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by Leo Jakobson | June 01, 2012
Like most companies with a broad-based employee recognition programs, the Siemens You Answered program has two parts: top-down recognition from managers, and peer-recognition from coworkers. 

In most programs like this, managers can give rewards with a dollar value of some kind — points redeemable for merchandise and gift cards are the most common. In a growing number of companies over the last decade or so, these programs allow employees to recognize coworkers with an award that has points or gift cards attached. Siemens is not one of those companies. 

The company's You Answered program allows an employee to send another an eCard thank you note, and managers are informed. But there was not going to be any cash value attached to Siemens peer recognition awards according to Susan Brown, the director of compensation for Siemens Corp., the multinational manufacturing, technology and services firm’s U.S. arm. 

Because Siemens’ You Answered program took the place of the various recognition programs previously run in each of the company’s dozen very independently managed divisions, there were many programs whose aspects had to be incorporated, and generally Brown’s team tried very hard to build a program framework that could accommodate different divisions’ needs and goals.  

“There were groups that had never done employee to employee recognition before and there were other groups who would never have gone on the [You Answered] program without it,” Brown says. “They insisted that it was a valuable part of their day-to-day recognition approach.” One of those groups felt very strongly “that they wanted the employees to be able to give financial award as well,” she adds. 

“I personally had a significant problem with that,” Brown says. “I don't think it’s up to our employees to give another employee money. I don't think they have the scope to understand the business.” There are also questions of consistency and internal equity, she adds. 

“Our approach was eCards only, nonfinancial,” Brown says. “When we got push-back, we said, ‘Hey, if an employee really thinks another employee should get a financial [reward], they should go talk to their manager and the manager can do it.’ Especially in an automated system, you want that conversation.” 

After all, the reason Siemens’ You Answered program has the name it does is to reflect the company’s broader branding message that Siemens has the answer to customers’ needs and questions — essentially, the recognition program is saying the employees are the ones who have those answers.

“If you can be the answer for a fellow colleague who needs extra help, needs extra guidance, or could use your support on a project, then what you're doing is you are moving that brand forward internally,” says Mike Ryan, senior vice president, marketing and client strategy of Madison Performance Group, which built Siemens’ You Answered program on its Imagine recognition and reward platform, and helps manage it.