How to Build a Best-in-Class Employee Engagement Program


Ready for an employee engagement program that works? Kazoo’s Skyler Rogers and Tiffany Scolnic cover the three major challenges facing engagement programs — adoption, leadership buy-in, and clarity of purpose — and how to overcome them to build a best-of-class employee engagement program. Watch the recorded webinar above, or check out the time-stamped transcript below.

00:00 Michelle: I’d like to introduce our two speakers for today: Skyler Rogers, Senior Manager at Kazoo, and Tiffany Scolnic, Senior Customer Success Manager also with Kazoo. As a senior manager, Skyler has spent years researching the employee experience and its effects on employee engagement in order to improve the Kazoo platform and offer valuable takeaways for teams of all sizes and industries. And Tiffany has been with Kazoo since 2015, and has supported a wide range of customers during her tenure. She specializes in customers who are looking to refresh their employee engagement experience, and enjoys taking a consultative strategic approach to building world-class company culture. Tiffany, Skyler, thank you both so much for being here today. I’ll now pass things over to you.

00:48 Skyler Rogers: Alright, thanks so much, Michelle. Hi everybody, Skyler here sitting right next to Tiffany. Like Michelle said, this is really a passion project for us here at Kazoo. I get to research this all the time, but also sort of consult with our customers and see what’s working and what’s not, and turn that into some valuable insights, so we’ve got some of those in here today. And sitting next to me is Tiffany, who is kind of a celebrity around here. We work with hundreds of organizations, and she’s sort of had her hands in some way on almost all of them, launching their engagement programs and helping consult make those even better day-to-day. So I’m really excited to be sitting next to her. Hi, Tiffany.

01:26 Tiffany Scolnic: Hi. Thanks, Skyler and welcome, everyone, to the call.

The challenges of employee engagement programs

01:30 Skyler Rogers: Alright. A lot to get into, so let’s jump in. Just as an overview, before we really get into some of the advice today, we wanna cover some of the challenges that we see, and the research proves it out, that a lot of engagement programs seem to be facing. Then we’re gonna combine that with what actually works, again, based on our work over the years with hundreds of organizations, but also what the research seems to be proving out on the engagement side, especially recently. And there’s a lot of ways to optimize these programs, but today, if nothing else, we’d love to really zero in on three of them, that if nothing else, those are kind of the biggest levers that we’ve found and the research seems to be proving out, that if you pull those levers, you’ll see the best bang for your buck in terms of putting yourself on the path at least to a best-in-class engagement program. And then hopefully at the end, like Michelle said, if you’ve got any questions, we’d love to sit and chat with you for a bit.

02:26 Skyler Rogers: Alright. So again, right from the top, looking at the really common challenges that we see facing engagement programs. The first one right here, we can talk to this for a second, it seems sort of straightforward I would hope, but adoption. We all are investing in these more and more, I’d be really surprised if anyone on the line’s not do anything when it comes to engagement programs these days. But probably what we’ve all seen is we’ve been burned by investing in a program or a certain technology. And it maybe starts strong, you see good engagement out the gate, but then the engagement numbers or participation numbers just sort of fall off on the program, adoption seems to fall off. So if you’re out there and you’re comparing programs or you’re looking at technologies that might help? Everyone has good intentions here. But really the best philosophy or the best technology means nothing if employees aren’t actually using it and not participating in your programs. But that said, with adoption in mind, I’d love to ask you, Tiffany, what are maybe some common mistakes that you’re seeing when someone comes in and says, “Help, we need a better program,” or, “We’re trying to change this. What should we do?”

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03:45 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, so there are a few things that definitely come to mind and some trends that we’ve seen business over business, industry over industry. First of all, there’s inconsistency among departments and locations, and what I mean by that is inconsistent messaging going out. This means that different departments and different locations have a different idea about what their employee engagement is all about. Maybe this means that managers are making the efforts in different ways, maybe some managers just aren’t doing it at all.

04:12 Skyler Rogers: Just to confirm there, do you think it’s maybe just not a consideration up front? When I’m rolling out a new engagement program or if maybe I’ve invested in a new piece of technology, are we just not considering that there might be some sort of nuances? Maybe if I have multiple locations or even within departments, does that kinda… On both of those levels that seems to be a mistake?

04:34 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, you can just think about it. If you have a different workforce, you’re going to have a different experience. For instance, an email heavy recognition program’s not gonna work for someone that works in a manufacturing plant, or if they’re a desk-less worker. You’re gonna be focused more on mobile stations or screens around the office or even collateral. And then even it could be that employees that are in the field, they may even be missing out.

04:58 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I love that. That’s kind of a subtle point, but I’ve seen you do this and your team do this really effectively, sort of recognizing, again, for lack of a better phrase, desk-less workers, how are they gonna engage in these engagement programs or employee recognition programs, or some of these pieces of technology that are a lot easier to get involved with and a lot easier to adopt if I have access to a computer all the time? So you’ll really work with those workforces to say, “Well, what are our opportunities here?” And maybe you’ll put up collateral, sort of reminding people about it or highlighting pieces of it in high traffic areas of warehouses or assembly plants. Or maybe in other parts of the office, you’re putting up screens that sort of flash pieces of the recognition program or other aspects of the engagement program up there. It seems sort of subtle, but even those low tech ways of carrying this out or a way of considering your workforce, considering various departments, right?

05:50 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, it will make a world of difference. Another thing too to think about when it comes to adoption is just general awareness. And this does tie back to some of what we just discussed. Is that if your program’s not top of mind, then it’s possible that it’s gonna fade into the background.

06:07 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, that’s great advice. What maybe are some practical or specific things you’ve seen companies do maybe to… Sort of with this awareness theme in mind or generating awareness across the company?

