Employee Engagement Popular

Using the ‘Drive to Acquire’ Psychology to Enhance Employee Engagement

Evolutionary Psychology is a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding human nature from a historical perspective, based on the study of genetics, archeology, neuroscience etc. Modern evolutionary psychologists have been able to rigorously study human behavior using brain-imaging, pharmaceutical and genetic technologies. Among them, two Harvard professors- Nitin Nohria and Paul Lawrence, have studied people in the workplace and built on previous research to propose 4 human drives that regulate our behavior at the workplace. They are as follows:

  1. The Drive to Acquire – the desire to obtain physical objects like money, cars, trophies as well as intangible goods like status and fame
  2. The Drive to Bond – the desire for harmonious interpersonal relationships and alliances; the need to belong
  3. The Drive to Innovate – the desire to learn new things and try novel methods to solve old problems
  4. The Drive to Defend – the desire to hold on to and fiercely defend the people, things and values we cherish

In this blog, we will focus on the first human biologic drive- the ‘Drive to Acquire’ and its role in driving better employee engagement in your firm.

As described above, human beings are naturally driven to acquire both material and non-material things. This ancient drive has been compelling humans to put immense effort into ensuring not just their survival, but a healthy social status, thereby gaining power and influence. The drive to acquire provides an inherent reward for achievement, in two ways:

  1. A short-term moment of euphoria
  2. A long-term increase in self-worth

The instant euphoria gained upon any achievement, like solving a difficult problem at work or completing a task before the deadline, leads to a quick rush of dopamine, the feel-good hormone, which encourages us to pursue more such achievements. A long-term increase in self-worth is characterized by high amounts of the hormone serotonin and has been found to be present in people with high social status and prestige. While the former type of reward leads to in-the-moment energy and motivation, the latter creates a permanent increase in self-esteem, which can be the ultimate reward for any professional. So how do you implement this learning to engage employees more effectively?

Every time an employee does something good, they need to feel a sense of having acquired something (expertise, mastery, appreciation, money or a tangible prize) for them to be happy and productive. This can be accomplished by public words of appreciation, instant recognition, spot awards, badges etc. It is also important to remember that while every such achievement leads to a mini-high, this euphoric feeling may fade if these moments are too sparse in nature. Thus, for the long term, employees need to be engaged by assuring them of their value in the organization and increasing employer connect. This can be accomplished by active employee listening through surveys, gifting of company branded merchandise, offering non-monetary rewards in the form of “Rendezvous with the Executive Management” etc.  Following are some strategies that can tap into your employees’ drive to acquire:

  1. Breaking down major goals into achievable milestones and creating an incremental rewards scheme
  2. Actively looking out for positive behaviors and daily achievements and recognizing them
  3. Giving spontaneous, heartfelt recognition, right after a significant accomplishment
  4. Making recognition public and status-enhancing
  5. Supplementing recognition from peers and managers with a points-based rewards system where employees strive to earn more points to attain greater monetary rewards

An effective total rewards program helps an employee relive their moment of euphoria and elevate self-worth, thus multiplying the impact of achievement and activating the drive to acquire more of the same. Incorporating these scientific principles into your total rewards program is not essentially difficult. However, the process needs stringent structures and platform flexibility to reflect each firm’s engagement objectives uniquely. Thus, to accelerate the adoption process, choosing the right R&R partner is of utmost importance.

In our next blog, we will examine the role of the ‘Drive to Bond’ in creating a successful employee engagement program. Stay tuned!

Employee Engagement

Create an Effective Employee Rewards Program Using the Halo Effect

The term ‘Halo Effect’ was first coined by a psychologist named Edward Thorndike in 1920. However, it was later popularized by neuroscientists and psychologists, striving to understand the hidden cognitive phenomenon influencing the behavior of the modern man. The Halo Effect occurs when one or more past experiences with an individual, place or entity are used to create the current overall perception, resulting in a sort of halo around everything associated with the subject. Nobel Laureate Kahneman draws this concept back to the ‘associative machine’: a system of the intuitive (or subconscious) brain used to form impressions about someone or something based on all the collective past experiences related to that person or entity. In this blog, we explore how you can use this knowledge to create an effective Employee Rewards Program.

