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#030 – Employee Engagement and the Power of Recognition (With Tom Short)

Working Well Podcast - Tom Short

Podcast Summary

In this episode, our guest is Tom Short, Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Kudos. We talked about employee engagement and the power of recognition and how engagement, recognition, and corporate culture impact the health, wellbeing, and performance of people every day. The financial impact alone is staggering.

Listen to the podcast to find out more.


Bonus Resources

 Connect with Tom on:

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Email –

  Get in touch with Tim –

Resource Articles from Tom’s Website

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the Working Well podcast. I’m Tim Borys, CEO of Fresh Wellness group. This show explores the diverse aspects of workplace health and personal performance on the working well podcast. We dive into the foundations of what makes wellness work in workplaces around the. We connect with corporate leaders, executives, and industry experts who are helping make life more awesome at work and home. Join us to learn workplace wellness, best practices, personal performance tips, and access resources to jumpstart your personal and corporate programs.

In this episode, we’re talking about employee engagement and the power of recognition with Tom short founder and chief customer officer at kudos. We dive into how engagement recognition and corporate culture impact the health, wellbeing, and performance of people every day. The financial impact alone is staggering.

In this episode, we’re talking about employee engagement and the power of recognition with Tom short founder and chief customer officer at kudos. We dive into how engagement recognition and corporate culture impact the health, wellbeing, and performance of people every day. The financial impact alone is staggering.

Tom Short – Background

Here’s a bit of background on Tom. He’s passionate about the role recognition plays in creating a great employee experience and is dedicated to educating the world about what genuine recognition can do for people everywhere. Over the course of 25 years, Tom has used his passion for entrepreneurship and marketing to launch numerous, highly successful companies.

He found that employee experience was a cornerstone to building effective teams. His expertise in learning was the spark that led to kudos. Kudos helps promote enhanced corporate culture, inspire individuals to change, and create great employee experiences.

Welcome to The Working Well Podcast, Tom, it’s so good to have you on the show, and you were going to talk about a lot today, employee recognition communication, but I want to hear a little bit about how you got into the business world. You’ve been in this industry for a long time and technology. Tell me a bit about how you got started and how you ended up at Kudos.

Where it all started

Yes, absolutely Tim, and I really appreciate you inviting me onto your podcast and sharing my story with everybody. Our story really starts back from the oil and gas industry when I was involved with a company here in town called Canadian hunter. That’s where I really cut my teeth and started to learn a little bit more about what great businesses needed to succeed. The leadership there was amazing.

I eventually stepped out to start my own organization with my brother-in-law, which was called Bright Ideas, and it was a neon manufacturing company where we were making fun little neon sculptures and elements that people could put in their homes. It was all based off of this low voltage core and coil transformer that we actually built here in town, and we had our own neon plant and we did everything through direct mail because the internet didn’t exist at that point in time.

What ended up happening was we were very successful in the fact that people loved the catalogs and also bought the product because they wanted to have like Tim’s bar in their house or a fun cactus and a pot kind of neon under their car. And what had ended up happening was the catalogs always got there and the orders were always taken, but we had like 50% breakage when we were shipping it.

We were so young and so naive. We didn’t really anticipate that would be a problem. And so at the end of the day, that business wasn’t really viable because every time we had a sale, we were getting closer to going out of business. And so what we ended up doing is we pivoted the company to become a catalog and marketing company because everyone really admired the work we were doing there, and we just became pseudo-experts in direct mail, marketing, and marketing in general.

That led to the next company, which was Catalog Machine, and we did direct mail catalogs by direct mail. And then eventually, somebody asked for a logo and somebody asked for advertising campaigns and then one day somebody asked for a website, and that led to the next company, which was changing the name to Idea Machine to become a full-service digital marketing and communications company.

We kept on going from there where we started getting larger and larger clients. We had clients throughout north America, including Coca-Cola and Kellog’s and many locally really great brands like Moxie’s and Bayer CropScience, and other groups like that. And we eventually morphed into or merged with another organization called Rare Method to become a full-service independent advertising agency outside of the big conglomerate agencies that existed at the time.