Build awareness for your employee engagement program

06:19 Tiffany Scolnic: Well, you really see the most success when there’s a little creativity put in there, so for instance, public shout-outs in a town hostile meeting or spot lighting someone in an engagement program like newsletters or the internet. We have a company, Meredith Corporation, that has really great awareness of their program.

06:37 Skyler Rogers: Oh yeah.

06:38 Tiffany Scolnic: Specifically because they have a thought out creative interactive newsletter that they send out once a month, and so people look forward to that, they’re excited about it, and it’s just a really great way to keep that program top of line.

06:51 Skyler Rogers: I remember that one. I actually worked with them to do a case study, and it did seem unique to me at the time. Even though this might seem common sense. But they weren’t just sort of sending out those nudges about like, “Hey, don’t forget we’ve got this program, you should be using it, instead of just little nudge reminders like that in the newsletter, a place where they knew a lot of people had their eyes, they would… I think straight up take a screenshot of things happening within the engagement program technology and sort of feature that this week, as an example of something great, it might have been like a really touching piece of employee recognition that happened, for instance… They would put that in the newsletter, and it was a great sort of practical way to, again, keep the program itself top-of-mind, send some reminders, but do it in an organic way. They’re like, “Look, these are the sorts of things that are already happening within the program, keep this in mind,” and their engagement numbers were amazing.

07:43 Tiffany Scolnic: High. Yeah.

07:44 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I mean Some of the best we’ve seen, especially in their industry, and I think year over year, they ended up cutting turn over in half because the engagement program… Not to take full credit but great correlation right?

07:55 Tiffany Scolnic: Exactly.

07:55 Skyler Rogers: An engagement program that a lot of people were adopting with a result like that.

Increase adoption of your employee engagement program

08:00 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, and then a couple others to think about too, is one: You wanna make sure that it’s resonating with company culture, so you see issues with adoptions when… If they try to make a one-size-fits-all program, but that’s just not how these things work, so if you just turn something on and forget about it, then your adoption is gonna fade over time. And that’s one of the things I’m really proud of, that what my team does is that we put a lot of effort into customizing an experience that’s gonna be unique to your company’s culture, and that way the program’s gonna match the employees motivations or just really any other thing that’s unique to the company itself…

08:35 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, you and the customer success team, really are amazing. Like I said, “I’m sitting next to a celebrity,” She’s great at that. Again, sort of tailoring these programs to your culture.

08:45 Tiffany Scolnic: And then the last thing to point about with the adoption phase is just usability, if there’s too many hoops that you’re gonna have to jump through to accomplish something like a recognition or a small reward, you’re going to lose the steam there. So for instance, if there is a process to send recognition that have to go to through, let’s say three layers of approval just to get a gift cards on someone’s desk, that’s too much effort and people are just not gonna feel motivated to follow through with that time over time, so we ask people to think through, how can we remove some of these barriers to make it a more seamless and efficient experience.

09:20 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I think this is when we see time and time again, one of the most important, especially for this point that we have on slide about starting strong and then withering away, when we dig into it, it seems like, you know, the perception from the employees is that there wasn’t enough reward to have to go through all these sort of manual steps of the program just to tell someone that, “Thank you for a piece of recognition,” but me having to go log it in an anonymous spreadsheet somewhere, get three layers of approval for that award to be approved ultimately, for someone to get possibly a note or a gift card on their desk three weeks later, this sort of effort, just doesn’t match the sort of gratification of it, so it’s great that something’s in place, we love that are trying things, but this aspect of sort of usability, think of it from the employee’s standpoint. If there’s too much, that I have to jump through to get there, ultimately uses just falls off.

10:13 Tiffany Scolnic: Exactly.

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Get leadership buy-in for your employee engagement program

10:17 Skyler Rogers: The second point, we have here like major challenge, I imagine some heads nodding for this one I see Tiffany nodding is leadership buy-in. These programs really mean well. Often times where they seem to be kinda rolled out sometimes as an HR initiative, and leadership maybe hasn’t been briefed on them or for whatever reason just isn’t using them, isn’t modeling themselves. And on the employee standpoint, we have a peer, if they don’t trust the messenger, if they don’t believe that this actually is a priority for the company, then they don’t trust the message and the program just ultimately fails…

10:55 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah. To piggy back off of that, there’s also three common themes we see in leadership buy-in. One, there’s no champion of the business. You don’t have a committee or even a person in charge to spearhead this initiative, it’s gonna lose steam again, and it’s gonna fall apart. And there’s also accountability. Is there anything being done to follow up with your team members that aren’t fully adopted or using this experience. And then lastly, if there’s no business case, then you’re gonna have a hard time tying those bottom line numbers to the program, and that’s gonna affect your leadership buying it.

11:29 Skyler Rogers: Absolutely yes, so keep those points in mind for this particular challenge, ’cause we’re gonna dig into this some more in the later slides, and if you have any questions about that or you’ve run into this kind of frustration, let us know, ’cause we’d be happy to try to answer that today. Or follow up with you. And then the last major challenge that we have up here is this notion that we call fragmentation. And unfortunately when we talk about engagement, it’s really become in some ways a buzzword. Right? We don’t talk about engagement the same way today as we did five or six years ago. And part of the problem is that, the main so many sort of products and technologies and approaches here are being done in the name of engagement, but just covering sort of one aspect of it. So if we’re out shopping for survey tools. All the survey tools are saying, “Well, you’re getting feedback from your employees, you’re allowing their voice to be heard, so, therefore engagement.” Or if we’re just think about our engagement efforts in general for doing things like discounts in a catalog of potential rewards of… That’s engagement.