Using the ‘associative machine’, our brain keeps track of all the positive and negative experiences we’ve had with a given company or brand and generates an overall impression that guides our choices when those memories are activated. In our previous blog, we have already highlighted that emotions are the basis on which memories are stored in the brain- the stronger the emotion, the more deeply the memory is seared into our brains and the easier it is to retrieve it when a similar situation arises. Therefore, employers must seek to create multiple emotional experiences that trigger happy, positive memories related to the organization, in the minds of its employees. This will ensure a continual positive influence on employees’ decisions and actions in day-to-day operations, which will ultimately benefit the organization’s profitability.

To understand the phenomenon better, let’s digress into a popular example- celebrity endorsements in advertising. The Halo effect is the reason why customers start thinking positively of a product once a celebrity spokesperson endorses it. It does not have so much to do with the product itself; rather it has more to do with the positive qualities the celebrity is known for. Marketers create an unconscious positive association in the minds of potential customers, which impacts customer loyalty. In an ideal world, consumers would only look at product features and reviews to come to a rational buying decision. In the same way, employees would ideally only consider their monetary compensation and job profile as motivators for peak performance. But, as research has already shown, humans tend to take shortcuts while thinking, as the analytical way of thinking is laborious and doesn’t kick in as fast as our intuitions.

Example of Halo Effect in Workplace

In the context of employee rewards and recognition, the Halo Effect can be leveraged to improve your organization’s total rewards program, in the following ways:

  1. Introduce gamification in your award system to create fun, exciting experiences for employees, especially those having clerical or repetitive job functions. Giving away badges, titles or points frequently can help employees feel valued and create a mini emotional rush every time they receive something. The better they perform, the more awards and titles they receive and the higher they think of their employer. This becomes a virtuous cycle.
  1. Using the ‘best for the last’ principle in employee rewards and recognition. For instance, by disbursing a mega reward right at the end of a high-yielding quarter/year. This will lead to the employees remembering the whole year or quarter positively for a long time to come
  1. Highlighting company achievements and even department-level accomplishments frequently through virtual meetings can help employees associate their work or even identity with success, thereby boosting employee morale.

It is imperative for organizations to improve or polish their halo with every successive interaction with their employees. This requires planning with employee-centricity in mind, which will ultimately help win the best talent for the organization and positively impact sales and customer loyalty.

Employee Engagement

How Workplace Friendships Impact Employee Engagement

To reach its’ annual findings on employee engagement metrics, Gallup asks a regular question that remains highly debated- Do you have a best friend at work? In a 2018 follow up study, they acknowledged that while the question seemed simple on the surface, it often elicited the strongest response from participants, particularly from managers who remain convinced that work equations and personal relationships should be treated separately. Why then do so many imminent researchers in the field continue to explore this topic? The answer is simple- workplace friendships are found to have a significant positive impact on an employee’s engagement with a firm, an impact found across industries, geographies and functions.

For many professionals, their friends at work are their lifeline, the bond that makes them want to show up every day, solve new problems and laugh about the ones they couldn’t solve. More importantly, they keep them motivated and feel more connected to their work and organization as a whole. An employee who has forged friendships with their colleagues is 7 times more likely to be engaged in their job than those who do not enjoy the same privilege. 58% of men surveyed by a boutique consultancy would refuse a higher paying job if it meant not getting along with their colleagues. The same survey showed a staggering 74% women making the same choice. The need for friendships in the workplace is even higher for today’s millennial generation. With 50-hour work weeks and increased physical distance from family members and hometowns, the office often becomes the only avenue to beat loneliness. Most millennials consider the strength of their bonds with their colleagues the most important factor in judging their job satisfaction. Thus, workplace friendships not only foster a collaborative and positive environment, but also play a role in boosting the emotional and mental well-being of an employee.

