On-Demand Rewards: When Recognition Becomes Instantaneous

The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Ezra Ferraz, this chapter is titled, “On-Demand Rewards: When Recognition Becomes Instantaneous.” In it, Vanessa Esteban, the Head of Human Resources of Penbrothers, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in motivating employees.

 

Almost overnight, the Philippines seemed to have transitioned into an on-demand economy. Consumers can get almost anything they want with the push a few buttons on their smartphone, including a car with a driver (Grab), a motorcycle with a driver (Angkas, Joyride), delivery services (Ninjavan, Lalamove, Transportify), and even food (Foodpanda, Lalafood). When we want something, in short, we can get it now.

Though the consumer world has gone on-demand, the enterprise environment still moves at a notoriously slower pace, especially when it comes to rewards. Every organization offers incentives of some kind, but their allocation tends to follow a long horizon. One company might give annual performance bonuses, for example, but these may not be awarded until well into the next year when the fiscal results of the previous one have been calculated. The gap between action and reward is so long that the latter has a far lower motivational effect than the organization may realize.

Penbrothers is reimagining rewards. Many people who have visited one of Penbrothers three sites - they have offices in Legaspi Village, Salcedo Village, and Sheridan - assume the company is a coworking space. The organization’s core business is in fact managed services, where they provide and oversee talent to many of the international companies that lease offices at their locations. Under this model, Penbrothers has a core team of about 75 and 325 seconded to clients.

Penbrothers Head of Human Resources Vanessa Esteban explained that the organization is really flexible when it comes to rewards.

“Let’s say we have a new hire on a probationary period. If that person is really performing two months into their employment, we will fast track their regularization so they don’t have to wait the full half-year. That way, they can realize the benefits that come with regularization sooner, and we can show them that we really value their work,” said Esteban, who pointed out that the vast majority of organizations in the Philippines would still wait for the formal regularization date, even in the case of high performers.

As can be gleaned by the open floorplan of Penbrothers and its modern furniture (bean bags are a common theme across all three sites), the company caters to a young workforce. Almost 80% of its core team are in fact millennials - exactly the kind of people who would appreciate this level of flexibility since they grew up in an increasingly on-demand world. They are, after all, digital natives.

Apart from fast-tracking regularization, Esteban shared that rewards for high performance are also given much quicker than usual. Unlike other organizations, which tend to offer rewards based on the results of a quarterly or annual review, Penbrothers disintermediates them from a formal review process. If a person is making a serious impact, the company does what it can to recognize and reward them now, rather than a few months or even a year later.

These rewards can be monetary, such as a cash bonus or a gift certificate; career-related, such as a promotion; or even in the form of benefits, such as additional leaves (the flexibility it takes to employ this kind of rewards culture goes hand-in-hand with creativity). “This is what I really like about Penbrothers. We don’t defer to process. We listen, we recognize, and we reward,” said Esteban.

Such flexibility is extended not only to the core team, but those deployed to clients.

“We had one team member who was really exceeding the expectations of the client. As a reward, he requested additional dependents to his HMO plan, and instantly it was given,” said Esteban.

What’s challenging about highlighting this culture of flexible and instant rewards is that it has no specific means of identification. It is, after all, not a formal policy, initiative, or program, but an inversion of all those things that we typically see at the Filipino corporation. Since it is who they are, we can only grasp it by sharing representative anecdotes - there is no memo we can analyze and reference.

Foundational to this culture of on-demand rewards is a results-based environment. Since it’s only your output that matters, team members at Penbrothers enjoy both flexiplace and flexitime. As team members are assigned laptops rather than desktops, they can work from any of the organization’s three sites, and at any of the various tables and nooks at each office (flexiplace means a lot more at a place like Penbrothers that has perhaps more area choices than a furniture store).

Flexitime at Penbrothers is also more generous than usual. Rather than giving employees the choice of when to clock in their nine hours (eight hours work time, one hour lunch), the company removes the notion of a schedule altogether.

“You’re not tied to any hours at Penbrothers. You have freedom. Some days, you may go home earlier because work is light. Other days, you may stay longer. The choice is completely yours. The company has the confidence and trust in their team that you will make the best use of your own time,” said Esteban.

In other words, Penbrothers has successfully married flexitime and flexiplace - two relatively common benefits all things considered - with what may very well be their natural endpoint in on-demand rewards. Now people are not only measured by the results that they produce, but they are given proper recognition and rewards as soon as they do, incentivizing them to do even better, in what is sure to become a virtuous cycle for the right kind of talent.

To get more insights from other HR leaders like Vanessa Esteban, please check out the full book, available for purchase here


The 50 - and other business books about the Philippines and Asia Pacific - will soon be streaming on Audiophile, our platform for exclusive Filipino audiobooks.

 

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