12:32 Skyler Rogers: We’re upping our benefits and perks, we’re doing happy hours and events, investing in stuff like that. You’ve got a wellness program running off to the side, if you’ve got an employee rewards program, an employee recognition program. Well, I always have learning and development. If we’re looking into feedback, performance management. All these things cover some aspect of what motivates employees, what ultimately engages them. But oftentimes, especially when we get to talk to companies they’re sort of happening in silos, I guess. They’re not thought of as one cohesive engagement program, so to speak. They’re operating on their own. So it’s great that you have a book club, but if only those same 10 people are participating in it, right, it’s not creating the aspect of engagement that you probably wanted. The same thing with wellness. A lot of us might be frustrated that we do so much to promote wellness, but it’s kind of the same small percentage of employees that actually participate, right? Are there any other common mistakes when it comes to thinking about all these different programs or efforts that tie to engagement, but maybe we’re not thinking about it that way?

Be clear in your vision for your employee engagement program

13:35 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, the biggest thing is gonna be clarity in your vision. What do you want a better employee experience to look like at your company? But more importantly, how are you gonna go about measuring that? So I talk to a lot of customers who say, “Hey, we’re doing a lot for employees. We give them lunch, we give them learning and development opportunities. We throw them events. But why is our engagement so low?” And I go back to them and I say, “Do you have a clear understanding of your goals? Because implementing a piece of technology isn’t just going to solve your problems. You need to take a more holistic approach. So when you’re having those conversations, it really is all about putting those efforts towards one or a group of overall goals and not having them just wasting time on a bunch of wasting silos.

14:18 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I think you touched on it. That’s kind of a realization for some of these teams that we talk to, that we got feedback where we see a need or we see something reflected in our engagement scores, so it’s almost like a check the box exercise, right? Well, we need something that deals with engagement, so we go out and we shop for one and we purchase that piece of technology, or implement that program, and we put a check mark the day it launches. But like you said, maybe that launch wasn’t tied to certain metrics that we wanna improve, or it’s narrowly focused just on a couple metrics and not a lot of things sort of tied to engagement.

14:58 Tiffany Scolnic: Exactly, yeah.

15:00 Skyler Rogers: So that’s what we covered those three major challenges to try to summarize three sort of themes that we see for companies that we work with and companies that are… That focus a lot of the recent research, so we’d love to ask everyone in the audience today, like given those three major challenges, what’s the biggest one in your mind that your engagement program might be facing? Adoption, again, leadership buy-in, or this notion of fragmentation? Give it a second for people to be able to respond to that. Wow. Fragmentation. Really surprised as a leader right now. Around a third of people think leadership buy-in. And it looks like maybe people are doing okay with adoption. It’s kind of surprising. Okay, great. So keep those in mind, the holistic need of all of these programs, or this way of approaching engagement, working together, and the importance of leadership buy-in, ’cause we’d love to start diving into what the research says actually works, how to help these programs. And I’m putting up a slide now that relates to some efforts that we’ve done here at Kazoo recently. When we distilled down a lot of the research that Gallup has done worldwide, but also in the United States, those companies like Deloitte, really almost any major research foundation and research we can get our hands on.

Create a great employee experience

16:29 Skyler Rogers: We also went out and did some major surveys of, I think it was just over 3000 employees in the US workforce. But digging into what actually works when it comes to these programs, or what are the aspects of these cultures that are sparking really great employee experiences? And when we boiled all that down, we found what we call these 10 culture building blocks, and I won’t read all 10. You can see them on the screen, but you can see them dealing with these notions of the employee having a sense of pride for what the company does and stands for, having great relationships with both my team and managers, and things like regular feedback and appreciation on my day-to-day work. Instead of a feature set for a program or a piece of technology related to our engagement program, take a second and think, “Are the features of my program or some piece of technology that I’m using relating to these higher level culture building blocks.”

17:28 Skyler Rogers: Because these building blocks, if present in the culture and if present in the engagement program, are tied to what seems to be motivating employees, what seems to be having them respond in a way that they say, “Yes, I’m having an excellent employee experience.” But keep those in mind. We’ll also be sending some takeaway materials after the webinar today in addition to the slides. If you want more information on the culture building blocks or more ways to think about this stuff. And when we really dig into the survey results that we were seeing, some companies were doing great. Others had very poor employee experiences, and when we lump those results together, we really are big on actually building these programs. We got this building metaphor on the screen. You saw the construction workers on the last slide? Here’s like the foundation of a house. The lowest category being just baseline structure, so these are companies that are maybe just doing benefits and perks and maybe had a philosophy of…

18:35 Skyler Rogers: “Hey, providing certain basics for my employees and they’re getting a paycheck every week, isn’t that enough?” To the notion of engagement might seem like something fussy or nice to have when times are a little better that we might invest in or think about more. But in this baseline structure, it’s really only that benefits and perks line, as you can see on the screen kind of covered, but everything else hasn’t been thought of yet, or the employees don’t think that those are covered or a part of the engagement program. And so the bad news is 85% of the employees we talked to that had this baseline structure for their program, said that they’re having a negative employee experience. You can only imagine the direct ties a negative employer experience means on the engagement levels that they were seeing, and therefore things like a lot of stats that affect the bottom line, turnover, productivity, everything is sort of linked there.

19:28 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, and thankfully, we don’t see a lot of companies coming to us at this point in the game, word is getting out, but it is definitely something to make sure that we know about is, “What is the baseline there?”

19:39 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I would say that’s even a big change since five or six years ago, when we started, which is amazing to hear. ‘Cause again, word seems to be getting out that we should be thinking about this. This next structure again, now instead of the foundation, you’ve got the structure built out a little more, we call it, “From Baseline to Better,” we’ve got things like benefits and perks covered, and now we’re really starting to dig into and try to make efforts in our engagement programs towards aspects of those 10 culture building blocks. And even though that’s happening, I’ve still got maybe a lack of leadership involvement in the program, core values aren’t being exhibited in the program or by employees and leadership, relationships are suffering because we’re not maybe having the best one-on-ones and things like that.