From an employer’s standpoint, the more engaged and happy employees are, the more dedication they will show to their jobs. A firm that boasts of strong ties amongst team members also has a significant advantage when it comes to employee retention. This is because while monetary compensation can remain unchanged between two companies, an employee enjoys a powerful support system in your firm that is not necessarily guaranteed elsewhere. Thus, an employer must make an active effort to help foster these friendships and not just believe that they will organically develop.

To encourage these friendships, employers must try to boost collaboration amongst employees and encourage them to get to know one another on a deeper, more personal level. Having an employee engagement platform can help accomplish this, even for remote teams. With the publication of recognitions, birthdays, long service anniversaries and even with contests like talent shows and bingo nights, employers can encourage conversations outside of mundane tasks. With an easy-to-use ‘Group Events’ feature and an extensive online gifting portal, teams can collectively celebrate milestones with little logistical effort that may usually create a hurdle. Employers can use an engagement platform to create forums where employees with common interests can exchange thoughts, ideas and can learn from each other. Moreover, employers are able to measure this obscure metric of ‘employee bonding’ through regular reports and top-down transparency on collaboration patterns between different teams and departments.

Employees Celebrating Birthday

Loyalty towards colleagues automatically translates in loyalty towards a brand. Thus, the easiest way to increase ‘employee engagement’ within a firm is increasing engagement amongst the employees first.

Employee Engagement

How Emotional Stamps Influence Employee Engagement & Retention

In the previous introductory blog, we had discussed the significance of Behavioral Economics in creating a scientific framework for employee engagement, total rewards and recognition frameworks. Multiple psychological factors are at play when employees think and behave in a certain way in the workplace. We need to harness this knowledge to encourage better performance and improve levels of employee engagement.

In this blog post, we will talk about a specific cognitive phenomenon- Emotional Stamps and their significance in creating the right kind of employee rewards program to attain greater ROI. To understand this better, let’s first talk about how human beings think. Nobel prize winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s insights present a simple model for us to understand this. In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, he explains that we think in two ways- fast (intuitive) and slow (logical).  Most of the time, we rely on the fast way of thinking through an ‘associative machine’ in the brain which recalls previously stored information in the form of visuals, information and feelings to arrive at a decision. This is involuntary, effortless and does not involve slow or logical thinking unless the information we have is proved wrong. With the colossal amount of information that gets processed by our minds every day, it is safe to say that most human beings majorly rely on this intuitive system of thinking. Now we arrive at the concept of emotional stamps. Because we are using this ‘fast’ method of thinking, memories are marked in our minds with a powerful emotional stamp for retrieval. These stamps are the reason you remember your grandparents when you smell a traditional dish or feel warm and happy when you look at old pictures. In addition, it is proved by several scientists including neurobiologist Matthew Walker in his book Why We Sleep that memories with a strong emotional impact are more easily remembered, as opposed to those lacking emotion. So how does this relate to an employee’s life cycle?

An employee remembers their time with an organization based on the highs and lows they faced while working there. Peak moments of achievement create a powerful sense of euphoria and the more that are created, the more fondly they will remember their time within a firm. A simple way to accomplish these stamps is by recognizing extraordinary efforts with a tangible reward and words of appreciation. Rewards such as customized gifts, certificates and trophies can be remembered more strongly, resulting in a re-living of the positive memory which in turn, increases loyalty to the employer brand. Every recognition received by an employee creates an emotional stamp. Moreover, rewards in the form of experiences create further emotional stamps during recall. Curating rewards to match an employee’s preferences is the key secret to building a long-lasting memory. For example- someone who enjoys travel may like to visit a popular destination or participate in an adventure sport, vouchers of which should be made available in a reward catalog.

While it is essential to avoid the formulation of negative emotional stamps within an employee, promoting the creation of positive ones is equally, if not more important. In today’s competitive industries, retention of employees is critical. Moreover, the ones who choose to leave often become brand ambassadors of your firm to potential recruits. If we provide strong emotional stimulus to employees frequently, we will be able to create a positive employer brand, work culture and inspire higher performance in employees. Likewise, the same strategies can be used to build better relationships with channel partners and customers.

