The Sixth Annual Incentive Motivation Masters Awards was the toughest we've ever had to judge, with three outstanding and successful incentive and loyalty programs competing as finalists for the title of 2014's Grand Motivation Master.
In the end, creativity won the day for Ricoh Americas Corporation's Services Team Annual Recognition (STAR) program for its more than 11,000 field technicians. A rare non-sales incentive travel program, STAR supports Ricoh's extensive and ongoing training efforts throughout the year. The global technology company specializes in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems, and information technology services.
"The STAR program was developed to recognize and reward those employees who truly provide the 'best of the best' in overall customer experience," says Dawn Ryburn, director of program management for managed and technology services. Ryburn oversees the STAR program at Malvern, PA-based Ricoh Americas Corporation. "It provides an educational opportunity for our field leadership team," she says. "It promotes employee engagement and discovers areas of improvement for our field service professionals."
For the 2013 STAR program, Ricoh Americas Corporation's customer-facing services employees completed two exams over a three-week period. Their grades were combined with a scorecard based on individual metrics specific to each employee's job category. The top 200 services team members traveled to the Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta hotel from March 12-14, 2014, for an intensive two-day competition -- the STAR Main Event. They were tested on company initiatives, customer-focused activities, and knowledge of Ricoh's products and solutions. The top 100 won a luxurious five-day, four-night trip to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.
"Training is critical to ensure that our people are doing the right thing and are up to speed with our offerings, with knowledge of new products they may need to work on with customers," Ryburn says. "This affects how we serve the customer on a day-in and day-out basis. Our technicians are the most trusted people in our organization to our customers. That's a critical piece, because you can have a sales rep go to our customers, but the customers won't do anything until they talk to their service technicians."
The testing that leads up to the main event is also critical to the training organization, she adds, as it lets the trainers know how they are doing. "Eleven thousand of these employee tests give us a baseline so we can continue to refine what we get out there to the field. We see what people understand, and where we have work to do," Ryburn says.
The Main Event
The year 2013 was a particularly challenging and important year for the STAR program, as it was expanded from just the "off-site" field service employees -- those who go to visit customers' offices only when they are needed -- to include the managed services organization's "on-site" employees who are permanently based at some 2,000 large customers' offices across the country. This more than doubled the number of participants to 11,000. As a result, the number of participants invited to the Main Event doubled from 100 to 200, and the number of trip winners grew to 100.
The Main Event is heavily marketed on an internal STAR website and with a communications program that incorporates emails, posters, videos, and trip teasers, as well as an internal social media site. Live updates are posted during the Main Event competition, and it is followed by a video and newsletter published companywide. The company's chairman and CEO, Martin Brodigan, personally attends the Main Event to congratulate the 200 participants at the final night dinner, as do many senior executives. While a large number of site, regional, and area managers participate, only a half dozen or so go on the award trip, largely based on meeting their goals.
There are a number of tests in the Main Event, which change from year to year based on the company's needs and activities, but they always test participants' skills as well as their knowledge, and are designed to be fun and exciting, as well as difficult. As in the preliminary testing, some of the tests in the Main Event differ depending on which of the eight different job categories each participant falls into.
The 2013 Main Event competition included a number of tests:
• Hot Seat -- Participants were presented with five "real-life" scenarios to role-play, assessing how they might handle common workplace scenarios and customer interactions while applying the "Ricoh Way" of core values to a stressful situation.
• Functional/Technical -- Field technicians had to identify, diagnose, and repair failed components, while employees from other divisions had to demonstrate equivalent technical expertise.
• Customer Opportunity -- A new event, this had participants recognize potential customer opportunities using their knowledge of Ricoh Americas and its products and services.
• Teamwork -- Participants were broken into teams that had to think on their feet and work together to complete a task.
•Jeopardy! -- a game show-style competition in which teams demonstrated knowledge of Ricoh Americas' policies, procedures, and other initiatives.
"It's a competition, and it's tough, but we make it fun, too," Ryburn says. One way was by adding a non-scored teambuilding event -- "Sea Hunt" -- in which teams had to build model boats that would be dropped to the bottom of a pool and had to float back to the surface.
While there are teams, each participant is competing on his own, Ryburn notes. "We mix up regions when we create teams, deliberately, to get people talking who wouldn't," she says, adding that on- and off-site employees from different functions are also grouped together, enabling participants to meet people from areas they might not interact with otherwise. "It's interesting to see the camaraderie, how teams sit at lunch tables together," she adds.
Another function of the Main Event is to serve as an educational vehicle for Ricoh Americas' vendor partners, whom Ryburn invites to participate each year. Ten or more do so annually.
"The vendors are part of my welcome and congratulations center," Ryburn says. "As the techs arrive, we give them packets with their schedules, some snacks, and each vendor has to provide a give-away item -- not a $2 item, but some techy, electronic item that these women and men will love."
Many vendors are eager to participate because they get some of the same benefits the company does, she adds. "It's a process improvement and feedback opportunity for the vendors" who get access to 200 of Ricoh Americas' top services team members.