Awards for Years of Service LO9938

Rachel Silber (
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 12:24:19 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO9931 --

" said: "
> I work for a nationwide company of about 900 employees. For the past 15
> years we have awarded employees for years of service at 5 year intervals.
> The award includes a choice of a proze from a catalog and an offsite
> celebration, usually dinner or lunch.
> The company would like change this process and no longer put emphasis on
> years of service. Would would not necessarily eliminate acknowledgement
> but would shift the reward to something the company perceives as more
> important, size as exceptional performance. This has led to a very
> emotional response from the many employees that feel years of service is
> important and do not see the value of shifting this paradigm.

I think it is important for the company to understand the basis for the
employee's emotional response to the change in paradigm. Such a response
generally would come from a loss or a threat.

I can make one possible model of why the employees might feel such a
threat. Of course, not knowing your company, I could be completely wrong
in your specific case, but in the general case, here is one view of what
is changing:
Everyone has a roughly equal chance of achieving 5 years of
service with the company. Everyone has a need for their contribution to
be recognized. In the new model, not everyone's contribution will be
publically recognized. Not everyone can be an "exceptional" performer,
that dilutes the meaning of the reward. Let's say you want to reward
service to the customer; people in the support functions of the
organization may never deal directly with the customer. Regardless of what
business measure you choose for performance, some people will be favored
and some not.

If this is indeed the source of the distress the shift is causing, then
perhaps the company should be sensitive to creating a reward for something
that can reasonably be attained by _any_ employee who makes the effort.
Making the criteria and the process visible may help. Making it so that
peer nominations are encouraged may help. Making years of service one of a
number of criteria may help. If it is your intention to no longer make
sure that *everyone* eventually gets acknowledged at the company-wide
level (maybe 900 people is too many for that, I've never worked at a
company that big) maybe figuring out how to do that should be moved down
to smaller groups such as specific departments or locations.

Of course, if you want to convey that *not* everyone deserves to be
acknowledged, then you will take a few lumps from the workforce over it,
unless they are doormats.

> The
> company, however, sees the need to shift the emphasis but not what to
> shift the emphasis to.

What's the matter with the current emphasis? If you are afraid that you
are rewarding people for just warming a chair for five years, then
changing the reward structure addresses the symptom, not the root problem:
how can it happen that someone stays in our organization for 5 years
without contributing substantial value? (The learning principles in
LO7845 may be relevant here.) And if they are contributing value, then
they have given you 5 years of their productive work life, something the
company may value (or may learn to value).


Rachel Silber

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