Employee Engagement Popular

Improving Employee Engagement Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Framework

Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy is a powerful, holistic roadmap from which one can understand the needs of the modern workforce. With the post-COVID economic slowdown, talent optimization has been a business priority. Maslow’s theory helps with just that- it helps organizations hone talent and improve employee engagement through the right kind of gratification.

Maslow’s theory comprises of a pyramid with 5 levels- Levels 1 and 2 comprise what we call the bare minimum or basic needs of a human being like water, food, shelter, financial security and stability. Levels 3 and 4 are higher-order needs which are more psychological in nature like the need for connection, social status, appreciation and recognition. Maslow’s hierarchy can be rearranged and applied in multiple situations. In the work context, it supports a bi-directional model- a two-way exchange between employee and employer. From the employee’s perspective, it provides a scale through which to measure job satisfaction and move towards increased fulfillment and impact at work. From an organization’s perspective, it helps create a positive work culture which in turn improves motivation, engagement and ultimately, performance.

Most organizations are able to cater to the first 2 levels of needs in the form of an employment contract, office space, financial compensation and benefits. It is levels 3 and 4 where the gap exists. As later researchers such as the American psychologist Frederick Herzberg explained, fair compensation and decent working conditions are just ‘hygiene factors’ that prevent disengagement. In other words, their absence can lead to disengagement but having them in place does not create positive engagement. Hence, organizations need to focus on levels 3 and 4 to improve engagement.

To pursue the twin goals of connection/belonging and self-esteem/recognition, a comprehensive R&R program structured by a robust technical program can help. Having an employee recognition software can ensure timely appreciation for good work in a public, transparent way. This can build self-worth for employees while helping them feel deeply connected to their peers and the organization. A platform like Gratifi can help digitize employee engagement through 360-degree recognition, physical and digital gifts, badges and points-based rewards, virtual social clubs, events, surveys and mood-o-meter. Such a platform can help organizations map employee sentiment while giving data-driven insights through intelligent reports. As well, flexible workflows can help accommodate any changes in R&R strategy as well as organizational hierarchy/workforce.

While Maslow’ hierarchy of needs has proven to hold true for people and cultures around the world, Maslow himself had remarked that the theory describes a general order of needs and can vary for individuals. For example- some people may value emotional connection more than financial security while others can value status and respect more than group associations. Hence it is important for organizations to understand which category of Maslow’s needs pyramid best relates to individual employees and map relevant recognition categories on the R&R platform accordingly. A technical platform can support HR leaders in getting the data they need to personalize and continually iterate their employee engagement program for best results.

Employee Engagement

The right gifting cycle for improved employee engagement

Employee recognition and engagement is a priority for any organization that wishes to attract the right talent, particularly in the face of today’s unstable economic conditions. However, it is important to celebrate not only your employees’ extraordinary accomplishments, but also them as people. Creating an employee R&R strategy with a gifting focus can greatly help in this regard. Mapping the employee’s personal journey to their company life cycle can offer numerous opportunities to organizations to give inexpensive yet meaningful gifts to employees.

Typically, organizations have adhered to gifting on milestones- 5, 10 or 20 year work anniversaries. However, looking at the latest statistics from Deloitte, we realize that millennials do not stay in an organization long enough to receive such gifts, and hardly value them even if they do. Recognition delayed is recognition denied, and an organization’s employee rewards program needs to be cognizant of the changing preferences of today’s intergenerational workforce.

Following are the types of occasions that can be considered for a corporate gifting cycle:

  • Personal events – Birthdays, marriage anniversaries, new-born child
  • Professional milestones – Years of service, achieving or surpassing sales targets, product launch, project completion, process/product innovation
  • Firsts – first working day, first payday, first new account or sale etc.
  • Festivals – Diwali, Christmas, New Year etc.
  • Special events – any noteworthy achievement/award received outside the workplace

Having a scientific approach to employee gifting involves having a clear gifting and incentive framework for employees, including setting rules for eligibility and redemption. Moreover, complete transparency and strict adherence to the budget can be gained through a robust digital platform. Conducting surveys and getting regular feedback on the gifting process helps firms constantly improve and get new incentive ideas. The ‘art’ of gifting, however, involves aligning corporate gifts to company values and delivering superior ‘recognition moments’.

