Going Global

By Malcolm Fleschner

Until the advent of the Internet, the prospect of running an effective, tailored motivation and recognition program across a global workforce was almost folly. Cultural barriers, the prohibitive costs of printing catalogs and administrative and prize fulfillment headaches all combined to put this task out of reach of even the most forward-thinking global companies.

Technology has changed all that, however. Nowadays so many of these tasks can be handled online that international sales organizations are making enormous strides in turning their old one-size-fits-few reward and recognition programs into models of dynamic and individually customized motivational systems.

Admittedly, few companies are doing it on their own. Such programs require the kind of expertise few sales organizations – even large, international ones – have in house. So if you’re thinking of turning to an incentive house to help take your global motivation program online, here are a few issues to consider:

1. Not the same, but equal
The number one rule for international motivation programs is that all employees must be treated as equals. As soon as you begin to assume that what works for one set of employees in this country will work internationally, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Never assume that any single method will be right for everyone.

2. Talk the talk
English has become the international language of commerce, so companies can probably get away with producing all program-related materials in English. But most inclusion-minded companies will want to set the bar a little higher, which means designing materials for each specific country and its native tongue.

3. Choice prizes
It makes sense that different types of rewards will appeal to workers in different countries. One simple strategy is to create a gift certificate platform that can be adapted to suit local needs. But if you’re determined to use merchandise, be sure the incentive house you choose creates a system where participants can access the specific online catalog designed for their country.

4. Be sensitive
Different cultures view incentives differently. Whereas Italians tend to love them, Germans and Japanese, by contrast, may look upon them much less favorably. Any incentive house you work with should have ties to strategic partners around the globe that can highlight and explain cultural differences and describe the most effective motivational strategies for local populations. These local partnerships will also smooth the challenges of shipping and prize distribution.