The Employee Engagement & Corporate Culture Epiphany

At that organization of Rare Method, we came up with the idea for Kudos and we were quite large at that point like 350 employees in multiple cities, and just trying to let everybody know that we greatly appreciated them for what they were doing because it was too large to get everybody together.

And so, in 2008, we created Kudos and by the end of 2010, so many of our clients were asking if they could use it. We spun kudos off out of Rare Method, and I started to pursue that on a full-time basis. Now, we are where we are today in 80 countries, 11 languages, and hundreds of clients globally using our Kudos product.

That’s fantastic. And walk me through a bit more of the process or the mindset that you went through in creating that internally and how recognition and the corporate culture. What signs did you start seeing that, “Hey, this is. This is really working well in our own company”. And Yes, what, what did you notice first?

Well, it was interesting. The gentleman that I was working with at the time, Roger Jewett who was the president and I was the vice president and we were always lifelong learners. We were always reading books and looking at culture as a competitive advantage, and it was really that effort of just trying to see what was next and what we could do different than what was going on in the marketplace currently, and it led to us reading a book called “First, break All the Rules.”

In that book, they identified this thing called the Q12, where it took a measurement of how the best performing companies in the world outperform really good comparable companies. And it all boiled down to 12 essential elements that the best companies were doing better than the other companies. And it really boiled down to recognition like being recognized for the things you do well, having a best friend at work where you had more camaraderie and connections, and even does your boss care about you personally and professionally?

It went on and on and on. And so we really thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow create that in a digital format so that it would be accessible to everyone so that everyone could participate in being a keeper of the culture. And that’s kind of how the general idea came about, but it was really the success with our team that told our clients that that was a key differentiator for our business and our people, and they wanted to do something similar because no one else was doing that. They were focused on more rewards and perks as a way to incentivize people versus just a simple, thank you, which really Kudos was all about.

And with apps just coming into the market as a major force at that point in time, it just seemed like the right thing to do and a good way to spin out to another company that would make money while you sleep, because it is a SaaS service. So people buy the service, it’s very easy to use, very easy to set up and just took on a life of its own and we’re really happy where we are today with that success.

Employee Engagement, Health, Wellbeing, and Happiness

But now, it’s seeing expansion into other areas of all things around wellness and all things around happiness and that’s really where I think there’s a good crossover between everything that you talk about and the things that we’re doing at Kudos.

Absolutely. Yes. And if when you strip everything away from a common sense perspective, if you recognize people for the work they’re doing, and you say, thank you, and you create a culture around that, it makes sense that performance would improve and people would be happier going to work. Why are so few companies doing that? What have you seen?

That’s a great question. I think that there are a lot of organizations that are kind of still stuck in the way that things were done, because any change is difficult. Change management is difficult. So it really is a scenario where companies are just starting to awaken to this idea of social recognition amongst all the other things that they need to do to really create and improve employee engagement and the employee experience.

It’s not just recognition. Recognition is one element amongst many things that all companies need to focus on. It’s kinda like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We move to well past that safety, security, a steady job into an opportunity to learn and grow. And now an opportunity to really build purpose and fulfilled in what you do, but it comes down to so many elements of that feeling appreciated, having the opportunity to learn and grow, knowing the organization cares about you, and is doing things beyond the basics to make your experience with that organization better, where you’re addressing everything from happiness and feeling appreciated to mental wellness, to physical wellness.

So it’s all part of the bigger zeitgeist that’s happening right now. It’s really starting to take off. It just took a long time. Like we are probably 10 years ahead of the curve to be honest with you. And Mike always say it only takes 7 years to become an overnight success.