Young Male Employee Expressing Happiness

Learn how to build positive stamps by establishing an effective employee engagement program and stay tuned as we continue to explore behavioral economics in our blog series!

Employee Engagement

Behavioral Economics: The Science Behind Rewards and Recognition

Behavioral Economics is a fascinating discipline that uses insights from psychology and neuroscience to challenge assumptions made by traditional economists about human behavior. An assumption that human beings always behave ‘rationally’, i.e., in their own best interest, has failed to explain real-life actions of individuals in general. This enhanced understanding of human beings as ‘emotional beings’ is now being extensively used by top organizations around the world to inform policy decisions, business processes and even workplace design. One of its important contributions has been developing a scientific framework for keeping employees, customers and channel partners engaged in the workplace.

Connecting with and inspiring employees to bring their best to work, to uphold company values and to drive a performance-based work culture has become the focal point of many HR heads. These objectives call for a comprehensive engagement and total rewards program, a framework that goes beyond hosting the occasional reward ceremony and kudos handout. The key to developing such an effective program is by using fundamental scientific principles to digitize the human touch. Such an approach is known to have a positive bearing on sales incentive and channel management as well. As per a study conducted by Gallup, “companies that apply the principles of behavioral economics outperform their peers by 85% in sales growth and more than 25% in gross margin.”

An example of the relevance of the field in the world of HR shines through the comparison of monetary and non-monetary appreciation in the workplace. Monetary compensation is an important motivator for an employee. Rationally, the more money you pay an employee, the happier they will be. However, monetary compensation alone does not determine the satisfaction and engagement levels of an employee, as shown in the infographic below. It cannot, for example, drive an employee to spend extra hours to help finish a project requirement or share the workload of a teammate. Such commitment requires a strong sense of belonging towards both the team and the organization, which can only come through emotional allegiance. Maximization of emotional reward units (ERU’s) to boost retention rates can only happen through effective employee engagement and continuous appreciation.

In our next few blogs, we will delve into more applications of behavioral economics principles used while structuring certain HR processes.  Stay tuned for more!

Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement Activities for Remote Employees

With increasing market competition and rising attrition, employee engagement has been a central focus of HR leaders globally. In the current context, these problems are exacerbated. With COVID-19 still affecting majority of industries, the doom and gloom of adjusting to social distancing and remote working doesn’t seem to be abating anytime soon.  Many employees are experiencing burnout and managers are struggling to get work done. In fact, recent research conducted by the Harvard Business Review states clearly that productivity is lower when employees work from home and especially when they are forced to work from home.

While many organizations have done well in terms of laying infrastructure and processes for remote working, they have ignored the psychological impact that long-working hours and isolation have on employees.  One of the ways to mitigate these ill-effects is adapting employee engagement activities for a remote environment. In this blog post, we’ll talk about different events that can be conducted to balance work with play to foster creativity, effective problem-solving and a sense of connection within a remote workforce. Some of the popular methods for this are:

  1. Quizzes

They can be regular quizzes or one-off quiz tournaments that cater to a variety of interests. Topics can range from movies and music to politics, technology, sports and so on. Many organizations follow the practice of sending small quizzes every day post lunch to keep employees active and engaged. Whatever the frequency, an employee engagement platform should help in creating and administering such contests easily, and tying them to a points-based rewards system to boost participation rates.

  1. Contests

Remember your organization’s talent show, where you saw a different side to your colleagues? You can still have a virtual contest using video entries which can be uploaded on the organization’s formal communication platform. The most popular video can then be declared a winner based on likes or views! Here’s an example of one of our most innovative client entries where they used Gratifi’s contest portal to showcase their talent.

  1. Discussion forums

Pre-planned topics for discussion can be a great way of getting like-minded people together. These can range from homeschooling children, finding efficient home workouts to making post-lockdown travel wish-lists! It can also be useful to mix up teams, so there’s ample opportunity for cross-department interaction and socialization.

