I Love Rewards & Recogni(zing) that something is, well, Different.

I came across a new HR product that doesn't neatly fit into an existing product category. Yet, it's not a new category either. The company/product I am referring to is I Love Rewards.

More on them later.

But first, let's talk categories.

There are lots of product categories in the HR marketplace. It's a vast and diverse space. So vast that a rising tide in this market rarely lifts all vendors. It can be raining on some HR product categories while others are enjoying clear skies and bright sunshine - we've witnessed this on an extreme level the last several years. Trust me, this is unique as not all industries have such economic diversity (which by the way, happens to be an HR product category).

From the clouds (not the Internet ones) the HR "marketplace" is quite simple to conceptualize. It consists of the products and services that relate to locating, hiring, compensating, managing/developing, retaining and eventually saying farewell to employees. Strategically, it's about putting the right people in the right positions to drive business performance.

But when you come down from the clouds and get into the trenches you begin to appreciate just how vast, diverse and complex the space is:

Vast: Every organization with employees will need one or more HR products. That's big time demand folks (and one reason why so many smaller HR vendors flourish).

Diverse: There are a lot of products (the 'categories') that help companies locate, hire, compensate, manage, develop, retain and retire/terminate employees.

Complex: When you're dealing with people - and HR is ultimately all about people - it's always complicated. What makes the HR marketplace so complex is that there are hundreds of product categories associated with the function of human resources and these categories don't operate in independent silos. They are all interrelated components to a larger ecosystem that in itself is constantly evolving - like Big Bang meets String Theory meets HR.

Adding to this complexity is the seemingly constant emergence of new disruptive technologies. Most recently, "cloud" and "social". And every time, we assume the new technology will "change everything" (remember the paradigm shifts of the '90s). But eventually most HR vendors who need to adapt and weave these strange new technologies into their offerings (lets not forget that delivering HR products over the Internet was once considered science fiction).

What's happened, perhaps a result of technology advances, is that more and more HR products are cutting across multiple 'categories' (think end-to-end - gosh I hate that phrase).

All this makes the marketing, positioning and even the use of these HR products increasingly complex. (Selfishly, this complexity has been good for our own HRmarketer software - a product that aggregates the right HR marketplace information and gives HR vendors the tools to effectively use this information in their marketing and PR).

OK. With categories covered we can get back to I Love Rewards.

What's the product category?

I Love Rewards describes themselves as "an employee recognition solution that helps companies recognize brilliant performance and empowers employees to choose their own rewards. Unlike traditional service award programs, I Love Rewards creates authentic moments of recognition that resonate with workers of every generation."

Their words, not mine.

Product category?

Simple. Rewards & Recognition, right?

Not so fast.

I had the opportunity at the recent WorldAtWork Total Rewards Conference to speak with I Love Rewards Solution Specialist Rob Bianchin who gave me an in-depth look at the company's software. I was truly impressed. There are a ton of amazing HR products but when you take the time to understand this company's offering you quickly realize something is, well, different.

This is not a commercial for I Love Rewards. I single them out because they are an example of a refreshingly new type of HR vendor that is effectively using disruptive technologies to offer an "HR" solution that cuts across multiple product categories and gets to one of the core strategic functions of HR - to help companies identify and retain key talent while recognizing and rewarding the specific behavior's of these "achievers" to drive business results.

My words, not theirs.

This transcends beyond the typical reactive recognition program to a product that can have a direct and lasting impact on recruiting, retention, development, communication/morale, customer service, sales and even employee wellness. All of which drive business performance and impact revenue and profitability (and the company can actually measure the impact that their product has on much of this stuff).

You tell me - is this just rewards and recognition?

I don't think so.

Honestly, I'm not sure how to categorize their offering. This is not about taking an established HR product category and dressing it up with some social cloudiness technologies (don't get me wrong as there is value in doing that). This seems to be an entirely new type of HR product.

Will the company succeed?

I have no idea. I've been in business long enough to realize one cannot predict with absolute certainty who succeeds and who doesn't. Too many variables go into achieving business success and even the best of companies cannot control each variable. It's a long, long, long marathon, not a sprint.

But one thing I can promise - I Love Rewards will disrupt the "rewards and recognition" and perhaps other HR product categories. It's a refreshing new product that regardless of what happens will have a significant and positive impact on the HR marketplace.

Take some time to learn about what they do - and you too will learn something.

Post by HRmarketer CEO Mark Willaman. Join Mark on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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