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Recognition in The Real World
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5 Tax Questions You Should be Asking About Your Recognition Program

Posted By Jason Thomson, Instigator, Jigsaw, Monday, March 7, 2016

Tax time’s coming – is your recognition program ready?

Unless you’re an accountant, you’re not going to love this article.

But you’re definitely going to need it.

We're talking about recognition and taxes – a potential minefield of perspectives, insights and approaches. And while your legal and accounting team should be doing the heavy lifting when it comes to navigating the tax codes of your country, state, province of prefecture, it does help to educate yourself on the basics of the topic.

When you’re tax planning for the year ahead in your organization’s recognition program(s), you want to ask some critical questions:

Are you familiar with 274J?

If you’re in the United States, this section of tax code is an ideal place to start. If you’re in other countries, check your local tax code for more information.

Do you know the difference between taxation for different types of recognition?

Performance rewards, service rewards, health and safety rewards – the taxman may see these a little differently in terms of how you tax, gross up or manage.

Are you (currently) compliant?
This is the single biggest question you’ll ask. Tax codes shift year to year, administration to administration. Perform a compliance review – particularly if your program offers rewards that are branded with your organization’s logo.

Are you managing the experience for your employees?
There’s nothing worse than being presented a shiny new tablet for your great work – then getting socked with a tax bill for nearly half the value of the item. Create a process for the entire transaction that includes grossing up the product, then paying appropriate taxes on the value of the product...

Do your recipients understand what’s going on?
...and then communicating what’s happening to those who are receiving rewards. Grossing up and paying potential taxes appears on pay stubs. Create boilerplate communications to send to employees, so they’re clear about what’s happening. Otherwise, expect a confused phone call during the next pay period.

Want to learn more about taxation and your program? There’s some great information at http://www.incentivefederation.org.

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How to Revitalize a Recognition Brand

Posted By Jason Thomson, Instigator, Jigsaw, Wednesday, February 10, 2016

15 years back, I was asked to fix a problem I didn’t know existed.

The agency I was supporting was tasked with pitching on the marketing communications for one of the most storied recognition programs in the country. We did our research. We did our due diligence. The overall approach looked good. Materials looks slick and professional. The messaging was on strategy. The overall experience of interacting with the brand seemed solid. Awareness of the program was an all time high. I kept telling my team "I'm not sure how we improve things here."

And that’s when the box of marketing communications materials arrived at the agency.

They looked great – until we placed all of them on the large boardroom table. It was then we realized that there were significant issues with the visual identit y. No one thing looked like another thing. Colours were all over the place. The logo had been altered. The language wasn’t unified.

We built a solution that focused on that aspect of the brand, and eventually, we won the pitch. Our competitors chose to focus on ways to promote the brand in fresh ways that didn’t address an actual problem.

Today, that unified visual and verbal identity helps set the program apart as one of the best in the world.

All of this is to say that if your recognition program is 3, 7, 15 years old, it may be worth it to look at the brand experience, and start asking questions to see if there’s anything you can do to improve it. Questions like:

What does my brand stand for?
How does our target audience perceive our brand?
How high is our brand’s awareness?
How high is our brand’s usage?
Why is/isn’t our brand succeeding?
Is the brand experience consistent?

The first step I make whenever I undertake a branding exercise is to ask questions that reveal the brand’s problem. Too often, I see organizations try to shake things up with a new logo, or a revised tagline – only to learn that none of those things addressed the real problem.

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RPI Board: 6 Fast Fixes for Your Recognition Brand

Posted By Jason Thomson, Instigator, Jigsaw, Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We recently polled RPI’s board on great ways to create, improve or revise your recognition brand. Here’s what they offered:

  • Understand what a brand is (more than your logo) – and what your brand stands for.
  • Ensure your “brand” supports your organization’s mission and/or vision.
  • Unite individual recognition programs with associated brand naming.
  • Connect your culture by holding a contest for recognition brand names or visualizations.
  • Make sure every marketing communication element follows a consistent look and feel.
  • Lock down all channels with branding. A custom URL for the web, specific Twitter handle, vanity 1-800-number are all examples.