20:26 Skyler Rogers: So the good news for a better structure is that you’ve got about four times more people saying they’re having a positive employee experience, but the bad news is that even at four times more people, it’s still around 60%, so 40% of people still aren’t really having a good time. To me, it still sounds like a failing grade because again, you can imagine the bottomline impact that people having a negative employee experience is happening everywhere else, all over the company. Tiffany, I imagine when you talk to a lot of companies, they might be sort of in this structure here, they’re not a worst case scenario, but we’re doing some things, we’re just not seeing results, right?

21:05 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, this is really the bulk of the customers that come to us, at Kazoo, this is where they are right now. And so this is a good place to be when you’re really looking to start building your employee engagement experience, because what we do is we’ll work with you as to where you are, and where you plan to go, and then provide you those consultative measures and strategic approaches to take you from this better to optimize.

21:28 Skyler Rogers: Optimize, yeah. Speaking of that, this is where we’re trying to get, this is the point of what we’re talking about today, having a best-in-class engagement program that creates one of these great cultures that also gives you a lot of the bottom-line benefits of the program working and here you’re firing on all cylinders, benefits and perks are covered. We’re thinking about the features of this program in terms of those 10 culture building blocks, but leadership’s also involved, core values being exhibited and modeled across the company, probably with help of the engagement program and relationships are improving, it could be with stuff like frequent one-on-ones or other ways that are being exhibited possibly through recognition, performance management, other aspects where the program can help again. So again, baseline, better optimized, but how do we get to, for this view you see on screen right now, where 95% of employees, when they had all these boxes covered, said that they had a positive employee experience, that’s phenomenal, can you imagine working at a company where that’s the case?

22:35 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah.

22:35 Skyler Rogers: And that’s when you see some of those companies featured in the headlines of, “This company did this for its culture and engagement program,” and now seeing… I think the latest stat from Harvard Business Reviews, they’re seeing about four times better returns than the S&P 500, so when you have this sort of investment in the employee experience, pretty incredible. But on our way to getting there, if we’re maybe at a better structure, and we’d love to get to optimize, there’s three factors that we can focus on that we found in our research. And again, just going down some of the others research, if you’re focusing only on these three areas, they’re the biggest levers that you can pull to see again the biggest bang for your buck and put yourself on a path pretty quickly towards optimization, leadership, appreciation, and growth and to dive into each of these, leadership first, I’ve got a stat on the screen here, but speaking of leaders, I think it was Gallup, yeah, I have it on screen. Gallup recently did a state of the American Manager Report, and they found that managers alone, manager involvement, just that one factor swings engagement scores by up to 70% which is pretty crazy.

Get leaders and managers to buy into the employee engagement process

23:56 Skyler Rogers: We talk about rolling this out from an HR standpoint and trying to get adoption. But sometimes managers are this forgotten layer of rolling these things out, but they have that much impact on these programs and any engagement effort really being effective. In our own research, too, we saw that 91% of employees had a positive employee experience when the leaders of their company, they model the best use of these programs and the core values of the company. When employees said that they didn’t see that from their leaders, that number fell to 47%, so just this one factor, swung it from 47% to 91%, the number of people saying they had a positive employee experience with the company.

24:42 Skyler Rogers: So the topic of leadership, I know it can be a sore subject, especially for maybe the managers that you talk to, Tiffany. You got to see this all the time. HR knows that culture might be suffering or that they want these programs to succeed, that the company’s made an investment in them, but they’re just not seeing the leadership involvement. What should they do? What advice do you typically give to people in this situation?

25:05 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah. Well, just to recap, we talked about lack of buy-in and so, not having a champion or not having that business case to really be some of those common mistakes that we see here. So again, talking through having that committee that’s gonna hold the leadership team accountable. And then also being able to tie those bottom line numbers. So… ’cause a lot of people leaders, they tend to be more why-driven, and when they’re gonna wanna see the stats that are gonna improve the ROI on this. So having those values available, using some technologies, like a survey… Oh, sorry, reports that are built into some of your platforms, will help provide that Why, as well. So yeah, talking about the committee… Really getting leaders to follow this mantra of, “Be that change that you wanna see,” for example, on our team here at Kazoo, one of our market development managers, he’s constantly recognizing his team. So this makes me as a people manager wanna step up my game in our employee engagement program, because not only is he really setting the standard for people managers, but his team is always not only just meeting their goals, but exceeding them. And they’re most engaged in our platform too. So to me, there’s that direct correlation between his buy-in and his team’s success, as well.

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26:27 Skyler Rogers: I love that… I know exactly the manager that you’re talking about and whose team you’re talking about. And yeah, that’s such a great way to think about it, right? Instead of nudging certain managers or top leadership of, “Hey, don’t forget, we invested in this program to do this, why aren’t you using it?” You know, that might work on some, all they need is a gentle reminder. But for others, you can really supply that Why by pulling out proof points from right here within the company. Like Tiffany said, she looked at the usage of the program from this one leader, saw that he’s one of the most involved in the program, using all the features of it. And then, “Oh, what a coincidence… Happens to coincide with when we looked at our own metrics and ALS reports, his team has some of the most engaged employees across the company on it. That’s the sort of snippet that you can pull out to show directly, like, “Look, this is what we’re trying to do. And then people who are doing it this way are seeing results.” That can really help people get off the fence and make this not seem just like another thing that I have to do or allocate time for.

27:35 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah. And ’cause one of the great things too, is… Our studies have shown that people will repeat the behaviors in which they’ve been recognized for. And so our manager that’s constantly using our platform, he’s always recognizing when his team is ahead of meeting goal, or they have exceeded their goal, and they’re continuously exceeding their goals. It’s really easy to see that direct correlation there.

