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GET Rewards Director, Karlien Holliday, was recently interviewed on HR W!red with Africa Business Radio by talk show host, Gavin Smith. Here is a transcript of their discussion on the role of employee rewards and how they can and should be boosting productivity and morale in the workforce. 



Gavin Smith: Tell us a little bit about GET Rewards and what your reason for existence is?

Karlien Holliday: GET Rewards and its reason for existence actually ties so perfectly into the topic of today “Why prioritising employee rewards could improve productivity”. GET Rewards offers the widest range of rewards options for workforce, channel incentive and loyalty programs.

What we’ve seen from experience and research over the last couple of years, especially over the last two decades, is that the workforce has changed quite significantly. What employees see and expect from employee rewards has changed quite dramatically.

The workforce today has become rather broad; from Baby Boomers to Generation X, to Generation Y and very soon we will also have Generation Z entering the market!

GS: Okay so we’re getting Generation Z coming into the workplace?

KH: Yes. So what we’ve seen with the Millennials; a one-size fits all rewards strategy no longer supports a business rewards strategy.

People want a sense of belonging and appreciation, although to some degree that’s always been the case, no matter what generation you come from. At the end of the day, we’re all still humans with an innate desire for appreciation and belonging.

Millennials want rewards that matter, so things like instant gratification and the concept of surprise and delight should be strong considerations for a rewards strategy aimed at this generation.

Millennials are by nature always on the go, they really don’t want to be tied behind their desks and they are definitely not fans of the old way of managing your workforce – the whole clocking in at 08h00 leaving at 17h00 thing. That way of management, to them, is no longer relevant because with the rise and ever-changing nature of technology, virtual offices can be easily set up anywhere to match that kind of lifestyle.

GS: This may mean that you should consider an employee rewards strategy that fits each of these generational segments.

KH: Yes. This is what GET Rewards does; we provide solutions that are relevant for each generation.

We will help design those reward strategies to support an employer’s business objectives. I do think that companies are trying to find a balance between cost-saving, productivity and automation.

Employees, on the other hand, are trying to find the balance between work and life. We’re living in times that are rife with mergers and acquisitions, which is an added challenge to their days, so they are often quite stressed. The stress often forms a part of their day-to-day work environment as well.

GS:  Looking at South African companies and possibly the bigger corporates, are rewards part of their strategy going forward, or merely a nice to have? Is this still bleeding through from the European and American markets which have obviously taken this up a lot earlier than we have?

Are South Africans still clinging to their autocratic management principles? Is there a perception change happening within the South African market?

KH: I think it is changing, but I think that it’s being driven by the new generation coming into the workplace.

I do also think that South Africans are a bit slow off the mark in how we manage our reward systems and structures, but it is changing for sure.

We cannot do business in the same way anymore. We cannot do the same thing and expect exceptional results all the time.

So we’re in a place where we have to find new solutions and adopt new ways of thinking in the market.

We are changing the shape of the future and it’s largely driven by the Millennials.

As a part of our group we’ve just launched a new product, it’s a platform specifically for employee motivation and engagement called bountiXP.  It’s a values-based employee recognition platform that also allows businesses to actively manage their reward strategies with ease; including generational considerations.

In the South African market, we still have a lot of blue collar workers, so whenever we design a rewards strategy we always keep that at the back of our minds. Employee incentives, for this segment of the labour force, still make up a very large part of their day-to-day money (so-to-speak). Incentives form a part of their bottom line and where they find themselves in terms of life stage.

I don’t think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will ever become historic because even in the shape and design of rewards; the variety of different life stages and type of labour force people find themselves in still plays a big part in their daily lives.

GS: Absolutely, human nature is human nature, that’s how we build and define ourselves.

KH: Correct, and humans always want a sense of belonging. As is the case with Millennials where they want to belong to a group or status, either through a game or a reward.

If you’re ready to engage with them on the platforms that they want to be engaged on, this will definitely aid productivity levels at the end of the day.

GS: Differentiate for me between Gen X and the Millennials – is there a bleed over between these two? Does the Venn diagram intersect or are they two very well defined, distinct groups?

KH: Millennials can be associated with digital rewards, social status and gamification. This often works well for them. Linking something like a Vida e voucher or giving them tickets to take their friends to an event would be received far better than cash. This is the way to go when you design a reward strategy for Millennials.

Gen X, which is more my generation, we like cash rewards. We find ourselves in a very different life stage, obviously. We also grew up in an era where we’re used to working long hours and only receiving our reward at a later stage, so instant gratification is less important (or that’s just my own personal opinion.)

GS:  I was chatting to somebody the other day and they said Generational expectations do not cement themselves within a person; you, yourself become your previous generation, once you reach a certain age. A person of 50-years-old has vastly different requirements, needs and expectations than a 20-year-old.

So in 20 years from now, the Millennials are going to be looking back at what Gen X’ers had and say, “well, that’s what we want”.

Is there a fluidity to the way you treat your workers, according to their age bracket going forward?

KH: Yes, I think you should. You will go through different life stages at different points in your life, but I do think that it would benefit employers to really understand where employees find themselves in life.

This is not necessarily defined as per the generational groups that we’re accustomed to, but really understanding and applying empathy to where people find themselves; from career to personal development and even cultural diversity.

For example, if you have a contact centre group of about 120 people, spread across multiple age groups, they can and will be at very different life stages and a one-size fits all approach just won’t work for all of them!

In terms of rewards, you also really need to find the right solution. Often you will need a reward solution that’s not too costly because employers often say that they’re investing so much money into a reward solution or strategy, but where do they see it and do they really see the bottom line benefits?

GS: Ja, where is your ROI! This sounds wonderfully complex and I think that you’ve brought up a really great point.

We need to look at the person holistically; look at the person where they are now and imagine where they will be in 5 to 10 years and tailor your offering to suit that particular individual. Then look further to an individual who is 15 years ahead and tailor that person’s experience to the individual once again!

KH: Correct. So at GET Rewards, we really deliver on purposeful and meaningful rewards, depending on where that person is within their life stage or what their “generational” expectations are.

If people are engaged and motivated at work and they feel a sense of appreciation and you as an employer really understand them as a person first, rather than just attaching a reward to a measure at the end of the day, you’re likely to see productivity go up and your return on investment go up.

So treat people like people first and then try and measure and build your rewards strategy accordingly.

GS: I think so many managers can take that as a lesson and put it as their first and foremost to learn this week; treat your employees as human beings, as whole individuals.

Sometimes the lines get blurred and we treat people as machines, a means of production. I think, however, there is a change happening in business and that is great!

Key takeaways

In case you were wondering whether a multi-generational workforce plays a key role in the design process of a successful rewards strategy, it absolutely does.

Each generation is defined by certain characteristics and whilst we all enter different life stages at different ages, we are still part of a defining generation that is motivated by surprise and delight moments or by cash incentives.

The key for any HR Director is to truly understand your workforce as human beings who have an innate desire to be appreciated. This appreciation for your staff directly correlates to increased productivity, directly relating to positive bottom line results and a corporate culture to boast about.


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