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The Steps to Build a Great Recognition Brand

Posted By Jason Thomson, Instigator, Jigsaw, Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room."

– Jeff Bezos, Amazon

When it comes to building a meaningful recognition brand, use this helpful checklist of steps:

  • Ask: why does our recognition brand exist?
  • Define what your brand stands for.
  • Ask others if that’s what your brand stands for.
  • Think about the strategies that help your brand achieve what it stands for.
  • Make a list of every type of interaction your brand might have with partners, stakeholders, leaders and recipients – from the language you use to the people you speak with.
  • Codify your plan in a document that includes:
    • What your brand is (why it exists, what it stands for).
    • What makes your brand different (unique selling proposition).
    • How your brand achieves its difference (value propositions).
    • The tone or character of your brand (with examples).
    • What your brand looks like (visual identity).
    • What your brand says (rules for language, a menu of words to use and not use).

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What a brand is and Why it’s Important.

Posted By Jason Thomson, Instigator, Jigsaw, Friday, February 5, 2016

Here’s the most common misconception about your recognition “brand.”

Your brand is not your logo.

Yes, your logo (and your colours, typefaces, etc.) are components of your brand. But so is how fast you answer an email, what words you use in an award ceremony, or how someone interacts with your points catalogue.

The reason I mention this is to clear up misconceptions about what your recognition brand is and how you work to build it.

The short answer is that your brand is a promise – it’s the experience you promise to deliver to a customer or partner at any given time. Logo, email, meeting, catalogue – anything.

This is a critical distinction. Brand experiences are everything these days – and that extends to your recognition program. For it to stand up, stand out and thrive, you need to think about what you promise. When you understand what your brand is, you begin to see the need for consistency in look in feel, in language, in spirit and in any part of the experience.

The classic example of the successful brand is Apple. There’s a reason authors regularly cite the company. They’re fanatical about the brand. “Simplicity” is a core tenet of the brand. Everything about the brand experience screams “this is easy to use, easy to activate.” You see it in the design of the iPhone, the packaging of the Macbook, the navigation on the Website, the ability to register for a repair – even making an in store purchase or return. Everything is about that simplicity, and because of that, you are drawn to the quality of the Apple brand.

Your recognition program deserves a brand as powerful and well considered as Apple’s corporate promise. How does your brand measure up? How well do you manage your touchpoints – from visual identity to customer experience? Start here. We’ll be talking more about brand in the coming days.

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Recognition Drives Organizations – Here’s How to Know How Much

Posted By Jason Thomson, Instigator, Jigsaw, Thursday, October 15, 2015

Recognition may be the fastest, cheapest and smartest path to elevate performance management.

But how do you know?

While effective measurement is a critical part of any organizational initiative, “recognition” hasn’t traditionally fit a quantitative mold in the way that sales or marketing has.

That’s changing. As the practice of recognition matures, so does the understanding of what it can accomplish – and in turn, the way it’s measured. The concept of recognition has shifted from being a tool for motivation to one that can influence everything from employee engagement to culture.

Leaders in financial services, transportation and education continue to invest in recognition because they see value in recognition. That value can be determined in a number of ways:

Know what to look for.

What makes for a successful recognition program? Organizations view measurement in terms of how well the program is used and delivered, and the outcomes it influences.

Usage.

Do people recognize one another? Do peers get involved, or is it mostly manager-led? Are those numbers increasing or decreasing? What level of overall awareness does the program enjoy?

Delivery.

Are people recognizing each other frequently? Are they recognizing the right way? Are training or communications messages around delivery effective?

Influence.

What organizational outcomes does recognition affect? Are engagement, retention or specific behaviours on the increase or decrease? Can you correlate those increases or decreases to recognition?

Tie it to your employee survey.

To understand usage, delivery and influence, you need a venue for measurement. An obvious approach is to include questions regarding each in an all-employee survey.

But that’s just a starting point.

