Making Recognition More Relevant than Cinco de Mayo in Mexico

I’ve been traveling around the U.S. for the last two weeks, visiting our Boston offices and several customers as well as participating in the IHRIM 2010 conference. I greatly enjoy the opportunity to travel in the US and experience the many different global cultures that make up this one country. I’ve noticed, however, that American traditions that celebrate these various cultures have taken on a rather unique American flavor. I’ve experienced St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and in Boston. Let’s just say that green beer does not flow freely in Dublin pubs.

I was struck by all the promotion around Cinco de Mayo. After a little investigation, I learned Cinco de Mayo (the Fifth of May) was originally a small, very local celebration in one Mexican state, celebrating victory over the French in a battle in the mid-1800s. It has nothing to do with Mexican independence (as was assumed by many Americans I chatted with on the topic) and is not an observed holiday in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo has become "Americanized." My American friends and colleagues are celebrating a Mexican holiday that is not relevant to Mexicans.

What lessons about employee recognition can we learn from this? Think about your current recognition program(s). Is it largely based on the needs and desires of employees in the country where you are headquartered? Have you “Americanized” recognition to make it one-size-fits-all, or are you truly honoring your employees and their accomplishments within the context of their own culture, traditions and expectations?

It seems to me that Cinco de Mayo has become more a reason to celebrate Mexican heritage in America, just as St. Patrick’s Day is a reason to celebrate the Irish in everyone. So should recognition be a reason to celebrate the achievements that are common to your company culture as a whole – demonstration of your company values in contribution to your strategic objectives.

Too often, well-intentioned company or HR leaders offer a recognition or incentives program that forces people to choose a reward from a catalog of items they’ve pre-selected. We see this all the time. Even though it’s well meaning, this approach can come off as insulting and is uninspiring for international employees.

Why fight against this approach? Local department stores, local restaurants, local cinema chains, local entertainment venues, local travel companies - they know best what your local employees want. That's why we've invested the past 10 years in building the world's largest selection of rewards entirely on the shoulders of these locally based merchants – so your employees will always have a culturally correct and personally meaningful reward that inspires them. Show your employees you truly value them, their contributions – and their uniqueness.

0 comment(s):