28:01 Skyler Rogers: Right.

28:02 Tiffany Scolnic: And then the next thing too we talked about was the… Creating accountability. So, if you start… Basically, if you’re gonna start following up on the managers that aren’t using the program, someone does need to be there to hold people accountable, ’cause if it’s not used, then there’s no value.

28:21 Skyler Rogers: Yeah. I try to think of your day-to-day. And I feel like you try to help companies do this, if they’re not already. You might set up a reoccurring, maybe manager check-in or manager training event.

28:38 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah.

28:39 Skyler Rogers: Sort of addresses. So in some ways, it could be, “Hey, don’t forget about this thing. You might just have been saying you’re too busy to use it.” But maybe some people just need a refresher course on, “This is in place. Here’s how to use it effectively. Here’s some results we’re seeing across the company, if you do.” It’s easier to make that business case for it, right?

29:03 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah. Basically, if you’re wanting to hold people accountable, come from a place of curiosity. Some people may resonate with that call out if they’re really competitive, but others may not. So ask questions about, “Why aren’t you using our employee engagement platform?” Maybe they’re not aware of it, or maybe they’re unsure how to get started. But you can really just start by asking some probing questions about why they’re not bought in. And this is also to where some of that data is gonna come into place. For instance, in our Kazoo platform, admins can show managers if they’re amongst some of the lowest engaged and then they can start the conversation to understand the Why. So it really just this come this a human side of recognition, engagement and culture. And that human side, it just may not always resonate with everyone, including some of our executives that again, want that bottom line. So bottom line metrics like, retention to help drive the point home or even a simple survey results, like that ENPS or feedback on managers, are gonna provide data points on employee satisfaction, happiness, and then other leading indicators that engagement could be.

30:08 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I really can’t overstate the value of… If the technology you’re using for one of these programs doesn’t give it to you automatically, going and finding that somewhere else… Again, maybe if you’ve done a survey recently and some feedback has come up, or you have some of these anecdotes about teams that are involved in this program and their results, or teams that aren’t involved and some of their results… But it really helps with this notion of the… There’s like an awkward conversation, right? If people want to be honest about it. You know, raising this with a leader or even an executive, trying to… Not necessarily call them out, but bring up the fact that, “Your participation would be so valuable here. But you’re not using it.” That’s… That could be a hard thing to raise, right? But like Tiffany is saying, having those anecdotes on hand or if the platform or the engagement program has some reporting, bringing that data to it really takes that out of the air, that uncomfortable ask, right?

Tie employee engagement to recognition and appreciation

31:08 Skyler Rogers: Great. That’s lever number one, leadership. The second one is appreciation. And we were just talking about leadership, and another Gallup set that I have here is that when they looked at teams where managers or people in leadership positions on the team were recognizing the strengths of the people around them, they saw that engagement just on those teams could double compared to just not doing that one thing in your management task or not thinking about your appreciation in that way. And another thing, a SHRM stirred study recently, that when recognition of the company, recognition and appreciation, when that was carried out in a way that tied to an organization’s values, or if you think about your core values, that might be on a wall somewhere or in a onboarding packet or something, when appreciation was tied to core values, 70% of the company’s doing that, said they had a strong return on investment from these engagement programs, especially the appreciation part of it.

32:12 Skyler Rogers: And just again, that one factor, so when recognition is not tied to core values, only 38% of companies said that they were seeing a good return on investment. So again, a jump from 38% to 70, just because they were trying to tie appreciation efforts to organizational values or core values. We mentioned these two nuances of appreciation, looking at people’s strengths, or tying them to core values because it really is that sort of nuance when it comes to this aspect of appreciation. A lot of us are coming at this with great intentions, right? A lot of us social managers have an appreciation mindset. We know we should be doing the thank yous and the good jobs, but if you [32:57] ____ to be the way it’s carried out. There’s just a little bit of a lack of training or awareness or how we should be carrying out or showing that appreciation that is all the difference in this being that major lever that turns it into a best-in-class way of doing appreciation and recognition in these programs, right?

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33:15 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah. And so there are a few things that come to mind when we’re thinking about this appreciation part, specifically, if you’re not doing the recognizing yourself. If you’re not taking the time to actually do it, but then hoping someone else will do it on your behalf. And that’s the common mistake that we see.

33:34 Skyler Rogers: Been there.

33:35 Tiffany Scolnic: Also managers, we talk about appreciation, but if managers are only recognizing their teams, but not recognizing across departments, that’s something an opportunity to work on as well because we really wanna foster this cross-departmental relationships. And then lastly, this is a big one, is what kind of recognition are you sending? There are high-level appreciation, like, “Thank you or Good job.” Well, that’s great. How can we really tie it back to the company goals and mission? So really making that recognition specific, meaningful and impactful and sending it in a timely manner.

34:11 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I’d love to zero in on some of those words you just said from, if nothing else, from this slide. I think it would help so many people, and we’ve gone through this training in this exercise, of just writing down, I guess three of those words. Timely, specific and meaningful. ‘Cause like you said, the thank you and the good job, always appreciate it, right? Way better than nothing, but it’s that little shift in focus or frame of mind for not sending a piece of recognition three months later at an all hands meeting, but it being actually timely, pretty close on afterwards as well as specific and meaningful. And I talked about the awkwardness of these situations or… This is one of the most common questions I think we get is, I wanna recognize people, but it feels weird. It not only feels weird for me to go seek you out and corner you in the office and be like, “Hey, great job on that thing.” And then walk away. But that’s sometimes an uncomfortable experience for the person receiving that as well, even though it comes from a great place. Into this notion of it being specific is the advice that we give to people. So, if that feels like an awkward conversation, think about the day-to-day on your team, for instance, if you have a sort of direct report.

