Assemble Your Buying Committee
No. 2 in a series of five articles for finding the right employee recognition partner
If you’re in charge of selecting an employee recognition partner, congrats. Yours is an important role that will shape the culture of your workplace for years to come. Get this right, and your recognition program will be loved by employees from the new hire to the CEO and will become an important stepping stone in your career. But along with that potential to make a difference comes a weight of responsibility. You don’t want to mess this up. The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. Especially in large organizations, there are lots of people who can help with the decision-making process. This guide offers some handy tips for assembling a vendor selection committee to help you assess employee needs, establish goals and benchmarks for success, involve different geographies, build consensus, and develop champions that will ensure your program’s success.
Do you even need a committee? It all depends.
Selection Committees at Smaller Businesses
Many factors play into whether or not you need a selection committee. But the biggest one is size. If you are a small- or medium-sized business, there’s a good chance you can keep your team lean and select a partner without a formal committee. You’ll still want to take your time and do the job right. But you can likely do a lot of the work by yourself or with the help of an HR peer or two. Just follow these simple steps:
1. Get executive support. Building the business case for recognition may or may not be necessary in your organization, but if there’s any doubt, make your case early on and do it powerfully. Until you have executive buy-in, the difference you hope to make with recognition will only be a pipe dream.
2. Prioritize your goals. Don’t start your search without knowing the answers to questions like: Why are we doing this? What problems are we hoping to solve? How will we measure success? The answers to those questions will drive many decisions as you move forward.
3. Research top providers. Researching top providers usually involves an internet search, calling friends in companies with similar needs for advice, and perhaps consulting industry analysts, HR publications, or trade shows. Look at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen, or Peak Matrix. Once you’ve identified a few top players in the industry, pick no more than three favorites. Then send out RFPs.
4. Select a partner. Schedule a demo of each provider’s software, services, and fulfillment capabilities. Use a good scorecard or decision matrix. Remember how each demo makes you feel. Ask if the solution is something your people would love.
Decide which potential partner has the best features, programs, customer service, and flexibility to meet your specific needs. Which one do you trust with your important recognition goals? Which one can grow with you? Whose philosophy of employee recognition is in sync with your own? Once you know, select your partner and begin shaping the solution you’ve always wanted.
If you are small, or your needs are simple, the above process may be all you need. But if your company is a large enterprise, especially one with global reach, things will go much smoother if you assemble a committee to help with your search.
Selection Committees at Large and Enterprise Companies
If you need to put together a selection committee, here’s how.
In large enterprises, the success of any new initiative depends on having full support from key stakeholders right from the get-go. This is where a vendor selection committee can be your friend. Not only will the committee help you gather important insights in real time, it will provide you with smart people to help guide your decisions every step of the way. You can’t possibly know everything about the employee needs, budgetary constraints, or performance goals in every department or geography of your organization. But your committee members will. Rely on them. Collaborate. Ask questions. Learn. Choose your employee recognition provider accordingly. And your solution will be a success.
SELECTING A RECOGNITION PARTNER IS A JOURNEY. CHOOSE YOUR TRAVEL COMPANIONS WISELY.
We all know committees can be unwieldy things. But they don’t have to be. When you choose the right people, with complementary strengths, a committee can be a dream team that enables success. In the next section, we’ll share which key players organizations choose to have on their vendor selection committees. Seeing who they are provides you with a good starting place. But it’s just that, a starting place. You should also consider:
- Whose opinions you trust
- Who you like to work with
- Who can help you with areas you know nothing about
- Who will make the journey as pleasant as the destination.
Bear in mind that, depending on your unique needs, many committee members will stay on and become your implementation team.
Roles & Responsibilities of Selection Committee Members
When players know their roles and play them well, teams win.
A word to the wise. Clear responsibilities make teams stronger. The last thing you want is endless debates and arguments over which employee recognition vendor to choose. And that is easily avoided by deciding which committee members are there to consult, which are there to manage the project, and which ones will make the final decision. This clarity will help everyone relax and enjoy the journey instead of fight to grab the steering wheel.
In the end, it’s okay to try a democratic approach and vote on which vendor you want to hire. But what if there’s a tie? Or what if a slim majority chooses what the team leader feels is the wrong vendor? To make these scenarios go smoothly, decide up front who has approval and/or veto power and all will go well.
CHOOSE YOUR COMMITTEE TO FIT YOUR UNIQUE SITUATION.
There’s no one right way to put together a selection committee. But here are the most common committee members we’ve encountered while working through RFPs with hundreds of well-respected organizations. You may need more (or fewer) people than those listed below. You may need two committee members with the same role and you may leave out a role. But this we know for sure: inviting at least one of the following people to participate on your selection committee will bring valuable insights and make selecting a vendor easier.
After you read the roles, use our handy Recognition Committee Planner to put some names in place that will make your committee real.
You have a selection committee. Now what?
The first thing to do is inspire your team. As part of introductions, consider asking each person to share either their worst or best recognition experience and why. Then let them know the potential impact a great employee recognition program can have on your work environment and business success. Promise your team short, efficient meetings, clear assignments, and a voice at the table that decides the future of your workplace culture. Then go to work on the four steps mentioned in the "Selection Committees at Smaller Businesses" section earlier. Take note of these specific tips for working with a committee.
1. Build consensus. Agree on the “why” by clearly communicating what problems you are trying to solve and defining criteria for success. Our guide for prioritizing your goals will help. Explain how and why the committee was put together, where the project started from, and your expectations of the new provider. Be sure to align your recognition objectives with business objectives so this is not just seen as an HR initiative, but rather as a growth strategy critical to business success. Open communication, resolving conflicts on the fly, and building consensus will keep your committee efficient and prevent stalled decisions.
2. Share employee feedback you’ve collected on the current state of the employee experience and recognition in particular. If you have a current solution, know what people love and don’t love about it (consider a quick survey if you haven’t already). What do employees, managers, and geographies want you to keep? Or do away with? Also understand what types of recognition are currently happening at your organization outside of a formal program (hard-to-track informal gift cards, manager-funded gifts and team lunches, etc.)
3. Build out the requirements for your solution together. Consider technology, integrations with other HRIS systems, meaningful awards, recognition experiences, presentations, customer service, customized symbolic awards, etc.
Enjoy the Journey
The search for a recognition partner is an exciting and difference-making task. Including the right people in the journey and providing them with correct information from the beginning will make your search easier. It will also help you select a recognition partner that influences your culture for the better, creates positive momentum, and helps people thrive at work.