Look to other initiatives in HR, IT, Operations, Sales or Marketing. Are those initiatives being measured? Can you include data collection within this measurement by relating to the content? An internal marketing initiative, for example, might include a survey. Include few questions on how recognition is being used to coach content delivered that initiative.

Qualitative measurement is also effective because there is a significant human element to recognition itself. Collecting stories that demonstrate the power of recognition in improving performance can be a helpful way to illustrate data or general success.

Draw on technology.

If your program has a technological component – like an e-card element – it becomes easier to measure things like usage and delivery. Employee contests can be another avenue to gain insight into how effective the program is doing overall.

Keep measuring.

Don’t wait for once-a-year occurrences like surveys to advance your measurement. Find ways to understand how well your program is doing on a regular basis. Talk to key influencers and get a snapshot of opportunities and challenges. Collect stories from the frontlines. Enable technology to understand awareness and usage. By drawing on a comprehensive network of measurement tools, you ensure that recognition is understood as the critical business process it deserves to be.

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My Favorite Recognition Resources (that aren’t actually recognition resources)

Posted By Jason Thomson, Instigator, Jigsaw, Thursday, September 17, 2015

Full disclosure – I’m not actually a recognition professional.

I’m a marketer.

What I should say is that when I came to the world of recognition 15 years ago, I arrived as a marketing professional, advertising Creative Director, professional copywriter and content strategist. I still do all of those things today. And that’s been a real benefit to my extensive work in marketing communications for recognition.

When I look at a recognition program, I look at it through the lens of a recognition practitioner, and as a traditional marketer. This allows me to bring tools and resources to this world from outside this world.

In the spirit of our focus for the month – Recognition Resources – I thought I’d share some of my favorite tools. And-surprise, those tools don’t specifically come from the world of recognition.

Flipboard/Zite
Of all the news aggregators, Zite has been my favorite – and it’s a great place to find the latest recognition news and stats. You can set up specific categories for things like “recognition” and “engagement,” and it creates a custom magazine. Flipboard bought out Zite last year and is migrating accounts over to its platform.

LinkedIn
In the age of social media, it seems that you’re only as valuable as your network. And when it comes to professional networking, LinkedIn is truly (finally) coming into its own. If I have a question about a specific topic, I reach out to a specific content expert here.

Mind Your Future
This crazy recipe card box offers a great overview at specific global trends – trends I can then interpret for the world of recognition. If you’re a “big thinker,” this is an invaluable resource.

Want to be better at recognition? Don’t get stuck thinking only about recognition. Think about your challenge and look for resources that can bring new ideas and conversations to the table.

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Recognition in the real world.

Posted By R. Scott Russell, CRP, Friday, September 4, 2015

So I’m here in Austin, Texas…working on a project and enjoying the “hellish” temperatures. IT’S SO FREAKIN’ HOT HERE. As I travel around I’ve been asking questions about recognition in different industries and coming to the same conclusion. PEOPLE LIKE BEING RECOGNIZED. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But that isn’t always the case.

My good friend Cambria Goldstein, who is currently with Groupon’s Breadcrumb Pro POS System, and I discussed this subject over some oysters and martini’s at Perla’s.

Cambria shared a story with me about her former employer and how she struggled to get recognized no matter what level of great her performance was. She stated that she managed college and career and outperformed her competition but she was working under a manager that simply didn’t know how or was not good at giving recognition. This was so demotivating to Cambria that she eventually began to search for new and improved employment.

Upon joining Breadcrumb, Cambria took to the new product with ease and within weeks was recognized by her current manager for a job well done. It meant so much to Cambria that she almost broke down crying in her manager’s office. This was simple day-to-day recognition but it meant so much when it had not been received before. She didn’t need an award or a trophy…just a “thanks” for giving her all and having her efforts noticed.

Lesson #2 – Don’t forget what we learn as kids. A simple “thank you” can change lives when delivered at the right moment. (Like when you have just finished 2 rounds of oysters in the half shell and 2 cucumber and mint martini’s recommended by the awesome wait staff.)

