Large, striking posters greet visitors to Martyris’s cabin. The posters are advertising the Taj’s Special Thanks and Recognition System (Star) programme, a HR initiative aimed at rewarding achievers across all levels of the organisation. "The purpose of this internal campaign is to create an association between our star performers and our brand, the Taj," says Martyris.
The Taj is actively promoting the campaign across each of its 62 properties and among its 18,000 employees worldwide, 15,000 of who are based in India. As Martyris says: "It was time to recognise and reward our own stars." These stars are not the statesmen or tinsel town glitterati who grace the distinguished environs of the group’s hotels, but to the organisation they are just as important.
The Star campaign offers no cash awards or prizes. Recognition comes in the form of levels. Points can be picked up by employees for integrity, respect and regard for others, teamwork, environmental awareness, reliability, outstanding work, courage of conviction and initiative. Practical and useful suggestions that are beneficial to the company can also earn an employee points.
Level 1 is the silver stage and it requires an employee to earn 120 points in three months. Level 2 is the gold grade and can be achieved by gathering 130 points within three months of reaching the silver level. Level 3 is top of the pops, the platinum standard. To reach this mountain, an employee has to accumulate 250 points within six months of reaching the gold level.
At 510 points and beyond, an employee can be part of the chief operating officer’s club. A total of 760 points or more, and he or she can breathe the rarefied air of high achievers, and move into the supreme grade at the corporate level, the managing director’s club.
An interesting facet of this web-based initiative is that while it helps employees earn merit points for acts of excellence, it puts pressure on the review committee — comprising the general manager, the training manager and the heads of different departments — to respond within 48 hours of a suggestion being made. If the committee fails to get back in time, the employee earns 20 ‘default’ merit points.
Employees can earn merit points through guest compliments, compliment-a-colleague forums and suggestion schemes. The programme encourages them to work together and compliment each other. Important as the initiative is, it has not been linked in any way to the regular performance appraisal system for employees.
The programme has picked up momentum, and it is expected to raise motivation levels in the company. The obvious spin-off is enhanced customer satisfaction. "We have noticed [since the campaign was launched] that a large number of employees have started working together in the true spirit of teams," says a satisfied Martyris.
"There are stars all around us and this will eventually help us value our human capital. Many employees go that extra mile to dazzle the customer. The Star programme is linked to customer delight; it is based on the premise that happy employees lead to happy customers. Employee recognition is, hence, directly linked to customer satisfaction. It is a recognition for the people, of the people and by the people." Now get out that red carpet?