35:31 Skyler Rogers: There’s probably a lot of goals and things that we’ve agreed on are priorities for us as a team, or maybe priorities even for this individual project. And if I can get specific about something that you did and tie it to the goals for that project, that takes all the awkwardness out of it. Like, “Why did that person just come say that to me or send that recognition to me?” Just a strongman example. Me thanking Tiffany for some excellent speaker notes that she supplied for the webinar, for instance. It may be weird for me to just come over to her desk and like, “Hey, thanks so much for those notes,” and walk away. But when we both acknowledge that, “Hey, thanks so much for those notes. This webinar really means a lot to me. It’s a subject that I’m passionate about, so just to see that you’re doing that kind of prep means so much, and I think we’re really gonna have a great conversation today because of it.”

36:26 Skyler Rogers: Just that one piece of thought into specifically, why am I sending this piece of recognition and maybe tying it to a priority, a higher goal, again, takes that sort of awkwardness out of it. And if you can reflect that over and over in the appreciation that you’re sending, whether it’s a note that accompanies a gift card, or if you’ve got a piece of technology that allows people to send peer-to-peer recognition to each other. That way of framing, I think, Tiffany, correct me if I’m wrong, but you regularly do manager trainings or when you’re rolling out these programs, you’ll try to coach that in. And I think that’s probably a great piece of advice when thinking about appreciation.

37:03 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, it really all goes back to driving home the impact that this person is making, either to drive the business or even just to make someone’s day a little bit better. Everyone wants to know that their work has value and meaning in it and this is regardless of what their role is. So if you send that recognition and keep that real time specific and meaningful in there, they’re gonna understand their impact, which is gonna help them understand the meaning that they have in their work, which is gonna help connect them to their leadership and to their peers. So it really does take everything, a full circle. Again, just those three words, timely, specific and meaningful, have a lot of power. So I always encourage my people leaders when I’m having these conversations is, this is a new habit that you have to form. Keep it on a sticky note by your desk or just make sure that it’s visible to you so whenever you are sending recognition, you know to tie back to those three keywords.

37:52 Skyler Rogers: And if it sounds daunting, this can also be a sensitive subject for some but I mentioned peer-to-peer recognition earlier and that’s another major recommendation we have when it comes to appreciation because if we just gave the advice that you heard from us to managers only because they were the only ones empowered at the company to send appreciation, to create recognition posts, to write recognition that other people see, it’s really hard for them to know the nuances of every project and every team so naturally I would maybe only be recognizing within my team or department and contribute to the siloed nature but guess what, a lot of the people, that individual contributors talk to every day, a lot of the cross-departmental talks… Other people know, those nuances of the day-to-day work and so if you open up the recognition, whatever tool you have, whatever process you have, whatever program you have for the recognition and appreciate this side, if you open it up for peer-to-peer, in other words, anyone at the company can recognize across departments or from bottom of… That’s really a super simple way to what we call like democratize recognition at the company and you’ll be able to see this timely, specific meaningful recognition organically start happening rather than putting all the burdens on managers or leaders. Great.

Tie employee engagement to growth

39:15 Skyler Rogers: The last major lever to think about optimizing when it comes to these programs is what we’ve just summed up as growth, and I have to sat up here on the screen but only 21% of employees are getting feedback that actually motivates them. When we talk about growth, we’re talking about these aspects of how am I being challenged in my job that deals with, both performance management, maybe, or the kinds of learning and development that I’m doing. Learning and development, probably nothing new for a lot of people listening today. We’re investing billions now and learn to, it’s one of the hottest categories of programs to be investing in, even if maybe we’re not thinking of it as engagement, even though it is, again, that fragmentation problem, the Association for talent development, came out the study pointing out, yes, we are spending billions on this now when it comes to learning and development, maybe that’s something creative you’re doing, or maybe it’s sort of the online modules that you offer or another way of doing L and D, but when they really looked at those programs, the overall net promoter score from employees, in other words like how employees, how do employees regard these learning development programs we have.

40:27 Skyler Rogers: The average score out there is a negative eight, net promoter score from employees so it’s great that we’re doing something but their perception, the usefulness of these learning and development programs, just isn’t being felt by employees. So challenging the way that we think about growth for the employees, how has performance management involved or being thought of, and what are we getting out of the learning and development options that were offering. I tend to ask you, Tiffany, for common mistakes here, but I wonder if this one’s a little bit different ’cause maybe growth and performance management learning aren’t being thought of as a aspect of these programs at all. I would just love your take on this.

41:15 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, just taking even a step back as a people manager, and if anyone… So the people managers on the phone too is you know for you that success is gonna be seeing everyone that reports to you grow and develop and eventually be promoted into something bigger and better be it ideally in your company, or even if it’s into another position at another company, it’s just all about that professional growth, ’cause of course too your employees were gonna want those opportunities for growth as well. So we see as a challenge when performance management isn’t thought of as engagement, but rather just considered another program or initiative and more like the “dark side” where it’s not as enjoyable, but it’s still a really big piece, so… Well, people often think about the perks, they don’t necessarily think about the runway to get there, so how do you think about as a people manager, how do you foster growth? Do you offer a path?

42:08 Tiffany Scolnic: Even if that path isn’t necessarily clear, are you paving that way, so help your employ, visualize that and let them see how they’re contributing to that, and that’s where performance management really comes in. And especially with things like goals, feedback check-ins, all of these things with the performance management side are gonna lead to more engaged, driven and ultimately more motivated members of your team.

