Transformation in the Workplace: Beyond Engagement

June 4, 2015
The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) is the preeminent research organization in our industry and each year their Invitational conference provides some of the best education around on recognition, engagement, and incentives. At this year’s meeting, an unexpected theme developed: Transformation. As the messages from each speaker unfolded, the common thread emerged. Why Transformation? Businesses today must rapidly evolve to compete. With new technology, changing social and cultural preferences, and shifting generations, few organizations can afford to just stick with doing what they do. One of the best examples is the rapid loss of market share for fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, as the national culture shifts towards healthier brands. What was once popular because of its reliable consistency is now unpopular because it’s also perceived as reliably unhealthy. The cuisine hasn’t kept up with the culture. As the IRF Invitational keynote speaker, Mike Walsh, put it, the next generation “will expect a continuous delivery of better, faster, richer, and more personalized experiences, and ‘unfollow us’ the moment that we don’t.” But businesses don’t just turn on a dime. Employees are the essential ingredient for rapid innovation and evolution. Employees now must be able to develop, switch priorities, and contribute to innovation for organizational Transformation. Employee engagement is critical and, to make this a reality, businesses such as ours have an important role to play in keeping everyone on the right path, even if - especially if – the company is forging a new one. Here’s how engagement helps: Transform Individuals – Employee recognition and engagement programs are about eliciting the very best contribution from every member of the team. They can’t fundamentally change who people are as individuals, but they can transform their actions, by guiding behaviors and making explicit the personal rewards for success. In fact, the reward itself can be transformational. An incentive travel experience is always rewarding and here at Dittman, our team works hard to provide an absolute pinnacle of service for the guests. But these experiences can also be transformational. Whether it is through an otherwise unreachable destination, corporate social responsibility (CSR) events, or public recognition before peers and spouses, we often hear from our guests that these trips are life-changing and deeply meaningful to the participants. Transform Culture – A true culture of engagement is built and nurtured. It takes the efforts of HR and senior leaders, of course, but it also takes the commitment of the corps to take the time to give direction and to recognize for achievements. Sharing in success, encouraging social relationships within the work community, and building in opportunities to learn and develop deepen the connections between people, their colleagues, and the work that they do. Only with this personal and emotional investment can employees contribute their best to the organization and to the team. And only with that contribution can an organization transform. Transform Results – Need everyone on your team focused on customer service to compete? Develop a recognition program that reinforces the associated company values. Need to innovate to stay ahead of the curve? Make that clear by recognizing contributors and providing a forum for ideas.  Well-designed programs make people feel valued for achieving the results needed to drive organizational success. Transform Leaders - As Dan Leidl, an IRF Invitational speaker from PRG noted, “We (employees) want to do something and we’re looking for people to help us get there. That’s who we follow. Inspire people that this is an opportunity to get where they want to go.” To inspire, though, leaders also need engagement, direction, and support. They need training and development, an engagement program as a framework, and performance metrics tied to using available engagement tools. In their article, What Separates Great Managers from the Rest, Gallup reported, “Managers' engagement has a direct impact on employees' engagement. Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers.” And we know from Aon Hewitt that “Organizations within the top quartile of employee engagement levels — where 72% or more of employees are engaged — attained a TSR (Total Shareholder Return) that was 50% higher than that of the average organization.” Clearly, it’s worth providing the tools to transform middling managers into great managers. Incentive and engagement companies are in the business of Transformation. The work we do every day helps our clients’ organizations to make the leap from average to exceptional, from reliable to forward thinking, from Big Mac to Shake Shack. We’re excited about the Transformation in our own business, including the insights that data can bring and the tools that technology will provide. The leading edge will allow us to better understand, engage, and inspire employees and partners.

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