love the program and often post about the recognition and awards they receive on social media. The feedback has been positive, but it’s the data that shows the true impact of Recognize YOU.
Analysis of recognition data and GE Appliances business results shows that the recognition solutions have had an impact both on employee engagement and attrition. In fact, when employees received or sent a recognition award in any given month, they were more likely to feel positive about various elements on the company engagement survey:
And employees who stay longer had also received, on average, more non-monetary eCards and monetary nominations per year. The likelihood of attrition decreased 73% when employees received at least one eCard a month, and 79% when employees receive one nomination a month. Overall the risk of attrition was reduced by 58% when an employee received any type of recognition in the prior month.
Snyder believes the data speaks for itself. “To be able to correlate engagement survey scores with recognition is one of the most compelling things we’ve seen. We get all the good stories and positive comments, but the data is key.” Even just sending an ecard, with no monetary value attached to it, can have a powerful impact. It shows that recognition has moved beyond a form of compensation to truly showing appreciation.
“Timely and meaningful recognition for those going above and beyond is extremely important. Taking the time to say thanks or collaborate on a work anniversary means a great deal to our team. Our Reward & Recognition program, Recognize YOU, is easy to use and impactful”. —Melanie Cook, GEA Chief Operating Officer
Empowering managers, changing culture
One of the goals for Recognize YOU was to equip and empower managers to appreciate and interact with their teams without the help of HR. Other than at the highest monetary award levels, HR is not involved in the approval process for recognition. Managers own the reward and recognition experience and are empowered to make decisions about employee rewards. There are no longer any barriers to whatever experiences managers want to create for their people.
Yu tells us, “I can see through the reporting that recognition activity has increased over the years. Managers are now coming to HR to understand how they can use the tool more effectively and start their own campaigns for recognition.” And adding manager dashboards in the future will help bring increased knowledge and power to individual leaders.
More and more people have been touched by the program and have used the tools to recognize their people and each other. Snyder and Yu are proud of the impact they can demonstrate with their program.
“ROI isn’t always the easiest thing to prove for HR-related initiatives and programs,” says Snyder. “We’re a data-driven culture. The intangibles are great, employee feedback is great, but being able to show the results, being able to showcase rewards and recognition successes is what we’re most proud of and what our executives are thrilled about. We’ve changed over time. We are a kinder, gentler, more employee focused company than we used to be. And this type of program reinforces the behaviors we want to reward. Showcasing how managers recognize and reward their people reinforces the company we’ve become and the culture we have cultivated.”
Says Darmstadt, “You come to work and enjoy it because of the people. It’s important that everyone feels respected and appreciated, and that you’re not just a body at work. It’s important for people to feel that appreciation and know that they added value.”
Echoes Eaton, “Our mission is to ‘make life better’ by bringing happiness and wellbeing into every home. That includes our employees’ homes. We want to make this an enjoyable place to work so employees can go home and tell their family about the good things at work. Recognition creates a culture of great leadership. It’s about being kind and part of being a good manager. It’s what makes our culture and business thrive.”
Recognition helps GE Appliances create a culture where managers feel empowered, employees feel appreciated, and where people thrive. The data shows the powerful impact recognition can have on company culture and business results.
“We’ve changed over time. And this type of program reinforces the behaviors we want to reward. Showcasing how managers recognize and reward their people reinforces the company we’ve become and the culture we have cultivated.” —Natalie Snyder, Senior Director, Compensation and Benefits
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