42:32 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I think that’s really hard, ’cause again, when I think of engagement is usually associated with the positive side, the rewarding as the appreciation side, and then we have a separate initiative or an end of year initiative in some cases for performance management, performance reviews, performance evaluations. And those are means to an end of, again, evaluating what happened and how we can get better, but it’s not necessarily thought of as this should be carried out in a way that ties to employee motivation or long-term engagement, people having that positive employee experience.

43:11 Skyler Rogers: So I think you covered that as one of the major problems when you consult with companies and just sort of perception of performance management, Learning and Development. I’ll just love to add that I’m super biased, but I can’t overstate the role that technology can play here and how it can enable all this, because this sounds like a time advice, it sounds like a lot of perhaps blame or responsibilities put on the shoulders of managers and leaders.

Use technology to make employee engagement programs work

43:40 Skyler Rogers: So in addition to all the stuff that we’re doing every single day. How am I supposed to think about all these aspects of appreciation, modeling core values, having the right kinds of feedback and check-ins and performance management conversations with people. Again, I’m biased because we work for a platform that does this for us, but it automatically in our sort of day-to-day has those sorts of nudges to set these goals to get on the same page as my direct reports with what our individual goals are, what our teams and departments, and the company’s goals are to get that alignment, but then those subtle nudges of like, “Hey, it’s been a little bit… Where are we when it comes to this goal? Are we ahead of schedule or behind schedule?” It’s really nudges me to have that check-in and record feedback about it.

44:26 Skyler Rogers: In a way that it’s much easier to see that bigger picture of, “Okay, I see how all of this is working together, our performance management conversations, our check-ins as a manager and an individual contributor. I can compare that and see it working in tandem with the recognition that you’re getting as an employee or other aspects of the engagement program that we either are or aren’t participating in.” So it’s less of a sort of mental burden when technology can hopefully help us out with this stuff. So however you’re recording that, whether you have the greatest set of spreadsheets ever, I’d love to see that, or doing some of these trainings that Tiffany mentioned that when we come in and consult we’re maybe having those to roll out at a company or to do ongoing course correction maybe. Or again, using a platform to help you. I can’t overstate how much burden that reduces because this can feel like a lot.

45:33 Skyler Rogers: Alright, we’ve covered so much there. So just to recap, be wary of those common challenges that we talked about. It sounds like a lot of you maybe have some awareness or are gaining awareness of the fragmentation aspect of could a lot of the programs and efforts that we’re doing work better together, rather than being a whole bunch of siloed efforts that hopefully have their own little boost on engagement and help our overall program? Framing things as the sort of basic, better optimized program. Where are we at right now? And maybe keeping those in mind in terms of setting a goal for how we wanna get better, or just being wary when you talk to others at your company of the risks. If we’re in a basic set-up right now, if we stay here, we run these sorts of risks and/or some of the studies show we have probably a pretty low level of engagement, or we risk having a really low level of engagement. So keep those sort of frameworks in mind of basic better or trying to get to optimized best-in-class. And then we showed you those three levers that if you really dig into those especially, those have the biggest jumps in terms of if I can correct those aspects of our employee engagement program, they’ll have the biggest bang for the buck. And then hopefully later or at the same time, we can optimize some of those other areas as well as, the 10 building blocks that we showed you.

47:00 Skyler Rogers: All that said, we also just wanted to point out that we talked a lot about some of the results that we see using Kazoo day to day, but also some of the consulting we do. Hopefully, as you can tell, we absolutely love talking about this with any and everyone, so if you’d love to see a demo of how we do this stuff or maybe a set-up that shows you ways that you could fold some of your programs into a platform like ours, just choose the “yes” on this poll and we’ll be happy to follow up and answer any questions you’ve got. And speaking of Q&A, I feel like we’re at that part now.

Audience Q&A

47:38 Michelle: Absolutely. Great presentation, guys. Lots of great questions coming in, plenty of time, so everyone in the audience, please keep them coming. Alright, guys, first question here, “How can you implement employee engagement on a tight budget?”

47:53 Tiffany Scolnic: Do you want me to speak to that?

47:55 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I’d love to hear your take on this.

47:58 Tiffany Scolnic: Well, one of the things… And I kind of come into this conversation with a bit of the Kazoo hat on, so again I’m a little bit biased. But if you want to reward and recognize, you don’t necessarily have to have monetary rewards. I work with a lot of customers that have really tight budgets, and that’s where you can get creative. Maybe you can have a CFO or a CEO or someone offer up some time for a mentoring session where people can understand their paths and how they can get there. Or maybe someone’s willing to give up a really great parking spot for a week, or you can get a conference room as your office for the week. So there’s a lot of options there that you don’t necessarily need a lot of money. It’s just going to be a matter of being creative and thinking about what is gonna resonate with your employees, what really impacts them culturally, and then we’ll work with you or whatever program you choose to go with to help drive that initiative.

48:49 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I love that. We talk about it as the non-monetary aspect of it.

48:55 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah, the experience aspect.

48:57 Skyler Rogers: Right. And that’s just a matter of, we mentioned it before, tailoring some of these programs to your unique culture. It might be the case that a lot of people are motivated by monetary rewards, but there’s a lot of wiggle room, especially when you dig into people’s motivations of, “Well, what would give me some motivation, give me something to work towards in these programs that doesn’t necessarily cost me a $100 gift card every time I wanna carry that out?” So that way of thinking about our unique culture and ways to tap into non-monetary things.