The Impact of COVID and Hybrid Work on Employee Engagement & Wellbeing

Yes exactly. Well, the last two years with COVID have just shown a massive spotlight on that. Especially moving to remote work, and how do you, take things that might have worked well in the office and create that culture in a digital environment when people are on Zoom or Teams all day, every day. And so, obviously something like Kudos shines in that respect, but what, what changes have you seen companies starting to make along those lines over the past couple years?

COVID was an accelerant to this phenomenon because we’re all disconnected now. We’re all working independently in our own homes and it’s not as easy to maintain a culture and to communicate with team members.

Sure. We have lots of product like Teams and Zoom and Slack that help, but it also is leading to burnout. People feeling very overworked and underappreciated. And, and they’re not looking after themselves. Often people will sit down in their chair. In the beginning of the day, their commute went just from a half an hour of me, time to five minutes from the kitchen table to your desk, and you’re working all day long.

So, it had its benefits and people really enjoyed it in the beginning. It is starting to now wane on people and it’s leading to what’s being called the great resignation, where people actually realize they can work anywhere at this point in time, and they really don’t have a strong connection to their company.

So that really drove a product like Kudos forward in the need for something to connect people and to make them still feel a strong affinity to their organization, to their purpose, to their core values, and knowing that the contributions they’re making are appreciated and making a difference.

So COVID was as terrible as it was, was really beneficial to accelerating what we’re doing and what we’re seeing in the marketplace right now. That being said a vast majority of mid-market organizations still are only doing traditional things like things they’ve done in the years past, from years of service awards, maybe using nomination processes to try to recognize people to various incentives that only reach a few people and they’re not really transparent. It goes into the star chamber and it comes out and, “Hey, Tim, we think the world of you”, but everyone else is wondering, “Hey, what about me? What did I do? Don’t I deserve something like that?”

So it creates a lot of inequity in that situation. And really when you go to a more online system that creates consistency, reach, visibility, and even democratic processes to share that information. It makes a massive, massive difference, and then people start to lean in.

Corporate Culture in Remote Workplaces

But even before there was this thing called the 300 foot rule. If you were over 300 feet away from somebody in the same office on a different floor or just on the opposite side of a building, you might as well be on the other side of the country. The chances of you interacting are of colliding with them in a given day are quite low. You usually just work within your department or your group or within that nuclear area that you’re a part of.

So even then Kudos was,a a very valuable tool, but now it’s even more evident now that people are primarily working from home and going forward, the genie’s out of the bottle. People are not going back to the office full-time. It’s going to be a hybrid work environment in the future where people have already indicated strongly that they only want to go back anywhere from one to four days in the office, three days being the most preferred. Some people want to go back full-time. Some businesses want people to come back full time, but in general, the vast majority of businesses will be in a hybrid work environment.

Yes, absolutely. Today was my wife’s first day back in the office after 2 years, and she was like, “I’m not looking forward to the commute.” Her commute in the morning was how long it takes her cup of coffee to brew . That’s about it. And, being able to send the kids off to school and have breakfast with everyone and that’s stuff that’s gonna change.

Yes. Lots of benefits to that as well. Like, the time that we had with family, the ability to actually multi-task in a day and still get your job done and not feel like you’re being micromanaged and those types of things. That’s lots of benefits. And that’s why hybrid will stay, hopefully, even in your wife’s situation, it’s not a absolute full-time return to work mandated, but a scenario where that extra flexibility can be worked in and it will be required.

The Future of Work and Employee Engagement

The companies that succeed in the future, employees are gonna be looking for organizations that allow them that flexibility and that empowerment to make their own choices and autonomy in that way.

But, it’s still very important that we get together on a regular basis, because that’s where innovation happens. That’s where people truly connect with one another, and that’s where you can get better alignment. So there’s a place for both.

For sure. Yes, absolutely. And, like everything over the past couple years, it’s been a mindset shift more than anything. And one thing you said really struck or stuck out at me was that the traditional way is perks and benefits, and that’s seen as recognition. It’s like, Oh, we’ll send someone, like sending a card is nice or something like that, but tends to be like you gain this many points and you can buy this certain thing, and it’s so simple and so powerful as just a simple, thank you. And that recognition, it’s the occam’s razor, right?