  1. Hobby Corners

Discussions can also be dedicated to particular hobbies, forming online clubs of sorts. These hobby corners can exist on a collaboration platform in the form of videos, images and text or recurring video calls with an opt-in form circulated through a survey. The key is to encourage employees to get creative and use their free time in a constructive manner.

  1. Watch parties

Have an industry related event occurring, such as the launch of an innovative product, which your team should know about? Schedule watch parties at your team level using tools like Facebook or Airtime.

  1. Gaming sessions

Depending on your organization’s demographics, structure and industry- online group video gaming can also be one of the ways to infuse play into an otherwise tiring workday! This could work for, say, a tech startup or similar smaller-sized organizations.

remote employee engagement activities

It goes without saying that it takes time to get used to any new practice, and when it comes to bonding with colleagues remotely, there can be hesitation or resistance at first. However, with a strong organizational strategy and the right tools and efforts, soon employee appreciation and collaboration will become a part of your remote working culture. Nothing can supplement physical human interactions, but the exchange of genuine concern, shared struggles, a joke or two, and small everyday wins can set the stage for increased connection- leading to better outcomes at work and enhanced loyalty towards the organization.

Employee Engagement

5 Unique Ways to Appreciate Remote Employees During Times of Crisis

We are living through an unprecedented social era- a time when the busiest streets are deserted, the grandest establishments look dim and the most ambitious businesses are downsizing. Parents are stretched between chasing work deadlines and homeschooling their children. It is during challenging times like these that the mettle of an organization is put to test. With stress and anxiety at an all-time high, appreciating and recognizing your employees is of greater importance than ever before. With a largely remote workforce, organizations need the ability to perform these recognitions with the help of a robust digital employee recognition platform. Keeping a remote workforce connected to each other and the larger organization is essential to optimize motivation and productivity.

Here are some ways in which we believe you can keep your workforce engaged, inspired and connected during this time:

Impactful Employee Appreciation

A simple thank you for a job well done is very powerful. However, with no face-to-face interaction, coupled with a sense of isolation, managers need to ensure that they ‘deliberately’ thank and recognize/reward their employees. This may be through a personal message, a voice note or even a recorded video. If your organization has a rewards and recognition portal or a communications forum, a public announcement of an employee’s achievements can amplify the impact of a humble thank you. Appreciation is known to have a dramatically positive influence on an employee’s performance and engagement, leading to an 81% increase in motivation, as per a study conducted by Glassdoor.

Practical Perks

Some great ways to support your employees during the pandemic phase can be through monetary perks. Discount vouchers on essential supplies like groceries or household items, discounted access to fitness resources etc. can prove invaluable for an employee while costing the company a minimal amount. This time can also be a good opportunity for organizations to train and upskill their workforce by integrating their learning systems with their rewards mechanisms and possibly offering access to select online courses.

Non-traditional awards

In the absence of traditional award ceremonies and town halls, performance can still be rewarded through unconventional methods like using a rewards and recognition software. Be it a day off, online apparel vouchers or a child’s toy set, employees can choose their rewards through a points-based rewards system. On the other hand, the reward ‘points’ that employees have already accrued can be doubled or made eligible for donations to organizations working for COVID relief. The organization can also assign extra points for exhibiting values like ‘safe practices’ or ‘hygiene’ depending on the industry.

happy employees on a video call

Balancing Work and Play

While the work environment can be easily replicated in most homes through conference calls and team sync ups, your weekly happy hours and chai sessions cannot! Thus, it is the need of the hour to have virtual bonding events where colleagues can continue to connect in an informal environment. Using platforms to facilitate daily online quizzes, talent shows, trivia nights etc. have been shown to boost engagement and most importantly, reduce burnout among employees.

Tracking Engagement

Pulse surveys can help identify problem areas as employees settle into their work-from-home routines and solve them in time to prevent significant productivity losses. Be it a lack of infrastructure, team coordination or difficult personal circumstances, using technical tools to gather concerns and opinions on new company policies can help employees feel safe and supported by the organization.

