General Motors Leverages Employee Recognition to Engage A Global Workforce

General Motors

Business Challenge

General Motors (GM), a global automotive company, employs more than 160,000 employees across six continents. In 2017, amid a business and cultural transformation at GM, the company revealed their vision to create a world with “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion.” To deliver their vision and transformation, GM needed to build an inclusive and world-class culture with diverse perspectives. In order to impact culture and make it purposeful, GM aligned everyone and everything they do to a unique set of company values or behaviors. Recognition–for the same values or behaviors around the world–would allow GM to create the active alignment and behavior-driven workforce they were seeking.

After listening to employees, GM discovered that there was significant dissatisfaction with their existing recognition programs. Leaders wanted to have the ability to recognize their global teams and employees wanted more recognition, transparency, visibility into their recognition activity, and personalized rewards. This kicked off GM’s extensive search for a robust Recognition and Rewards (R&R) platform that would align to their corporate behaviors, help build their global GM team, and break down silos. The R&R platform also needed to provide an easy user experience and help the company overcome other global challenges, such as budget control, appropriate governance, measurement, and visibility.

Before selecting an R&R provider, the Program team worked closely with key stakeholders to outline their recognition program’s key objectives:

Objective #1:
Establish one global program and platform

Determine one global platform that delivers a best-in-class user experience and aligns to the company’s seven core behaviors that leadership identified as requirements to drive GM’s vision:

Objective #2
Build strategic alignment to accelerate culture change

Make a strong impact on the company’s culture by aligning leadership, reinforcing the company’s vision and values, and driving the right behaviors.

Objective #3:
Drive employee engagement

Through frequent employee recognition, build a culture of recognition and appreciation to positively impact employee engagement.

Objective #4:
Provide consistency and simplicity

Provide a consistent recognition experience for every employee across the globe. Measure the program’s success and usage, as well as simplify administration, budget, and spend control.

Employee Success Platform™ Solution

In 2017, GM launched its GM Recognition Program, powered by Achievers, to 67,000 employees across 26 countries. During the program’s launch, GM did an extensive communications push with targeted emails, intranet posts, newsletter articles, and training videos. Promotional materials were created and distributed, including quick start guides, FAQ sheets, and posters, to name a few.

With Achievers’ award-winning R&R solution, GM employees are able to send and receive both social and points-based recognitions. The company also provides awards, such as their “Above and Beyond” award which is given out to employees who far exceed their performance expectations or job responsibilities. Leaders can also quickly participate in the program through the Boost feature–one-click recognitions that instantly add points to existing recognitions. Every recognition sent gets spotlighted in a real-time newsfeed for company-wide visibility.

Also, GM’s global workforce can celebrate major milestones on a regular basis through custom celebration cards highlighting achievements and birthdays. Employees can even participate in custom-built surveys, quizzes and contests, and submit their personal recognition stories on how the program has positively impacted their lives.

The GM team is able to stay updated regularly on the program’s performance and usage thanks to real-time data and insights provided by the Achievers platform.

Business Impact

Since launch, the GM Recognition Program has seen huge success. For starters, the program set the record for most activations in the first day of program launch in Achievers history. Within 30 days of launch, 87% of the entire global population was active in the Achievers platform sending over 80,000 unique recognitions.

GM continued to exceed their goals and grow their program’s success over the years. After the first year, GM reached a 97% activation rate (against an 80% target) and 6 out of 10 employees are actively using the platform on a monthly basis. Leadership recognition, in particular, has skyrocketed. People leaders at GM send an average of 4 recognitions per month and 8 out of 10 managers send recognitions monthly.

Engagement survey results showed substantial improvements in the area of recognition. Just six months after the program launched, employee recognition became one of the five most improved areas in their engagement survey. Recognition was also the most commented topic in the engagement survey, with more than 5,000 positive comments about the program and how employees felt more appreciated and valued in the workplace.

To grow the program and drive consistent messaging, the Program team partners with business teams to connect the dots between different company initiatives and GM behaviors. For example, since the launch of GM’s global recognition program with Achievers, the Program team has partnered with the Global Safety team on an annual basis to drive consistent messaging surrounding GM’s foundational commitment to safety and vision of “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion.” Together, they help educate employees on workplace and product safety through fun quizzes that give each employee an opportunity to earn additional recognition points. These campaigns include strong call to actions to participate in the program and highlight the platform’s functionalities. As a result of GM’s ongoing efforts, monthly employee participation has spiked:

  • Every employee receives at least 1 recognition monthly (on average)
  • 7 out of 10 employees are active in the program monthly

GM continues to drive improvements in program participation and usage through ongoing communication efforts. GM sends out company-wide emails on a regular basis and leverages the company’s intranet, collaboration tools, mobile app, and e-newsletters to encourage program participation.

What’s Next for GM?

GM recently deployed two new features: Announcements and the Outlook integration. With the new Outlook integration, employees can easily send recognitions directly from the Outlook platform; the ability to recognize others has never been easier. Also, the team replaced 23 local service awards programs with GM’s new global Service Milestones Program that provides a common and consistent way to recognize others, show appreciation, and celebrate a fellow colleague’s contributions and career at GM. On the day of their service anniversary, employees will receive memorable and impactful messages through a celebration card signed by their leaders and colleagues, digital certificates and letters, and points to redeem meaningful rewards of their choice. The new Service Milestones Program will help reinforce ties to leaders, colleagues, and company behaviors; it will remind employees of their careers at GM and inspire them to grow their contributions towards GM’s vision of “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion” while positively impacting culture reinforcement and employee engagement.

When it comes to employee recognition and engagement, GM is ahead of the curve. With the GM Recognition Program by its side, GM is moving the needle and effectively engaging their entire global workforce through a culture of recognition and appreciation. Not only is frequent recognition driving engagement across the organization – it’s also helping employees understand how their everyday work aligns to GM’s vision, values, and behaviors.


Achievers Insight

activation rate (against an 80% target) and 6 out of 10 employees are actively using the platform on a monthly basis.

8 out of 10 managers
managers send recognitions monthly.

5,000 positive comments
positive comments about the program and how employees felt more appreciated and valued in the workplace.

“GM Recognition is not just a tool that allows employees to recognize and be recognized globally, it is an enabler to drive the culture we need to win by helping our employees link our GM Behaviors with the work we do every day.”

Sandra Garcia

Global Compensation Lead, Global Strategic Initiatives, GM