Canadian Pacific English(1)

Recognition Program in Need of Change

The light bulb went on somewhere in the quiet wilds of Northern Ontario.
The General Manager of the HR Service Centre for Canadian Pacific (CP), the 130 year-old railway operations giant, had been charged with improving the company’s flagging recognition program. It had been no easy task.
“Our program looked like a lot of other programs out there,” explains General Manager, Len Haraburda. “It was e-based. Employees could jump online and nominate someone to be recognized. Mangers would approve the nomination and the employee was then eligible to receive a certificate and a reward from the gift catalogue. While that approach may have worked for other companies, it wasn’t working for us.”

Challenges: Huge Country, Remote Locations

The program’s first issue was that a sizable part of CP’s nearly-17,000 employees worked in remote areas across Canada and the United States. Internet access was not always readily available. “That made it nearly impossible to deliver timely, high impact recognition to all of our employees.” In fact, large numbers of CP’s employees were not participating in or benefiting from the program.

Haraburda came to a realization while personally inspecting track outside the small town of Ignace, Ontario. “Someone working out here would have to make a special trip to an office and log onto a computer just to nominate or even redeem their recognition reward. That negated the power that comes with instantly reinforcing behaviours.” Understanding the need to deliver instant recognition and timely redemption, he began to do his research. “I looked at dozens of systems, programs and companies, and nobody was addressing CP’s issue.
Haraburda worked with longtime partner Rideau Recognition Solutions to “answer the question – how do you reach the unreachable?”

Traction: CP’s Fast-Action, Behavior-Based Approach

After a few months of research and development, CP and Rideau introduced “Traction,” a completely overhauled system for recognizing employees living CP’s values. “The program focuses on behaviours,” explains Haraburda. “Safety is CP’s top priority – in fact, our motto is “Safety First.” If a manager sees a specific example of an employee watching out for the safety of a co-worker, he can offer instant recognition that reinforces and rewards the behavior.
Traction also gives the same manager tools to reward employees who consistently follow our best safety practices. It really is a win for everyone.” CP’s previous recognition program had been results-based, which limited a frontline leader’s discretionary freedom to acknowledge individual or group behaviors that contributed to results. With Traction, managers can recognize good behaviors and achievements.

Creating a behaviour-based system was only the first step to improved recognition at CP. Remembering his experience inspecting track, Haraburda worked with Rideau to design a program that could be delivered and redeemed anywhere anyone had a phone line.Traction targets the manager’s safety vest – a piece of equipment every crewmember must wear when on the job – with a Rideau-designed wallet that tucks into the inner vest pocket. The wallet contains cards at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels for everyday behavior recognition and includes opportunities to recognize achievements or significant contributions along four premium Platinum levels. The wallet also features training materials that demonstrate how and what to recognize.

When a manager witnesses the right behavior, they remove the appropriate level of card from the wallet and present it to the employee on the spot. Each card lists eight of the most popular rewards at seven separate reward levels and the employee can instantly redeem the card over the phone via an automatic voice-based recognition system. An employee can also visit the Traction website for an extended selection of rewards – there are more than 50 rewards at each level, from branded hats and coffee mugs to choice home, leisure and entertainment items.

Results: Success, Faster than Expected

“I hoped to see large scale usage by managers in 18-to 24-months, but the anecdotal feedback was immediate, says Haraburda. “Managers were saying that Traction was easier to understand, use and implement.”
Statistics at the end of the first year of operations were even more promising. Traction saw 100% more redemptions than its predecessor, resulting in more company wide recognition. At the same time, the program also realized a 12% reduction in cost. “We’re realizing that more recognition is more important than bigger recognition,” reports Haraburda “It’s a huge step to break down barriers between managers and employees.”
As the program grows, CP continues to monitor usage at monthly and annual intervals. Constant analysis of the collected data helps CP identify what departments and mangers are using and not using recognition as a strategic tool to drive desired behavior and results.

By meeting employees where they work, CP has reinvented recognition and its influence on employees. It would appear, CP’s recognition system is back on track.

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