Creating a gifting calendar and configuring the various occasions on an R&R platform can help automate reward distribution, ensuring that gifts are disbursed on time, without exceeding the allocated budget. Considering that a majority of the global workforce is still working-from-home, manual methods of gifting have become obsolete and drain significant time and resources. Engaging today’s workforce therefore involves having a mix of tangible (cash-based, physical products) and instantly redeemable gifts (e-vouchers, online L&D opportunities). A digital gifting platform can offer an e-catalog from which employees can get the freedom to choose their own gifts. Some of the most popular gift categories are experience vouchers, gift certificates, and physical products spanning over gadgets, home appliances, etc. With the holiday season upon us, the way a gift package is delivered makes all the difference. For remote employees, a timely, well-packaged gift delivered to the doorstep creates an enduring positive impression. Every employee interaction, especially on happy occasions such as festivals, adds to the growing attachment with the organization and brand as a whole.

Channel Partner

Engaging and Incentivizing Channel Partners in the FMCG Sector

The ‘Indian FMCG sector’ and ‘distribution channels’ are practically synonymous with each other. Traditionally in India, distribution networks were owned by large FMCG firms- these distributors in turn worked closely with retailers or small-scale kirana stores to push products to the end consumer. Hence, the entire business model, including scale, margins and market share has always depended vastly on channel partner networks and secondary sales channels.

In today’s times, the FMCG industry has evolved and expanded, resulting in numerous firms bringing vast, sophisticated product lines to the market. Customers are the ones driving demand and stocking strategies at local distributor stores. As a result, now more than ever, channel partners are exposed to multiple competing firms.

Unlike earlier times, a single conglomerate can no longer dictate all the terms of their relationship with distributors/dealers. The latter own their distribution networks and often collaborate directly with aggregators and ‘modern’ kirana stores in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. The terms of the trade, therefore, are changing with the evolving retail landscape. At the same time, the role of sales representatives has also changed. Be it a classic or a co-investment model- wherein a firm contributes its own salespeople towards a channel partner’s efforts- sales agents are no longer merely responsible for managing inventory and pushing end-retailers to sell. They’re now actively responsible for maintaining channel relations and ensuring brand awareness/relevance in the face of high distributor turnover (in fact, even the churn rate of salespeople has spiked). Considering the above scenario, FMCG firms need to work in close partnership with sales and channel partners to create value and sell to the modern, often fickle customer.

Channel partners need to feel a sense of affiliation with a brand to stay connected. Discounts and cashback schemes are no longer sufficient to drive channel performance. Continuous, 24X7 sales support, along with relevant training and a targeted incentives scheme is the need of the hour for healthy channel relations, particularly in the FMCG sector. A comprehensive sales incentives and channel management software can help streamline processes and eliminate human error, in the following ways:

  • Equipping head of sales/sales managers with the data they need for longer-term planning and understanding channel partner ROI for better negotiations. In addition, helping them determine and push the top performing SKUs as well as planning the right product mix, all through real-time data visibility
  • Helping ASMs closely track the performance of team members through a territory-wise sales tracking dashboard
  • Enabling sales executives to seamlessly share product information, unique benefits as well as monitor distributor performance through a single digital portal
  • Assisting a firm’s marketing team to develop the right sales enablement collateral by sharing pulse surveys with channel partners. A platform like Gratifi can help administer surveys digitally and translate collated results into actionable insights
  • Helping distributors stay connected to the firm as well as to the firm’s other channel partners through an online community or forum, where questions can be posed and answers can come from various stakeholders, providing rich insights and a useful, accessible knowledge base

With the rise of aggregators and omni-channel platforms, the FMCG industry now relies on a smaller pool of channel partners to drive their business. As we move towards the future of retail, creating a best-in-class shopping experience for the end consumer will be the determining factor for channel partner success. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has virtualized collaboration, this can seamlessly be made possible through cloud-based platforms. The result will be the empowerment of a firm’s sales and channel network, creating a win-win situation for both stakeholders.

Channel Partner

Incentivizing and Engaging Channel Partners in the BFSI sector

The BFSI and NBFC sectors have expanded over the past decade to include a range of financial products and services. We are also seeing a startling increase in competition that has emerged with homegrown and international players tussling for market share. As a result, customer experience has become of prime importance and firms are increasingly looking to leverage their channel partner network for improved customer care, expanded product reach and boost in sales numbers. Such partners can range from customer service representatives, sales agents, vendors, consultants, aggregators and value-added tech resellers. Cash-based commissions alone can no longer inspire channel loyalty, which is why non-cash-based rewards and omni-channel incentive solutions are essential for effective channel partner engagement today.