Yes. You’re absolutely right. It’s usually the simplest thing that works the best and it’s all that people really want. There’s statistics showing that. Most organizations in the HR area feel that their reward programs don’t work and most individuals say they highly prefer recognition over rewards.

Now rewards are still appreciated but they’re just not appreciation. Like I would still like to have the ability to buy my coffee because I’ve earned some points because people have appreciated the things that I do for them to being able to maybe subsidize health and wellness activities, from gym memberships to a park pass, those types of things. Things that I value that I want to do.

But it’s really more of that nice reminder. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or go to the beach money. It’s just a small amount of funds that can be used in a way that the employee wants to use it versus getting that plaque or a brochure saying, “Hey, pick anything on these two pages. This is how much we appreciate you.” Those things are days gone by. It’s now more about that immediacy. And again, choosing what you want, but it really comes down to that recognition, that connection, that people truly want.

Yes, absolutely, and be having leadership shift the mindset around that and looking at what’s the most simple way to make these results happen. And I guess even shifting the mindset around that this is a tangible, not just people benefit, but business benefit as well.

On your website, you had a stat from a 2020 Gallup survey referencing companies with recognition programs, and they were doing some of these call it soft skills, that 81% decrease in absenteeism and 64% fewer workplace accidents in companies with engaged employees. Like, that’s massive in terms of economic return to the company as well as the benefit to people. And yet…

Retention, lower turnover is the first thing. Saving time and hours of invested in managing programs manually is a major time save savings. But then when you do get into scenarios, like, safety and just improved customer service and improved investment in time and innovation, it just all adds up.

Measuring Employee Engagement, Wellness, and Performance

It’s really hard to measure because a lot of people don’t measure all of those things, but things like lost days at work from injury. But if you recognize the behaviors that lead to success, like doing all the right things and making sure that you’re paying attention to certain rules and procedures that are put in place to keep people safe or help them be more productive, you get more of those behaviors.

And they also become all teachable moments because you’re using like a social network to share all of these wonders. So it also benefits the company in that way, in that they can get their message out there and make sure that people are following guidance and policy and procedures just by recognizing people for doing those things.

And I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but part of the challenge that I face this on the wellness and health and wellbeing side from an employee standpoint. A lot of companies say, “Oh, we’re already doing that.” And they say, “Oh, we already have a recognition program. We already have a great corporate culture.” And so they almost check off the box without looking deeper as like is what they’re doing actually producing a result. And do you see that quite often?

Yes. It’s checking the box versus checking for results, kind of a scenario in a lot of situations but the point of pain that people often feel is like, again, looking at traditional systems, even if they’re running like nomination programs or years of service programs as kind of the low hanging fruit, and most organizations definitely have those in place but they’re not really valued by the individual.

So actually, they have it, but they’re probably wasting money and not getting the outcomes that they’re looking for. So it’s much easier to kind of put in a system that gives you a great deal of reporting and insights versus just having a loose manual that you really have no information on.

And it really comes down to seeing how people are engaged on an individual level, a department level, a regional level and, and globally, just by seeing the interactions and the transactions in regards to the messages that are being sent back and forth to one another. And then, just looking at the message to see where those contributions are being made and what people are actually doing.

So now this whole new world of insights to not be reactive to things but to be proactive to things, and maybe even getting to the point of pre-empting items, just getting ahead of the curve because you can see what’s going on in the organization with individuals at any time. And that’s why systems and tools make more sense becauseit creates that transparency, consistency, reach, visibility, and the insights most importantly.

Absolutely. Those insights are critical. And would you say a lot of it is companies tracking either the wrong metrics or what we call vanity metrics where they think, Yes, we’ve got this and we did this. We have this many people out there utilizing some program but not the results that program produced. Tell me a bit about how you track that a bit differently.

