Recognise This! – “Market research” can never tell you what your employees want. Only they can.

As I was driving to the office the other day, I caught a news snippet from National Public Radio (NPR) in America about a tea controversy (ahem) boiling in the UK.

Apparently, tea maker Twinings has changed its 180-year old Earl Grey tea recipe, adding extra citrus flavor. The reaction? Extreme anger from loyal consumers who think the new tea “tastes like lemon cleaning product.”

Worse is Twinings’ reaction. Despite a very public Facebook campaign and all the negative press, Twingings refuses to restore the old recipe. Why? Because “market research” says the change is good.

Whilst the story at first made me laugh, I then realised – this is a story I hear every time I talk with organisation leaders working on implementing a strategic recognition programme. One of the most common conversations I have is about what reward should be offered as part of the programme. Most programme managers have only ever experienced the traditional catalog merchandise reward programme or perhaps an incentive travel programme (sell so many widgets or resolve so many customer service issues and win a trip to Hawaii).

Too often, people will rely on “market research” to determine what their rewards should be. Paul Hebert wrote about one such survey in which the most popular rewards were “non-cash rewards” including subsidised training, flex-time, mentoring programmes, free lunches and the like. Digging a bit deeper, however, shows the research reflects the opinions of 1,400 CFOs.

As Paul points out, “These aren’t necessarily what your employees want – it’s what your CFO is willing to allow.”

That’s what traditional reward catalogs do – force what “you’re willing to allow” on your employees. At least, that’s how your employees perceive it. Click over to the Globoforce blog for today’s post on a true story of just how badly this reflects on the organisation.

Tell me – what rewards have you received that were not at all what you would have selected but are “what your company would allow?”