Article: Now more than ever, having a strong internal recognition program is key: Suzanne Kinner, Blackhawk Network

Performance Management

Now more than ever, having a strong internal recognition program is key: Suzanne Kinner, Blackhawk Network

Employers should keep flexibility top of mind and consider how and when employees are performing, believes Suzanne Kinner, Vice President of Human Resources at Blackhawk Network.
Now more than ever, having a strong internal recognition program is key: Suzanne Kinner, Blackhawk Network

Suzanne Kinner is Vice President of Human Resources at Blackhawk Network, a global leader in branded payments space, where she oversees the global human resources function for the organization. In this role, she is responsible for driving and executing Blackhawk’s people strategies in support of the company’s overall business plan and strategic direction, specifically in the areas of Talent Management, Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HR Ops & Compliance and Facilities. With over 20 years of executive-level HR experience prior to Blackhawk, Suzanne has served as Global Head of HR for technology companies including Tellme Networks, Procket, Networks, Actel, and S3.

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Suzanne throws light on how organizations need to rethink performance and rewards in the new normal.

The colonial mindset around working from home being synonymous with lesser work being done has been challenged by the endless hours of work being put in by leaders, managers and employees. However, there continues to be a need to prove online presence. What is your take on this?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people around the globe have made a sudden transition to remote work. Our India Strategic Development Centre was launched in November last year and since that time, most of our newer employees in the office were onboarded virtually due to the pandemic. As a result, this helped us to create a culture devoid of the pre-pandemic way of working. We were able to seamlessly transition to a remote work setting while staying productive and efficient. 

The feedback we receive from our employees around their concerns and needs during this time, as well as regional considerations and local health authority guidance, is factored into the decisions we are making. We are in the process of developing formal guidelines around flexible work policies to help employees better balance their work and lives. 

What should employers keep in mind while revising the performance framework for their remote employees?

Employers should keep flexibility top of mind and consider how and when employees are performing.

At Blackhawk, offering our team members flexibility is important so that they can continue to be productive and manage the additional life demands that they might be coping with as a result of the pandemic. 

What are some of the pillars of performance that you focus on? In your opinion, which performance metrics will now determine compensation?

Some pillars of performance that we focus on at Blackhawk are:

Winning as a Team - At Blackhawk, we celebrate our successes together.

Global Excellence - Employees at Blackhawk approach their work with a global mindset. 

Innovation - Innovation is our legacy, and employees are continuously challenged to disrupt the status quo. 

We are not doing anything significantly different in terms of performance metrics. Our focus on helping employees balance their mental health and wellness has been elevated as we are making these decisions. This is just as important as productivity.

Industry-wide pay cuts have sent several employees 2 or 3 years behind in their financial standing. With finances expected to be in a slump for an unpredictable time period, what reward strategies can organizations consider helping employees navigate these challenging times?

Although it’s a difficult time for everyone, employers still have a variety of options they can leverage to help support, recognize, and reward their employees during this challenging period. Now more than ever, having a strong internal recognition program is key. 

In 2011, Blackhawk acquired Achievers, a leading provider of employee recognition and rewards solutions designed to help companies increase employee engagement. Using Achievers’ innovative SaaS platform, employers can drive employee engagement and business success by recognizing and rewarding their employees. The platform also provides employers with the ability to continuously obtain their team members’ feedback. Blackhawk leverages the platform throughout our organization and employees have the ability to redeem points that they earn for a variety of prepaid cards as well as other goods.

In April, Blackhawk released research1 that found that U.S. respondents who currently work at home or have worked from home in the last year prefer their employers to engage them via rewards and incentives—citing these efforts as an effective way to drive loyalty. The vast majority of respondents (84%) reported prepaid and gift cards as the incentive they most want to receive.

As business and HR leaders look to reset the workplace and people policies in the new reality of work, how is the benefits landscape changing? Any specific initiative you plan to take around performance and rewards?

Overall, we have seen a need to place an even greater emphasis on employee well-being, a trend I am seeing in many organizations. At Blackhawk, we have launched an employee assistance program for our Bangalore employees designed to help them lead a happier and more productive life at home and at work. Through this program, employees can access a Licensed Professional Counselor that can provide guidance on stress, depression, and anxiety; relationship issues; job stress and work conflicts; family problems; anger, grief and loss, and more. 

We also plan to continue leveraging our Achievers technology that allows us to recognize and reward our employees. This is also the platform we utilize to survey our employees globally for quick feedback and use this to stay in frequent communication with them.


[1] The “Receiving Incentives and Rewards from Your Employer” study was an internet-based study conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network between March 24–25, 2020. The sample size included 1,718 working U.S. employees ages 18–60.

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Topics: Performance Management, #RethinkPerformanceandRewards

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