Yes. Most people look to, they want to know that the product is being used or they’re investing money and they want to know how that’s working. So activation levels and participation levels are really important, but then that should be measured against things like engagement levels through net promoter scores and little pulse surveys to get feedback from people even to exit interviews – when people do choose to leave voluntarily, and you ask what were the top reasons that led to their change?

This issue with Corporate Culture and Employee Engagement Statistics

You can see things like not feeling valued, drop off the radar completely by putting these items in. And then you can look at other soft measures like Glassdoor ratings and feedback from your employees to just kind of get a sense again of how they are evangelizing the company or appreciating the company.

So if you can drive your net promoter scores up, your Glassdoor ratings up, you’re getting traction on the right things versus just activity levels in the system. Because activity, all businesses are different. So they’ll see different activity and participation levels depending on the type of business, type of workers, size of the organization, those types of things, but it’s those other measures that are your true indicators that you’re moving in the right direction. And then, you can start looking at key performance indicators as well to see what’s happening on a department by department level and which managers are having better success, then you can use those as opportunities to learn from, to help managers that maybe aren’t seeing the same level of success with their groups.

Absolutely. So what if we had to distill it down to the top issues that companies are facing, what would you say if we talk about leadership first, what are the biggest leadership issues that need to be overcome?
Well, there’s different groups or stakeholders that have different specific needs, like the C-levels, the CEO, and CFO, they want to see items that will help them keep the best talent, attract the best talent. Same thing with CHROs like everyone in that area, like how do we keep the best, attract the best, and engage them in a way that will help us reach our business goals and outcomes, and is it measurable? That’s what they really care about.

And then when you move down the hierarchy of individuals, the ones that will be responsible for implementing and managing a product like that, they’re look looking for more insights and simplicity of use and the ability to make better use of their time so they can run a better program, but also have time and resources to pursue other important endeavors with their employee engagement initiatives.

That’s where you are starting to see a lot of complimentary things happening from running, getting better feedback through survey systems, to implementing health and wellness programs, to implementing learning and development programs as compliments, or even being in place before even a product like Kudos is brought in, but a product like kudos can be used as the lever to get more participation and activity going in many of these other items, which will lead to a much more engaged and happier workforce within the organization.

I love how you speak that it’s not just one solution or one magic pill that’s gonna solve this. Recognition’s part of it but the company culture and how leadership communicates, how programs get rolled out the reward systems and the engagement systems across the entire organization at all levels of the company. So we see this in health and wellbeing as well. And I guess obviously, employee engagement and recognition and health and wellbeing are very much intimately connected.

It’s all connected. You can’t just expect people to work all the time. You need to give them the resources to do their job well and the time to stay healthy and and mindful of other things in their life.

Without work life balance, I believe you and I chatted a little bit about everybody’s looking for work life balance and you should have that, but when you ever do one thing, you should be you all in on one thing. So that if you are at work, focus on work when you’re at home, focus on your family at home.

When you’re, investing in yourself whether it’s learning in development or health and wellness like taking care of yourself physically, you should be all in on that at those point in times. You just need to kind of switch from time to time as you go through these various elements, but it all comes together to make a more productive and happier team member that will stay with an organization for a long period of time if you are looking at all aspects of their life, not just them as a worker for your company.

Yes. And, so many different questions that come out of that, but one of the things we really work with clients to understand too is and just that whole concept of life is not a marathon. It’s a series of sprints. And as you said, being able to switch and transition like you’ll focus on work and then even throughout the day, it’s arguable like if you go to the Pomodoro method, it’s 25, 5, or some people say 50, 10, or even 70, 20, or something like that in terms of work periods and rest intervals. But you can focus for a certain amount of time and then you need to go do something different, take that recovery, and that’s within a workday.

