Ocwen – Making Recognition Consistent and Visible Across the Organization
Ocwen’s mission is to create positive outcomes for homeowners, communities, and investors through caring service and innovative solutions. As one of the largest servicers in the US that focuses on mortgage servicing, lending, and reverse lending programs—with over 5,500 employees in the US, India, and the Philippines—Ocwen’s care extends to reach their people, wherever they are.
In 2015, Ocwen conducted its first global engagement survey and found that employees wanted to see improvements in recognition. The recognition experience varied across departments and locations with differences in how employees were recognized and what was awarded. There was also no direct visibility into who was being recognized across the organization. Recognition was something senior leaders wanted to improve; hence, an action plan was put in place to create a formal and sustainable recognition solution.
Ocwen wanted to build an employee recognition program that was aligned with its core values: Integrity, Service Excellence, People, Teamwork, and Embrace Change. They also wanted this program to be consistent and visible. So, in 2016, Ocwen partnered with O.C. Tanner to design and launch a tailor-made global recognition program. Senior leaders were involved in the design and launch of the program, and even helped name it Applause.
Applause recognizes achievements in various categories:
• eCards (for peer-to-peer recognition)
• Spot Award (for instant recognition)
• Customer Service Awards (recognize excellence in customer service)
• Performance Awards (recognize consistent and outstanding performance of individuals or teams)
• Special Mention Awards (given by the Senior Executives to recognize individuals who deliver exemplary performance)
It was important to make a culture shift from recognition in silos to recognition as a global organization. This was achieved through proactive communication and training leaders via classroom and online platform training. As the Human Resources team explains, “Awards are now consistent across the board, and recognition is visible globally on the Applause Wall of Fame. eCards have formalized peer-to-peer recognition.”
The program has been very well received by employees. 97% of employees have given or received recognition through Applause, a number that has exceeded the industry benchmark every year. Surveys conducted the year after launch showed a considerable jump in engagement scores on the rewards and recognition parameter. Ocwen’s quarterly pulse surveys also show positive feedback from employees and leaders alike. It’s also available for employees at the Director and Vice President level, who often didn’t get recognized in the past.
For leaders, the Applause program brings consistency, both in recognition for employees and in how leaders can appreciate their team members. One of the managers in Strategic Operations explains it this way, “Applause is a one-stop shop when it comes to recognition. The tracking and reporting feature add a lot of value. Teams are motivated by the transparency of the recognition process. The various categories also help in personalizing the recognition.”
The HR team echoes, “The Applause program has made a huge impact, and now we have a standardized approach in terms of ongoing recognition.”
Senior leaders appreciate the instant recognition the program offers. “Generally, that wasn’t the case if you had to hand out a certificate, but the award followed much later. Also, it’s global recognition so I didn’t have to worry about how to recognize someone who wasn’t in my location. Applause made it easy,” says the Vice President, Customer Care Center.
The recognition is so well received by the employees that they showcase the awards as part of their professional achievements. “It’s a matter of pride for them, their family and people in the industry,” says a senior leader. A Team Lead from the Home Retention department agrees: “If recognition wasn’t valued, they wouldn’t be printing out certificates and displaying them on their cubicles for everyone to see. So that speaks to the impact. It drives the right behavior and culture, and it also gets commitment from employees, and that is priceless!”
One of the most admired features is the Applause Wall of Fame, which provides global visibility to an employee’s recognition. The Director of the Research team explains that employees love the recognition feed, which enables people across the organization to see the accomplishment of their peers. “It has changed our expectations. I overhear employees comparing their Applause points. There was no consistency in usage earlier. Now it’s more formal and employees are aware if they do good work, they’ll get recognized. It works for everyone: the person giving the recognition as well as the ones receiving it,” he says.
Employees love the catalogue in the program and the flexibility to choose the product. “If I choose a product, you may or may not like it. But in Applause you can choose exactly what you like and make the most of the award,” says a team leader.
“The fact we can recognize immediately is a big win for us. Applause makes it easy to recognize people from other groups, and helps people collaborate and work together.”
—Vice President, Customer Care Center
Becoming part of Ocwen culture
Applause is one of the first quick links on the company’s intranet page and as a recognition tool has a high ‘top of the mind’ recall. Whether it’s for projects, competitions, service excellence or any new program, recognition is launched through Applause. A senior leader describes how often employees participate in global company initiatives like Sports events, Corporate Social Responsibility activities, Ocwen Global Women’s Network events, etc. and how leaders use Applause to recognize these employees who volunteer and make these initiatives successful.
Some leaders build awareness of Applause by recognizing employees from their first day at work. “When employees join the department, I try to appreciate even their smallest of effort with an eCard. This helps me build trust, gain confidence and guide the employee in right direction.” says a frontline leader. “It’s a domino effect. You just have to get the first step going, and with time it becomes widespread.”
Leaders encourage recognition across the organization when great work happens. At townhall meetings, they appreciate employees who have used the platform extensively.
A manager from the servicing vertical says, “Appreciation equals motivation. Today when we look at recognition, there’s a consistency across the entire organization, which leads to motivation, and helps build a high performing culture. When we talk about recognition in town halls or meetings, you can feel an immense energy running across the floor, which showcases the effectiveness of the program. Additionally, it has also helped in employee retention.”
“Today we can proudly say the Applause program is part of the DNA of Ocwen.”
—Assistant Manager, Human Resources
Recognition during COVID-19
Great work and recognition at Ocwen did not stop at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, even when the world did.
Many functional teams (IT, Infosec, HR, Facilities, etc.) and Business Units worked around the clock to ensure employees transitioned to remote work. Before the pandemic, only 15-20% of employees were equipped to work from home. In less than a month, 90% of employees were transitioned to work remotely. Leaders created action plans across the globe to mobilize employees to remote work and ensure employee safety, while also maintaining operations and their commitment to customers. Employees at Ocwen ensured seamless delivery, despite significant changes in how and where they worked from. Each team came up with their engagement plans and a personalized approach to help employees feel safe, connected, and motivated during the pandemic.
As recognition is embedded in Ocwen’s culture, it was quickly decided that the great work done by team members to remote-enable all global employees would be recognized using Applause. Ocwen designed special awards to thank employees who went above and beyond their role during this pandemic.
Leadership felt the response from these superheroes was beyond expectation and their relentless dedication had inspired everyone to do their best, regardless of obstacles. An e-certificate was signed by the entire executive team and delivered electronically to recipients with a significant number of Applause points. The company also published stories of the employees’ contributions during the pandemic on their internal web portal for everyone to read. A group of employees created a video expressing their gratitude to these superheroes and peers left comments of appreciation on the Applause Wall of Fame.
Ocwen conducted a survey to understand how employees were doing during these challenging times and to plan for the future. Most employees indicated they are as or more productive than they were before starting remote work. Employees shared that their morale is high, giving positive feedback for the organization's response to COVID-19.
Recognition at Ocwen is a part of its culture, ensuring Ocwen employees felt appreciated and motivated during the global pandemic. It also helped create a workplace culture where employees strive for excellence, despite all the challenges encountered.
“What applause has ensured is that even if we are working from home, employees and leaders haven’t stopped recognizing. Despite the shift in where we are working, recognition is one consistent thing. It hasn’t changed. This would not have been possible earlier with a different platform. Recognition will continue, even as we move to the new normal.”
—Manager, Human Resources
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