Employee Engagement

Using the “Drive to Innovate” Psychology as a Key Driver of Employee Engagement

Human beings are naturally curious about their general surroundings and the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of things. This sense of wonderment has its’ roots in an innate human biological drive, called the ‘Drive to Innovate, Learn or Create’, which is part of the human 4-drive model explained in our previous blog. Studies show how a particular type of dopamine receptor in the human brain helps create a pleasurable ‘Aha’ or ‘Eureka’ moment whenever we undertake activities that satiate this drive. Solving a complex problem, for example, involves a neuro-circuitry of associations between our current experience (stimulus) and long-term memory (in the sub-conscious mind), which is why great ideas seem to suddenly pop into our heads out of nowhere.

Organizations like Google have used this insight to make ‘innovation-hacking’ a business goal, while Jack Welch, the former renowned CEO of General Electric had often claimed that most of the firm’s productivity-boosting ideas came from its employees. With rapid technological advancements taking place globally, all organizations must innovate to remain competitive.

It is essential for organizations today, with a particularly large millennial population, to foster a culture of innovation in the firm as it has shown to be a key driver of employee engagement. The freedom to explore and ideate gives employees a sense of purpose and motivation to go beyond the call of duty. The sharing of these ideas with teams makes the process even more pleasurable, not to mention how the ‘Eureka’ feeling is multiplied if the ideas lead to systemic changes, resulting in a long-term positive impact. These rewarding feelings are the reason behind increased job satisfaction and higher levels of retention, considering how ‘boredom’ or ‘lack of growth’ are often cited as reasons for employees leaving an organization.

Employees discussing innovative ideas

Organizations can actively reward innovation, inventiveness and learning through the following practical steps:

  • Acknowledging and appreciating new ideas through a formal recognition program 
  • Launching ‘Top Innovators’ every quarter to publicly recognize efforts in the space and gamify the entire process
  • Ensuring that innovation and its associated behaviors are marked as significant during performance reviews
  • Incentivizing innovation by curating special rewards for those who challenge the organization’s status quo
  • Encouraging open communication for ideas through events like Townhall sessions and ‘Coffee Chats with the CEO’
  • Allowing groups of people to weigh in on new ideas through virtual ‘brainstorming’ sessions through collaboration tools
  • Having a robust L&D program, where employees are incentivized for completion at various stages

An engaged workforce is a happy one, and it’s impossible to create peak levels of employee engagement without addressing the human need for creativity and innovation. However, most employees tend to shy away from going off the beaten track, for fear of failure or reprimand. It is imperative therefore to make innovation a part of every employee’s mandate and use your organization’s total rewards program to celebrate innovation as an end in itself.

Employee Engagement

Using the “Drive to Bond” Psychology to Improve Employee Engagement

The last five years have seen a major spike in interest in ‘employee engagement’ as a driver of business growth.  Organizations across the world have already adopted rewards, incentives as well as some form of an employee recognition tool to make employees feel appreciated and acknowledged for their hard work. These efforts are put in to ensure one simple objective- help employees feel a sense of belonging within the organization. It is useful therefore, to explore the underlying psychological factors responsible for human bonding, which we’ll discuss in this blog, along with concrete ways to harness this knowledge for a successful employee engagement program.

According to evolutionary psychologists, modern human beings have inherited certain biological drives or tendencies from their ancestors, as was discussed in the previous blog. One of these drives has been to build alliances or forge relationships with others for mutual give and take, thereby leveraging companionship to tackle the elements of nature and ensure survival. This is called the ‘drive to bond’ and manifests in today’s workplace in the form of empathy, loyalty, support and trust- all of which are vital for a thriving work culture. In fact, Gallup’s employee engagement survey has one question that has consistently shown to significantly impact profitability for organizations- ‘Do you have a best friend at work?’ In other words, authentic and meaningful relationships between employees can impact the bottom line.

The ‘drive to bond’ can be satisfied in the workplace by effectively creating an environment of collaboration with effective communication. Communicating words of appreciation and gratitude further boosts the sense of familial belonging in a team. In today’s remote working world, organizations can only accomplish this with the help of a robust digital engagement platform. Here are some ways in which employers can facilitate an employee’s drive to bond with her peers and with the organization:

  • Having a powerful peer-to-peer employee recognition tool with elements like video and voice messages to make recognition heartfelt and personal
  • Organizing virtual group events and activities to ignite socialization such as bingo nights, musical or comedy nights and team-level hangouts
  • Having an organization-exclusive collaboration interface where employees can share thoughts, ideas and some possible insights into their life outside of the workplace
  • Having a daily updated feed for employee birthdays and work anniversaries, giving peers the opportunity to wish each other on special occasions
  • Having a ‘group events’ feature that allows a team to pitch in money or reward points to gift one of their peers and organize a celebration
  • Having a one-on-one mentoring program within the organization on a rotational basis to enable employees to build meaningful connections at work with the maximum number of people possible
  • Allowing employees to connect with like-minded people across the organization with fun clubs revolved around similar interests

The ‘drive to bond’ strikes at the heart of sustainable employee engagement practices and speaks to the role of human relationships in driving productivity, innovation and ultimately, brand loyalty. People managers have a defining role to play in ensuring that employees invest in each other, provide help and support during times of crisis and take each other’s successes and failures as their own. This can only happen with a structured and sustained effort, but most importantly, a digital approach towards employee and team bonding.

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.