And then, we’ve got each day so you have your rest and recovery and regeneration at night, so you can focus the next day. And then on the weekends, you’ve got that, and then it’s always a long weekend every month. And if you’re a school kid, it’s like they’re never in school anymore, and then, you’ve got holidays and even sabbaticals on multi-year cycles.

Those are all things that people often forget. Do you see a lot of workplace cultures where they’re trying to implement these types of recognition systems, and do you ever see it at conflict with company values where they’re saying one thing, but the company culture and values are fighting against that?

Yes. It’s funny; I’m getting ready for a webinar tomorrow on how you can use core values to drive performance in an organization. And there’s lots of examples of people who have this say-do dilemna. They say one thing and they do something completely different, so that creates a lack of trust and a lot of skepticism with individuals where core values and purpose of the organization should be the key drivers to what you do and how you do it.

And if you have a strong purpose that aligns to your team where your team can relate to it and where you have core values that basically are your guideposts on how you should act and interact and conduct yourself at any point in time, they are very important. And there are lots of organizations that approach core values as, “Hey, this is an exercise that we need to do”. They do it, they put it on the wall, and then everybody forgets, but certain elements will come into the organizations just by the leaders being strong leaders and exemplifying the core values that they put on the wall but people still don’t know their core values.

And again, that’s even something that we’ve done with Kudos is we’ve actually worked in core values with every message so that when you send a message, you have to reflect on which core value was that individual demonstrating or living when they are sending or the reason for sending the recognition message. So that is kind of a feedback mechanism to kind of keep that present and top of mind, and the organizations that do have strong core values and strong cultures outperform everyone else time and time again.

In that book, Built to Last, it’s fascinating in saying they went all the way back to the early 1920s with organizations that were high performers and visionary companies and then they had a comparable group of companies in the rest of the field. They basically demonstrated and showed that if you had invested $1 in all of the other organizations, it would’ve resulted by the late 90s a return on investment of around $500, if you just left it as in a stock investment. And then, they took the comparable companies and they took that same dollar investment. It would’ve worked out to a thousand dollars, but all the companies that actually performed the best and leaned into those Q12 questions and were seen as the true visionary companies resulted in a 16x or around $6,000 return on every dollar invested over that same time period.

So it totally leads to better business outcomes across the board if you are making efforts to do the right things that cover all of those bases of improving the employee experience and having a strong sense of purpose and strong sense of core values that drive your actions.

Now there’s lots of organizations that have core values and have failed miserably. Some of the recent examples would be like Wells Fargo, where the values actually led to people creating false accounts and because they felt so much pressure about driving the bottom line. So they’re focused too much on money, not on people, and the way the values were written, while they were still good, they were just directing the people to do the wrong thing.

And they have other organizations that are quite strong in their core values and their sense of purpose that actually lead to extraordinary outcomes such as Apple and Whole Foods to many other organizations, even clients like ours, like, where they have such a strong sense of purpose and good bellwether for core values and they treat their people well on so many levels as we’d previously discussed. They completely outperform the market.

Chewy is a great example because it out Amazon in the pet food industry, going from 120 many people when they started with us to 16,000 people just two, three years ago and having the highest Sale of any SaaS organization, 3.5 billion, I believe, at the end of that time period. So they went from nothing 8 years ago to an idea to a $3.5 billion exit to Pet Smart because they focused primarily on building a better company all around culture, core values, and purpose.

Well, and you said it before, and it’s we see it with our clients as well is that having values on a plaque on the wall means nothing if those values aren’t being just followed every day, but there’s discussion and conversation, and those values drive key decision-making practices.

Yes. It should drive hiring. It should drive recognition. It should drive performance. It should drive promotions. You should only hire people that are tightly aligned to your core values in those situations. It doesn’t mean not being diverse or anything like that.

Engagement and Values in Employee Recruiting and Onboarding

You have lots of folks from every particular background and persuasion that will have your corporate values and your purpose resonate with them.