Some of the major challenges faced by financial services firms with regard to implementing incentive programs are fragmented data, manual sales tracking, offline and inconsistent incentive calculation and stale incentive packages. The laborious system of uploading and sharing excel sheets for data exchange between multiple systems takes immense bandwidth of channel partners as well as firms. Additionally, secondary sales data is hard to capture and even harder to verify. Determining individual contributions towards a sale is a complex process if done manually. BFSI firms need to eliminate human errors in the incentive disbursement process which currently leads to significant losses over time, as explained in our previous blog.

A channel incentives software can help streamline administrative processes and make incentive programs attractive and accessible to the end consumers. To win the loyalty of agents, brokers and resellers, firms must use digital tools to promote their culture, ethos and overall brand differentiation, in addition to providing comprehensive product knowledge. A digital platform can greatly help in improving communication and overall brand connect with channel partners, using features like notifications, discussion forums, surveys and online knowledge hubs.  According to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), an automated awards system is a distinguishing feature of channel incentive programs of top financial companies, which ensures timely rewards for high performers. Digital platforms ease the burden of accounting teams by integrating incentive data with real-time performance tracking.

Their study showed 3 determinants of incentives for channel partners in top performing financial companies :

  • Financial outcome metrics- sales value, operating income, number of units sold
  • Activity metrics- number of leads, CRM updation
  • Customer relationship metrics- customer feedback, repeat customers

An interesting case in point is that of our client, who uses Gratifi’s system to gamify regular target milestones and allows channel partners to win electronic gadgets, automobiles and experience vouchers, in addition to gift cards. Their channel partners also receive regular communication regarding product updates, sales differentiators, marketing collaterals and target reminders within the rewards platform.

The current tide of digital transformation has a host of benefits for BSFI firms willing to leverage the often overlooked indirect sales force and engage them meaningfully for maximum results.

Channel Partner

How to Effectively incentivize sales teams to boost performance

Sales and channel partners determine a major part of an organization’s revenue, which is why incentivizing their performance has always been an important goal for a firm’s management. However, manual methods of sales tracking, channel partner data collection and incentive distribution have resisted optimization in this area. As a result, firms lose investment in the form of overpayments, rebates, fraud and worse- stagnation in sales numbers. This can only be combatted with a data-driven approach to sales incentives, backed by robust technology and a carefully planned incentives structure.

Incentives can range from commissions, SPIFFs, MDF to other types of motivational prizes, depending on the sales team structure, industry and organization-specific sales culture. To maximize RoI on incentives, it is essential to:

  1. Create relevant KPIs for sales and channel partners depending on their role in the customer journey
  2. Design reward programs keeping the majority of the sales force in mind (and not just the visible top performers)
  3. Continually modify rewards and incentives based on sales targets and gamify the entire sales process

With digital and social channels of communication expanding, customers are well-informed and heavily influenced by sources outside a firm’s sales and distributor network, which means firms need to establish KPIs to not just ensure sales numbers, but also modify partner behavior by rewarding, say, team work or establishing a personal connect with a prospect.

Secondly, the typical structure of a sales incentive program is meant to motivate only top performers and overachievers. The bar is generally too high to move medium or low-rung performers, which form a large part of any sales team. To increase sales in the long-term, the medium-rung performers need to be engaged with the right incentives and regular communication/mentoring. Digital knowledge bases, collaboration and virtual conventions (given that sales teams are mostly remote) have proven to work well. In addition, multi-tier reward programs, which means programs with more than two levels of achievement (either very low or very high) are proven to increase medium-rung performance according to a Harvard Business school study. Similarly, well-paced rewards, such as quarterly instead of yearly bonuses increase the performance of ‘weak’ players by about 10%. Finally, it’s important to remember that a majority of short-term sales are driven by top performers, hence their bonuses and incentives should be exciting enough to make them continually strive for more.

Interestingly, different people are motivated by different kinds of rewards. While some prefer cash, others are motivated by prestige (badge, title or memento), contribution (giving their bonus as a non-profit donation), or something more experiential (family getaway, fine-dining etc). Non-cash rewards have a subjective value, which means one is not obviously inferior to another. As a result, they appeal to a wider audience.


