Donavan Whyte, vice president EMEA at Rosetta Stone, talks to Reward about the pros and cons of financial and non-financial reward - and how the company has worked with Xactly to create an effective reward strategy.


“I don’t believe that many HR departments are giving enough thought to the subject of reward and to what it means to their organisation,” comments Donavan Whyte, vice president EMEA at Rosetta Stone. “They’re being reactionary rather than planning reward strategically in line with their initiatives.”

Whyte acknowledges that financial and monetary reward “can absolutely work as incentives”, however advocates a form of recognition that combines cash incentivisation with reward and personal recognition of a non-financial nature.

Rosetta Stone, for example, sponsors the Global Volleyball League, which hosts an annual tournament in June in Amsterdam. All of the sales team can compete to win tickets to be flown to Amsterdam and to be a part of the finals.

“It’s generated a huge amount of interest,” says Whyte. “We have a large American team, who would love to travel to Europe – it’s turned out to be a really great incentive, and one that’s creating a lot of noise. You need to think about who the reward is for and what, emotively, it means to them.”

Working with incentive specialists Xactly, Rosetta Stone have created a comprehensive financial and non-financial recognition package for their staff.

Other travel rewards include an annual circle of excellence, which rewards the top salespeople with an all-expenses-paid trip with their partner – previous trips including Costa Rica and the Amalfi Coast.

The monetary value of a reward such as the Amsterdam trip would be around £1000, Whyte estimates – but the emotive meaning to staff of being able to travel to a globally televised event outweighs all this.

“Particularly for those organisations that have very wide demographics with different needs, it’s important for business leaders to get a full view of the organisation, and culturally what that organisation desires” he explains.

“Of course you can’t please everyone, and sometimes you have to go with the wants of the majority – but it’s about establishing the culture of the organisation, and what would suit those individuals best.”

Rosetta Stone has been predominantly focused on reward for the sales team – but this is changing, as the company is starting to think about how to motivate and reward everyone around the organisation.

“Just rewarding the sales team is motivating for them – but can be demotivating for people who think they’ve contributed considerably but have not been rewarded in the same way.”

And there are no excuses for not understanding what your workforce wants. “We send out a survey that asks what’s most important to our employees – we’ve taken positive action to get some feedback, to try and establish what would be the best thing for them. Online surveys are quick and easy ways to establish these things.”

While Whyte maintains that financial reward can be successful, he is adamant that such tailored non-financial reward allows staff to take control of their reward, feel more emotively linked to it, and remain more highly motivated.