And, really where people go wrong is where they don’t use it as a strong moral compass. Like from even letting someone go, they might be a really great performer but if they don’t align to your core values and they’re more of a disruptor than a connector or a promoter of those core values, you might be best to promote that person out of your organization and focus on the people that will help your reach the larger, long term goals because it really is about an infinite game.

Simon Sinek has written a lot of great books. That’s one of his better books, talking about how businesses that are built to last are playing an infinite game. They’re always looking to be better, to innovate, to live to a higher sense of purpose, not just profitability.

Absolutely. One of my favorite books is Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh, the Zappos story. And yes, I love how he was very much about values from the start of it. And in his hiring, onboarding process, before they signed the contract, he would say, ” Hey, we’ll give you 500 bucks to quit today.” And like, that is brilliant and awesome, but it’s like those who are bought in and are gonna want to work there will turn that down for sure.

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. It was a great way to do a litmus test at the very beginning. If you’re not drinking the Kool-Aid hard, if you don’t think this job is a hundred percent for you, I’ll pay you to leave. And, it actually saved them a great deal of money because the cost to actually then train that person and then have them leave in 3 months or 6 months, that’s when they come to that discovery that it isn’t for them, is extremely expensive. It can be, 20, 30, 40% of that person’s salary to 200%, depending on the level that they work in.

But, the average is around $12,000 for just a, $3,500 for a, hourly based person. And then, people making $50,000 as a salaried level, like entry level kind of income nowadays, that’s still $12,000 to turn that person around, plus all the lost productivity and the hit on morale and all the other things by having these false starts with individuals. So yes, that was a really great idea. I don’t know how many companies actually do that now still, but it’s still a great way to give people that option to opt out without any issues and to get paid for it.

Yes. Absolutely. And so again, we could talk for a long time, but I want to sort of try and wrap this up with some good takeaways. So if we look at the organizational level and then the individual level, what are some things that are the top things that you recommend to clients that they can do to improve company culture and sort of implement these types of I guess tools and practices we’ve been talking about today. What can they do right away to just make a positive impact in the organization and then their people?

Employee Benefits and Workplace Wellbeing

Yes, absolutely. Well, you do need to look at the full gambit and take care of things like making sure that you’re competing at a reasonable pay and benefits and perks and things like that. But then you can augment that with kind of more simple things that are gonna be greatly valued by individual.

Like what we do at our organization is we provide additional benefits or areas where people can use a spending allowance for things like health and wellness to learning and development education, just to say, “Hey, we care about this. We want you to take care of yourself and we want you to not just physically, but mentally, like, we want you to help advance your career.

But then, it’s simple tools of communication and collaboration. Do I have all the things that I need to do my job? That type of a scenario. And do I have the ability to connect with people? So it’s taking care of those little things first and then building on them based on employee feedback. So listening is very important too, but you gotta move beyond just doing surveys and polls.

You have to act on the things that you are getting feedback on. And so, don’t ask if you’re not willing to do something, kind of a situation because that will undermine your credibility and will hurt morale. You have to be prepared to keep making progress on the pillars of wellness learning and development and appreciation as the core elements.

Appreciation and Recognition in Employee Engagement

Appreciation seems like one of the easier places to start to roll out a system because it’s the gift that keeps on giving, and it actually feeds the loop on all the other things. Like if you complete a micro-credential or learning and development goal, you get recognition. If you have a physical fitness goal, whether it’s a BMI item or just getting out for a walk every day, give recognition, because it’s all about recognizing those little behaviors that will lead to more of those behaviors.

So, maybe I’m a little biased that way, but I find that that is a very simple way to get a great deal of momentum and value. And then, you can start to plug in other elements that will be more successful, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make these things happen. Like if you think about just helping somebody out with a gym membership to giving somebody a learning and development credit of $500 because there’s so much they can do online or paying as little as, $36 a year for an employee recognition system per person. It’s far less than giving someone a 10% raise.