Lastly, real-time data for both direct and indirect sales needs to be integrated with the incentive distribution system, so as to improve partner experience. Sales incentive and channel management software can help in achieving this. Such technology platforms often come with open APIs, which means they can seamlessly integrate with other enterprise/CRM software to create a single platform for sourcing data. Besides, technology can automate workflows and prevent time and resource drain. As well, prescriptive analytics can help in analyzing individual, team and region-wise performance while giving action points to optimize performance. The right mix of pricing, redistribution, co-selling, upselling, and incentives can be the key to boosting sales performance and ensuring sustained growth.

Employee Engagement

Performance-based Recognition: The New Normal

There is no doubt that the pandemic has left an indelible mark on the workplace. In 2020 only 53% employees globally are feeling engaged with their organizations. This is a particularly alarming statistic considering how employee engagement directly impacts not only an individual’s performance but also the organization’s bottom line. Engaged employees are more productive, bringing in 2.5x more revenues than their disengaged counterparts. Moreover, since most organizations now have distributed or downsized teams, old methods of employee motivation have been rendered obsolete.

However, even before 2020, the trends were showing an undeniable need for change.

Long before the crisis hit, yearly performance reviews had been known to contribute to negative employee perception. Even long service awards were missing the bus, given how millennial and gen z workers opt for shorter job tenures than their older counterparts. Manual recognition programs are ridden with human biases and unavailable to all, while focusing on superficial achievements rather than quantifiable performance. As Laszlo Bock, ex-SVP at Google pointed out- “Performance management had become a rigid, bureaucratic process which had little or no impact on performance and existed mostly as an end in itself.”

In an ever-changing world, employees need quick, efficient feedback systems and meaningful recognition that focuses on individual KPIs in addition to an organization’s value system. In fact, performance-based recognition is quickly replacing annual appraisals in some of the top organizations of the world.  These dynamic recognition programs share the following characteristics:

1. Open to all:

Recognition is open and encouraged in all departments, grades, and job function. Manager-to-peer recognition is supplemented by peer-to-peer recognition, which gives a 360-degree view of an employee’s contribution to a workplace.

2. Timely and frequent:

Small wins are acknowledged and appreciated along with breakthrough achievements, which is essential to inspire disengaged, inexperienced or young talent to aspire for continual improvement. Moreover, continuous feedback helps minimize the impact of frequency bias while determining a fair financial appraisal for an individual at the end of a year.

3. Gamified:

Automated rewards systems trigger the disbursement of digital rewards like badges and points, on acts of exemplary performance. These are known to greatly boost employees’ self-esteem and enhance favorable behaviors. A gamified incentive platform is thus the best tool to motivate and enhance performance, especially in virtual workplaces.

4. Data-driven:

Prescriptive analytics are essential to accurately capture recognition trends, while scientifically comparing performance against organizational KPIs. A 365 day assessment system helps managers account for year-long performance, avoiding human bias and the post-appraisal performance slack.


Performance-based recognition can greatly improve employee engagement and thereby performance, by taking a humane, individualized approach to performance assessment. Careful employee listening, along with behavioral nudges and relevant, positive feedback can go a long way in making employees stay and work towards a better, more profitable future.

Employee Engagement Popular

Redefining Employee Recognition during COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the workplace as we know it. Everyone is still coming to terms with the uncertainties it has brought along with it- financial, social and emotional. As organizations repair and rebuild their revenue streams after being forced to undertake stringent cost cutting measures, they need to retain and reward the people who have stuck by. This is important from a business continuity perspective not just during but beyond the pandemic. An effective employee rewards and recognition program is thus an important requirement for organizations in the recovery phase.

There are powerful statistics to show the impact of having no formal recognition program in place, especially during a crisis- 64% employees claim that employee recognition is needed even more during remote work. Engagement and retention rates aside, it is morally binding for organizations with frontline workers like health professionals, caregivers, social workers, logistics and shipping staff as well as factory and retail store workers to continually show gratitude for their service and sacrifice. Moreover, newly remote employees battling the stressors of isolation and on-site workers anxiously navigating public spaces need an extra show of solidarity and appreciation in order to keep them going.

Employee Recognition need not be expensive, especially with employee appreciation tools that help create a personal connection through a usable digital interface. Organizations need to get creative when it comes to adapting virtual recognition practices to adapt to the constantly evolving situations. Some proven digital features that boost appreciation are listed below:

1. Media Messages:

Organizations can make recognitions more heartfelt and personal by incorporating video and audio-based messages that can be seamlessly exchanged. Additionally, peers can upload pictures the recognition being given and can even select a personalized reward to disburse. These small steps go a long way in compensating for the lack of face-to-face interaction.

