Making it personal

Scotiabank offers several options to reach diverse workforce
By Ian Citulsky
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/10/2012

Most organizations know the value of engaging employees and recognizing or rewarding them for good performance. What many may not realize is it’s important to have an engagement strategy that is as personalized as the employees.

With cultural and demographic diversity a reality in workplaces, Canadian organizations are well-positioned to deliver personalized, meaningful employee recognition. One such example is Toronto-based Scotiabank, with operations around the world and a diverse employee base in Canada.

When Scotiabank decided to embark on an employee engagement program for its workforce of nearly 70,000, it knew the program had to be something special, something adaptable for its many different business lines and markets. Twelve years ago, it launched the Applause program (designed by loyalty management provider Aimia) for Canadian employees and, since then, it has grown into an award-winning success story with highly engaged employees in more than 25 global markets.

In Canada, one of the main program objectives is to align employees with the bank’s customer strategy.

“It’s all about the customer experience and enabling employees to deliver that effectively,” says Kim Moseley, director of employee engagement, Canadian banking, at Scotiabank.

The program focuses on empowering employees with the desire to deliver a vision, rewarding them when they do and ensuring the organization is rewarding them in the way they want to be recognized, in a way that is personal to them.

“The most effective aspect of the program is the fact that it’s customizable. Applause is about offering an experience that every department can embrace and adapt based on the demographics, levels and roles of the employees in any given group,” says Moseley.

The core fundamentals of the program are the same, but the execution can be tailored.

The Applause program drives engagement through electronic peer recognition, manager discretionary point awards, “You Rock!” spot recognition cards, top performer events and other modules. Through the online peer recognition module, employees can send appreciation (Applause certificates) to other employees around the world, with a copy sent to their manager so the positive activities and behaviours can be reinforced.

There are many opportunities in the program to earn Applause points, which employees can use towards a variety of redemption categories in the Applause Rewards Catalogue.

Scotiabank is committed to keeping it fresh and exciting — and that’s a big part of the program’s success. To help support and enable a renewed focus on customer experience, it launched the Scotia Service Heroes program in 2011 for customer-facing employees. Employees are empowered to share their stories of customer service excellence on an online portal. The best stories are rewarded with Applause points, celebrated online and adopted nationally. This more public form of recognition has seen tremendous adoption.

“Acknowledgement often means more to employees than receiving just their paycheque. They want to feel valued for their contributions,” says Moseley. “This recognition enables us to show them and their colleagues that we appreciate their work and encourage them to continue providing exceptional service.”

Other engagement modules under the Applause program include community involvement, product training and “points donation” opportunities. The numerous options ensure there are opportunities to make employees feel valued in a way that is personal to them, whether they prefer to be recognized privately or publicly, electronically or with tangible commendations.

Taking the program global

The multiple options made the program adaptable, but there were still challenges when it came to making it relevant to employees globally. The most important part was to recognize each country has its own diverse culture and specific business objectives.

“It was very important to ensure that we launched a program that was adaptable but always aligned the employees to the organization’s objectives,” says Yvette Bryan-Moses, director of recognition and reward programs, international banking, at Scotiabank.

“Leadership takes the core of the program and uses it in a way that suits their local culture. This is incredibly valuable as it’s easily adapted in various environments.”

For example, during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the team in Jamaica used Olympian Usain Bolt as an inspirational figure and launched the Applause program by introducing a “Race for Recognition” campaign. This propelled Jamaica to a top-quartile position in Applause program participation metrics.

In other countries such as the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, leaders responded to employee feedback by offering dinners with leadership as rewards for positive activities and behaviours.

“The program has helped us build a truly positive morale that transcends various cultures, multiple groups and different levels within the organization while keeping us united with the values of the Scotiabank brand,” says Bryan-Moses. “The program is a benefit to the growth of the organization and to our leaders, as they can use it as a tool to build their teams, make them stronger and drive performance to deliver on the objectives of the bank.”

Applause has become a leading driver of Scotiabank’s corporate culture and has elevated it as an employer of choice, she says.

“We’ve moved far beyond just reward and recognition. It’s truly about engagement. It defines who we are and how we value our people by recognizing and rewarding them the way they want.”

Ian Citulsky is director of client services at loyalty management provider Aimia in Mississauga, Ont. He can be reached at (905) 214-8435 or Visit for more information.

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