Totally, and you make a great point too. The things you talked about are benefits and the learning and development credits and things, a lot of those are becoming table stakes now. They’re there. It’s like most companies are pretty similar. Some might have a little bit more in some areas than others, but what we find in our business is a lot of those aren’t being used.

People aren’t using their benefits plan. Because they’re not communicated. They’re not reinforced all the time. So that’s where I was gonna go on my last item. The most important thing that you can do is communicate and communicate more often. Tell people about the wonderful things that you’re already doing for them, because they probably don’t know or they forgot, and there’s no mechanism to kind of do those things. You need to have rituals and you need to have a place where you can connect, communicate, and celebrate those types of things and encourage people.

And that’s again, where if you are recognizing people for pursuing learning and development opportunities or recognizing people for taking care of themselves physically, mentally, financially, however that plays out. Those all become teachable moments, and that’s a great way to communicate what you are actually doing for people, because in all honesty. It is kind of frustrating for business owners to go, “Darn, we’re doing a lot of things and why can’t we get any traction on more engagement and/or more happiness. It’s probably because your team forgot that you’re doing it for them and you’re not promoting it or sharing it on a regular basis.

And yes, it’s like a formal recognition program. It’s like an insurance policy for all the other things you’re offering. One of the things we say to companies all the time is if you have a 500 person company and you give everyone a thousand dollars a year for a gym membership, which is pretty standard or it could be 500 to a thousand, but that’s half a million dollars a year that you’re giving towards a gym membership. And, we know, stats show that less than 20% of people who pay for a gym membership use it enough to get the health benefits. So if you’re providing recognition for people to actually use that, it’s gonna make the compliance and engagement much higher, which is going to return more of that investment to you.

Yes, absolutely. And that’s again where you make it public and you can like through a product like Kudos, you can promote those ideas. You can recognize people participating. It could be a fun walk and run or it could be going to the gym and just having programs that encourage that, that, celebrate individuals who are making big strides in those areas or using their, benefits well in those capacities, just by running campaigns, promotions, and contests around those things as part of your recognition and communication efforts.

Corporate Culture

Yes. And, to do it in a way that fits with your company culture. I would add to that too, because not necessarily even the company culture you have now, the company culture, you aspire to because no one wants another cheesy, online speedometer challenge. It’s doesn’t mean people don’t need to get out and walk or take more steps each day but do it in a way that’s engaging and fun. The death of a lot of wellness and wellbeing programs is that it’s just like some like 1950s government pamphlet that goes out and everyone gets bored.

Yes. Participation and… Even Hal and Joanne were a lot more engaging than a lot of the stuff coming out now. Oh Yes. Tons more.

It’s really just Communicating it and then celebrating people who are participating to give people examples so you can lead by example. It does come down to communication at the end of the day. And then, recognize things you want to see more of. It’s really so simple and people often try to apply a more complex solution than kind of start with the basics. Get the basics right and then build on that.

Absolutely. Well and I think you sum it up really well in Kudos’ mission, where it says support people in living their best life, empowering people through the simple power of a thank you. That’s amazing.

And it spills over because if you’re happy at work, you’ll take that home with you, and you’ll have a happier home life. You’ll have a more fulfilling life if you do feel valued and appreciated at work. And, that will kind of pay it forward because then you share that with other people at home or your friends, your family. It just can truly, as we say, change the world one thank you at a time.

Absolutely. And well, thank you so much, speaking of thank you’s. Thank you for being on the show, Tom. I know people can find you on LinkedIn and your website,

That’s correct. That’s correct. Yes. All right. And on LinkedIn, happy to chat with the anybody anytime.

And I did, when I was cruising your website, I found a few great article links on how do you pitching recognition programs to your executive team and calculating the ROI of recognition. I love those. They’ve got so many great stats and business cases for that. So I’m gonna put those links up on the show notes as well because I think that would be really beneficial for people listening. And yes, thank you again. I appreciate the chat and I’m sure we will talk again soon.

Oh, I know we will. Thanks, Tim. I appreciate it. Thank you.


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