This blog talks about different ways in which organizations can support and appreciate their employees as they work remotely to make them feel connected, included and acknowledged during times of crisis. Ultimately, the objective is to maintain focus on a strong employee engagement program- leading to increased loyalty and reduced employee turnover, irrespective of where employees are working from.

Employee Engagement

Employee Retention in the Modern Age

Just the other day, I met a senior HR executive at an HR Tech conference. He was one of the first delegates to visit our stall. He said with a warm smile – “I appreciate the work you guys are doing. After all, it’s very difficult to retain employees nowadays. No one is willing to be loyal to their companies!”

I smiled and nodded at him, feeling almost pitiful for him, who was lamenting the passing of a bygone era, one of the limited employment opportunities and doing the same work till his retirement, with no technology to replace his hard work. At least that’s how I think. I’m a millennial after all; a representative of a fickle generation that is willing to change companies frequently to serve self-interest.

Anyway, there was nothing remarkable or new about the statement he made, but in retrospect, I think that employee retention is surely a big problem. The issue of employee retention is older than we think.

Marissa Orr speaks to this fact in her latest book, Lean Out, where she says that employee turnover existed in the industrial age but was not a big problem than it is in today’s world. She explains that earlier, any human could act as a replacement for a factory worker, as the work was physical. However, in the current economy, the nature of work is research-based or an online program that gives you the knowledge, tools and uses your mental strength, which means the skill, experience or knowledge a worker acquires is difficult to pass on to another. With the rising demand for specialized skills, companies scurry to fill knowledge gaps that are often very hard to fill.

Employees today must use their mental strength, which they have a choice to exert, unlike a manual worker at a factory. Their output is less tangible, and the impact is not immediately visible. Employees who use their mental strength will only exert themselves if they are treated well. In other words, any modern business is highly impacted by how its employees are treated. And, the best way to treat them well is to recognize and appreciate their efforts. This solidifies the argument that employee appreciation, recognition and rewards are the deciding factors when it comes to retaining talent.

Multiple strategies are used to increase employee retention ranging from a competitive pay and benefits package and improving company infrastructure, to offering trainings for skill enhancement, etc. However, the most crucial aspect is scientifically recognizing employees for merit or good work. It has become the need of the hour for companies that are serious about retaining good talent. Here, are a few ways in which you can ensure your employee recognition and rewards system is serving your business:

  • Encourage employee recognition for not just achieving milestones or targets but each instance of behavior displayed that is in alignment with your company values and culture.

    As an example: If an employee regularly goes out of the way to help team members with their work, it is a sign of leadership and a cue to the management to keep such employees for the long-term. A report from TinyPulse based on a survey of 2,00,000+ employees across America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, said that “only a third of workers received recognition the last time they went the extra mile at work and just a quarter felt highly valued at work”. This glaring appreciation gap can be bridged with a conscious effort from the leadership by appreciating the subordinates’ work and by setting a benchmark for acceptable behavior in the workplace. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make appreciation and recognition a habit among every worker. Digital recognition platforms like Gratifi help make recognition simple, even fun and ensures org-wide visibility for the best performers.

  • Recognize with a thoughtful rewards and gifting system

    Recognition is not just tied to performance. There are many golden opportunities that organizations tend to miss or are under-utilized when it comes to building a meaningful relationship with their workforce. Work anniversaries, long service awards, or even personal life events like marriage anniversaries or the employee’s kids’ birthdays, are all opportunities to show your employees you care, with a simple email, a gift or an e-card, at the least.

  • Help them gain insight into workforce sentiment and intervene to boost employee motivation

    Employee pulse surveys are effective when it comes to gathering confidential data from specific departments or groups on a single platform. It helps get a 360-degree input of what employees think on a particular matter, which is processed in an unbiased method to bring the change. Most importantly, it makes employees feel like their opinion matters.

The essence of employee retention

In a nutshell, employees will want to work for an organization that appreciates their work and makes them feel like a part of their success story. Simon Sinek sums it up well in his new book, The Infinite Game, where he says that if companies expect employees to sacrifice the lure of a better opportunity elsewhere, they need to show employees that they are worth that sacrifice. Need I say more?