Tune in next time for my next adventure…WHO KNOWS WHERE I’LL BE

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Three Things You Never Think About When Answering RFPs

Posted By Jason Thomson, Instigator, Jigsaw, Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I hate RFPs — but for a different reason than most people.

It’s not that they’re cumbersome (they are); it’s that they don’t allow me to clearly articulate and demonstrate my competitive advantages. Most RFPs are so formalized that they become about as interesting to read as the white pages (you remember those, don’t you?).

That’s a problem — and it’s a problem because the response to an RFP is a sale. And making a sale is about more than providing a listing of costs and services. You have to actually sell to make the sale.

That’s the way I approach an RFP — not as a response document, but as a sales tool. In that approach, I address the three things we don’t do often enough:

  1. We don’t think about the reader enough.
  2. We don’t understand or promote a perspective.
  3. We make it too hard to read.

We don’t think about the reader enough.

Selling means understanding your buyer. It’s not about what you sell, it’s about how they buy. Understand who is making the decision, and work to know what’s important to that person (or if not that person, at least the position they occupy). A simple element to consider: Are they a visual, auditory or kinesthetic thinker? Knowing that they’re visual, for example, means you’ll need more images or graphs inside the document.

We don’t understand or promote a perspective.

“Why should we choose you?” Can you answer this question in less than 15 seconds? Too many RFP responses throw the kitchen sink at the reader, effectively saying “we do everywhere, are everything and can be everything!!!!!!” Your organization is in business for a reason that’s different than your competitors. Ensure that your RFP promotes that advantage. Do you have a culture that aligns well with the client? Are you known for absolute details? Do you own a specific platform that makes you stand out? Promote, promote, promote.

We make it too hard to read.

Paragraph after paragraph after mind-numbing paragraph. It seems like RFP responses are ignoring the way people want to connect with content — visually and in short segments. Drop the paragraphs in favor of bullets that list advantages. Use headlines and subheadlines to reinforce content and context (like I’ve done for this article). Add checklists at the end of each section that visually show how you fulfilled the specific requirements of the sale.

As a seasoned proposal writer, I know that your RFP response doesn’t have to look and sound like everybody else’s RFP response — which is important if you want to stand out in the selection process. Follow these three rules and make it easy for your client to say “yes.”

Tags:  Request for Proposal  RFPs 

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RPI Blog #1 – July 2015

Posted By R. Scott Russell, CRP, Monday, July 13, 2015

Recognition In The Real World – Welcome on this new journey that we are going to take together into the world of real life recognition. We’re going to bring our notes, white boards and diagrams with us that have defined what recognition is and we are going to bring them into the real world. What will we find? Who really practices recognition on a daily basis? Do you think there are Best Practices in everyday life recognition? Come along with me as we go in search of the power of recognition and how it can change lives for the better. I’ll be speaking with everyday folks…like you and me…about their most memorable recognition experiences and the why’s behind those memories. Let’s learn something together and make our world a better place.

If you are expecting a perfectly-worded and formatted message here…you’ve come to the wrong place. I have often been told that I write the way I speak. I take that proudly (though it was not always directed at me that way) as a Southerner who may now and again throw in a “y’all” or “folks”, you get the idea.

Lesson #1 – Make sure you inspect results before recognizing someone for a job well done. Case in point, I went to pick up dinner for my family from a new fast food joint in my hometown in Kentucky. The service was lightning fast and though impressed, I simply asked, “Are you sure it’s all in there?” The five workers behind the counter all smiled and confirmed that it was. I said “Thank you so much. I appreciate your respect for the customer’s time.” Well…it was only after I returned to my grandmother’s home that I realized they had actually forgotten two entire dinners. I had to go back and eat crow instead of chicken. Uggg… Make sure you inspect results before recognizing someone for a job well done.

Next Month – Is Recognition WEIRD in Austin, Texas??

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Phone: 651-290-7490 | Fax: 651-290-2266 | info@recognition.org
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