Employee appreciation is a big deal throughout the Royal Bank of Canada’s vast network that employs more than 80,000 people in 35-plus countries, but if you stop by their Toronto headquarters on Employee Appreciation Day, you won’t see any balloons or party favors. That’s by design.
“We do employee recognition every day of the year,” said Steve Richardson, who has led the recognition team at RBC for the past 25 years and is a past president of RPI.
The renowned recognition program at RBC has changed greatly over the past three decades or more. It was solely focused on incentives at one time – sell a set number of credit cards and you would get a new barbeque grill, for example. That changed for a number of reasons, not least of which was that non-sales staff deserved incentives and recognition as well.
“We still have the toasters and barbeques, but it’s evolved into a full recognition vehicle,” Richardson said, adding that informal recognition is as important in their corporate culture as material rewards. “It’s more important to get recognition right than to have someone receive something.”
Richardson’s work includes not only running the recognition program, which utilizes a well-developed peer-to-peer program, but training managers on correct and effective ways to use recognition. RBC has found that such training leads to positive results not only in terms of employee retention and satisfaction, but even in sales numbers.
What works and what can be improved in the employee appreciation realm has produced plenty of learn-on-the-job moments. For example, a practical way to deliver material rewards became a win-win for the company. If RBC employees were getting a toaster, for example, the company would have the item delivered to the office, knowing that the recipient would be there to sign for them. This practice came with an added bonus.
“It became a real recognition moment, as co-workers would see and acknowledge the person being recognized, congratulate them and add to the recognition,” Richardson said. From that fortunate circumstance, a company practice was born.
RBC also practices informal “instant thanks,” and has a system in place where managers and peers can acknowledge good works in a matter of seconds. There are up to 15,000 of those sent every month across the company, which leads to positive results.
The fiscal side of things never goes unnoticed, especially among one of Canada’s largest banks. Richardson admitted that a competitive financial compensation program goes hand in hand with an effective employee recognition program to retain top talent.
“But recognition is what can take people higher,” he said.