2. Public Recognition:

Celebrating employee wins through formal communication channels like collaboration and employee recognition platforms is essential to give an employee greater visibility within the firm, thus increasing brand loyalty by creating an emotional stamp. Moreover, sharing of recognitions through third-party social media channels is known to boost employee self-esteem and performance.

3. Mobile Accessibility:

Having a mobile-first recognition solution is essential for workers who are constantly on the road or lack access to mature technical devices. In fact, mobile users give recognition at an average of 98% more than their non-mobile user counterparts.

4. Physical Gifts

As helpful as it is to have the world of technology at our disposal, there is nothing as tangible as a physical gift from our employer to lift our spirits- a gourmet food box for example, along with branded cutlery. With a little focus on packaging and home-based delivery, organizations can help create a real, physical connection through such gifts, and even tie them to events such as launches, townhalls or virtual festivals.


As we employ various methods to tackle employee stress and recognize their efforts, we need to adapt recognition to the current context, celebrating human beings as whole individuals having individual personalities and animated personal lives. A little bit of personalization goes a long way to achieve a higher RoI on your total rewards and recognition program.

Employee Engagement

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

The rise of information technology coupled with an ambitious, self-determined workforce, is the definition of the future of work. Studies show that the youngest Generation Z- the latest ones to enter the workforce- are more ambitious, independent and competitive than any of their predecessors. They not only work hard to achieve their goals, but also demand to be rewarded for it. They also prefer tangible rewards rather than pursuing vague ideals of satisfaction.

Personality traits like competitiveness and self-reliance stem from an ancient human biological drive called the ‘Drive to Defend’ which is present in all human beings in varying degrees, as explained by two Harvard professors in their iconic work Driven: The Four Drives Underlying Our Human Nature. The ‘Drive to Defend’ can be defined as the human instinctive need to defend one’s identity and self-worth, along with the people, achievements and personality traits that define this ‘sense of self’. It has been explained by neurologists and behavioral scientists through the ledger or accounting system in the human brain. A part of the brain is responsible for storing information about all our tangible and intangible achievements including power, status and relationships which act like ‘assets’, forming our sense of self-worth. Anything that threatens this sense of self, including the deprivation of resources, reputation, and in the case of Gen Z’s- independence and appropriate rewards, leads to the triggering of the negative side of the ‘Drive to Defend’ namely anger, fear and jealousy. Such emotions, when left unattended, can lead to passivity, helplessness and ultimately disengagement. Thus, by criticizing or ignoring employees’ contributions, organizations end up doing the opposite of motivating them- they create internal antagonists which damage the employer brand. This is reiterated by recent statistics which show that disengaged employees in India are 5% ‘strongly likely’ to recommend their organizations to a friend, as opposed to 51% employees who are engaged.

However, it is essential to remember that it was these same protective instincts that helped humans escape adversity in ancient times. The drive to defend can act as a strong source of motivation when used for the right reasons, that is, justifying the mission of the team and organization. It is time for organizations to become one of the ‘assets’ in an employee’s mental account- a source of pride which they work hard to uphold and defend. Following are some ways in which organizations can leverage the drive to defend for increased employee engagement, particularly for Gen Zs

  1. Promoting the ‘Drive to Bond’ in Gen Zs, by fostering an environment of collaboration where individuals feel the need to defend their entire team’s work and not just their own. This can make them understand their importance within the team and organization
  2. Channeling their competitive instincts to compete with the market, rather than with peers within the organization, through a gamified incentive platform
  3. Including their ideas and suggestions at the corporate decision making level through Surveys, thus helping them trust that their ideas are not taken for granted
  4. Maintaining open, transparent communication about the organization’s policies, particularly relating to performance assessment
  5. Developing mentoring relationships with Gen Zs through timely, constructive feedback, instead of criticizing and micro-managing them
  6. Offering tangible performance rewards like cash or physical goods, along with a visible ‘ledger’ of achievements through an employee recognition leaderboard and social walls

goalkeeper defending the goal

As organizations seek ways to grow and adapt to future trends, there is an increasing need for them to identify the role of the drive to defend in strengthening their employee engagement program. Gen Z’s in particular, have a stronger sense of pragmatism, even if it means ignoring the more traditional path, to achieve outcomes. Organizations will need to give them the means and tools to voice their opinion and justify their way of doing things, if they want to tap into this large, dynamic, future cohort of leaders.