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Case study: Tata Communications

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Identifying and celebrating the achievements of the company’s top 1% has helped Tata Communication create a non-cash rewards structure they are proud of.

Aadesh Goyal, global head of HR at Tata Communications, understands that recognising employee contribution goes a long way in keeping the morale high across the organisation.

While the company focuses on multiple avenues of non-cash rewards for staff, the highly revered Pro-Club programme is the club everyone wants to be in. A special programme for only the top 1% of outstanding performers, it aims to reward with an international trip and foster loyalty through a social element with senior management.

The idea for Pro-Club, which started in 2007, came from the notion that every employee reacts differently to various incentives, and cash and non-cash rewards have their own set of advantages.

Cash rewards are naturally more attractive at first glance, because employees can use them in any way they like, but non-cash rewards have an element of personalisation – employees feel personally appreciated and recognised by the company.

When done right and in a timely and celebrated manner, non-cash rewards can have immense value due to peer recognition. Peer recognition is used at Tata Communication to develop role models, in turn driving this behaviour onto others and positively influencing them.

“Non-cash rewards in the form of recognition on an open platform builds the right culture of appreciation, value and positivity,” says Goyal.

The social element of non-cash rewards is an important aspect to consider when drawing up any programme, as this helps to strengthen the emotional value of the reward and the emotional connection that the employee has with the company.

It also gives Tata Communication room to be more creative, and is an avenue to allow employees to feel as though the company is invested in them as individuals, rather than looking at them as “a cog in the machine”.

“If paired together well, both types of rewards can yield better performance results amongst employees,” Goyal says.

Implementing Pro-Club
The beginning

Because the social element and the importance of peer recognition was recognised as being an important driver to push for increased performance, Tata Communication decided an all-expenses-paid trip to an exotic location should be on the cards to motivate employees.

This recreational incentive with Pro-Club also has the added bonus of allowing top performers to meet, interact with and learn from each other, as opposed to a cash reward, which everyone spends individually.

Goyal says Tata Communication encourages senior leaders to interact and engage with high-potential employees on these trips, creating a sense of personal recognition.

Exclusivity

The importance of Pro-Club is that it is not a club for everyone. The reward, Goyal says – apart from the trip itself – is the rare opportunity for top performers to mingle with senior management, including the CEO, who hosts the trip, president and other senior management. The senior management in turn gets to know the top performers better – a serious advantage for any employee wishing to step up the corporate ladder.

“We travel together to a beautiful destination, enjoying each other’s company for four days; these are opportunities that not many companies give on an international scale,” he says.

The exclusivity and allure of getting into Pro-Club, which is announced at the beginning of every year, has caused the programme to be affectionately dubbed the “Oscars” of the company, and works as a motivator for staff to reach that top 1%.

“Recognising and rewarding the top 1% of outstanding performers creates an environment where their peers aspire to be in the club, creating a feeling of healthy competition,” he says.

Measuring performance for nominations

The nomination criterion for Pro-Club is outstanding performance across qualitative and quantitative KPIs as per the book of records. Across teams, the senior management arrives at a consensus based on the performance of the employees.

The entire team is simultaneously rated and rankings are seen in real-time, allowing management to gain a more accurate view of how employees compare in key areas.

Calibration enables objective rating of employees, eliminating manager variability and providing alignment of compensation and performance. These rankings help choose the top performers who will be taken on the trip.

“Reinventing employee incentives is never about gaps in staff rewards,” says Goyal. It’s a part of the company’s DNA to make sure that we nurture and appreciate the people responsible for our success.

“As the company evolves into a competitive global business, it is essential for us to mirror that evolution when it comes to giving back to our employees.”

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