49:28 Skyler Rogers: Other advice that we give people, and maybe this isn’t just top of mind for everyone, I’m surprised, having gone through some of our case studies, is that a lot of times the budget for this sort of stuff is already there, but investing in employee engagement is thought of as an additional cost. Whereas when we started talking to the company, we realized, “Hey, if you’re taking this holistic view and realizing that if we can tie our wellness initiatives, if we can tie our safety initiatives and tie little incentives or awareness things into that, connect them to these employee engagement efforts, connect them to our engagement program, some of the budget that you were already spending on initiatives to improve safety or… ” A lot of people were doing ad hoc things where managers have the ability to just reward people, buy a gift card at some point, they had that sort of leeway already in there. When they added those things up, when they added that sort of fragmentation up across the company, it’s like, “Wow, we’re already spending way less than what this would have cost to invest in a piece of technology.” It was much easier to have that conversation with the finance department. “We’re already spending this in other areas to try to improve these aspects of engagement, let’s just allocate that budget to this larger program.”

50:44 Michelle: Great, thank you both. And can you talk about where onboarding falls in engagement?

50:51 Tiffany Scolnic: Yeah. I think that as soon as someone is onboarded onto the company, there’s a great opportunity to dive into that engagement experience, really have it be the foundation of what they come to learn and expect within the company. For instance, again, I have my Kazoo hat on, but we have and always encourage people to talk about the Kazoo platform on the first day of orientation, and even encourage people to go in and recognize people as soon as they get involved, or even to have managers recognize their new team members as soon as they get into the company. So we really strongly encourage, “Make it a precedent from day one.”

51:36 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, I can’t overstate the importance of the onboarding part, especially if you’re not currently thinking about it in terms of engagement. There’s so much research coming out about this right now, but that first day, that first week, even the pre-launch leading up to day one, framing it in terms of, “How can you create clear expectations in this first day, in this first week, in this first month of what’s expected from me? Not only in this individual job, but in terms of being an engaged employee here. What sort of actions should I take that match the company values?”

52:13 Skyler Rogers: In Kazoo, it’s really easy, we point people. Like Tiffany said, we give them as part of their orientation a walk-through of the platform itself. And they can see in the activity feed activities happening across the company that are tied to our core values. But if you can reduce that uncertainty about, “Well, what’s expected of me in this role, but what’s also expected of me as a contributing employee here who contributes to that culture or actually lives out these core values that we might have written somewhere?” If you can model that and sort of, again, show them what clear examples are of that, the onboarding research shows that not only is the engagement gonna go up, but you’re gonna lose a lot of that bad side, which is a lot of people end up quitting in the first three months, especially in high turnover industries.

53:01 Tiffany Scolnic: And really, it’s just when you do the onboarding, setting the expectation right off the bat that they are coming into a company who part of your culture is a culture of recognition, so setting that expectation right off the bat. And then again, when you have that leadership buy-in and they’re coming in and they’re being recognized by their new teammates and by their leadership team, they’re gonna really know that example has been set, they’re gonna know to move forward with that as well.

53:28 Michelle: Alright, thank you. I know we are getting close to the top of the hour, so we’re just gonna try to squeeze in a couple more questions here. And next question, “How do you suggest engaging a manufacturing employee group that does not have an Internet or access to computers?”

53:44 Tiffany Scolnic: This is something that we work with a lot over here at Kazoo. I’m smiling because this is just kind of our day-to-day. A couple things with that. One, going back to those kiosks or other opportunities we talked about to inform and educate on the employee engagement experience, getting creative with how you communicate this messaging out, but this is also really gonna be where your manager buy-in is gonna be crucial. Because if you’re gonna have your managers that are going in that are recognizing, that are doing those performance management activities, there really does become a butterfly effect. As that becomes more of a common action from leadership, then people then that are receiving that recognition are gonna wanna pay it forward. So we really think of it as that butterfly effect, but it just has to start somewhere. And that’s why in an industry like that, leadership is going to be key to the success.

54:36 Skyler Rogers: Yeah, crazy correlation in those customers of ours where just even the smallest amounts of manager effort pay off so big in terms of those teams or those sort of warehouses or those delivery teams buying into the program, so to speak. And getting on that phone after the shift to check what was said or what recognition was given or what reward was thrown our way. But having done some case studies here as well, it really is a way of getting creative about if a new piece of technology or a new kind of program isn’t always met with quick adoption, and part of it’s because we can’t access our phones or other technology on the job, getting creative about when we do have people’s eyes or what is motivating people to take notice.

55:28 Skyler Rogers: I talked to one team who always did an end-of-year event where some sort of bonus was given. And what they did the year after they launched Kazoo was do a hand-held card at the event, a takeaway. And on it was just a really thoughtful message about thanking them for everything they’ve done that year, but on the back were these explicit, really just three steps. One, two, three. “Hey, your bonus is waiting for you on the Kazoo platform. Take these steps to log in right now from your phone and you’ll be able to go access it for the customer awards that that company had.” They knew that people really pay attention to that end-of-year event, that we were gonna have everyone gathered in one place, and then just that little step of putting the instructions for accessing this program, for interacting with the program right there on that card at that event, they saw a crazy jump in people maybe logging in if they hadn’t done it in weeks or so, and some of the newest drivers, maybe it was their first time logging in at all, but associated with such a big pay off. “Okay, that thing I was sort of putting off, now that I’ve figured out how to log into it, there was my end of year bonus or customized reward waiting for me with a piece of recognition.”

56:54 Skyler Rogers: So they just get creative about opportunities that they do have, if people are checking and are paying attention. So sometimes that’s something like that card, sometimes it’s putting screens up in high traffic areas, like we mentioned. Sometimes it’s actual physical posters and things I’ve seen Tiffany’s team do that managers can sort of walk the form and be like, “Hey, great job. Here’s a physical thing. Later on today, you can go log in if you want and take advantage of this.”

57:24 Michelle: Great. Well, thank you both so much. I know, again, we are hitting the top of the hour…

Improving the employee experience with technology

We hope this webinar helped you understand the importance of employee engagement at your company, and gave you some ideas about where to start. And if you need a little more help, well, that’s where we come in.

At Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings goals, performance management, recognition, rewards, surveys, and more into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

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