Culture Framework Part 5: Rewards and Recognition | Dialing It In with AT&T
Rewards and recognition are the most basic, and truly most human elements of the Culture Framework. People like to be recognized, applauded and rewarded for a job well done. At a base level, formal reward and recognition helps thank employees for what, at times, could seem like a thankless job; on a larger scale it engages employees and grounds them in the tenets of company culture. That’s why rewards and recognition aren’t cheap or easily won. They have to be purposeful and integrated into the organization.
We’re not talking about the Glengarry Glen Ross, “coffee is for closers” type of reward. It isn’t even the $100 bill tacked to the wall, winner take all approach. This is more about the lifestyle and work style that you want employees to lead, and for that to come from a place at harmony with the culture. It’s also important that an organization’s rewards and recognition are unique rather than borrowed from elsewhere and honor the company culture.
Rewards that Matter
When it comes to rewards, it’s about substance, not flash. One of the best examples of meaningful, substantive rewards that we have visited before is New Belgium Brewing Company with their penchant for adventure and travel evident in their gift of paid sabbaticals for employee anniversaries. But on a larger scale, this kind of intimacy with employee rewards can be harder to achieve. It seems an impossible task to tailor rewards to individuals in an organization the size of AT&T, but they actually do achieve it by tying it into their Shared Purpose.
AT&T is a great example to follow because they don’t favor outlandish rewards that make headlines or grand gestures. These are very practical ways to pull employees closer to the culture and the overarching mission of the company.
At the heart of AT&T is the idea of connecting the world and that is a very powerful image. The company’s heritage stretches back to the invention of the telephone when AT&T acquired Alexander Graham Bell’s “Bell System” in the 19th century. AT&T products and services have always been on the forefront of the communications industry.
How do you tie employees into that mentality from day one? Connect them to the world. The company offers its employees free DIRECTV (complete with free installation) with almost no restrictions, and they give 50% off all wireless, internet and other services.
This reward really pays off in a few ways. Employees immediately have loyalty to the company’s offerings. By actually using the services and products, not only will friends and family be more inclined to buy into the company, but also employees will find more opportunities to improve those products. They’ll be able to see the improvements firsthand, and they’ll witness the impact they have on the company.
But this connecting the world goes beyond the hardware and networks. It’s a link to the community. AT&T recognizes that and gives employees the opportunity to volunteer with paid time off. It’s a subtle move that can make a real impact on employees and are invaluable to the communities where they live and work.
AT&T also showed they are committed to showing appreciation to their employees through purely financial means. When the passage of tax reform and the FCC’s action on broadband opened up monetary freedom for the company, they did not only line their own pockets but instead chose to invest into their employees by giving $1,000 bonuses to more than 100,000 non-executive workers.
Recognition that Lasts Through Continual Learning
In 2017, for the first time, AT&T made it onto the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. This is one of the few “Best of” lists that is entirely employee driven. The main reason employees spoke so highly of AT&T? Investing in their people for the long term and rewarding loyalty with loyalty. Long-term loyalty is a definitive way to show employees that the company believes in their performance… and their potential.
This can mean big investments. AT&T invests millions in paying for qualifying current employees to pursue a higher education. But this investment in education and continual learning also plays out at a companywide level, such as when AT&T set out to retrain 100,000 employees on their new systems and technology by 2020.
It could have been easy for them to outsource, lay off or even employ a new crop of younger people more naturally adept at the technology. AT&T saw a chance to evolve their workforce instead of replacing it and they took it. They weren’t intimidated by the sheer numbers. Instead, they saw that workforce of 100,000 as individuals. As people who needed this skill set to remain relevant not only at AT&T but also in any other position at any other company in the industry.
This is a true investment in recognition, and if successful, it will give AT&T a competitive edge and a perspective that no other company has. In the eyes of employees, though, it has already been a tremendous success. They are part of an organization that values their future, and that is the kind of recognition that makes an impact.
Employees who are recognized for their work and rewarded for going above and beyond will, in turn, invest themselves further in the direction of the organization. Giving your employees incentive to have a stake in your Shared Purpose only works to evolve your organization at every level.
Culture Framework, Part 5: Rewards and Recognition