'Walking the talk': What we've done with engagement

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Walking the talk involves a huge shift in the corporate mindset

When we stepped back to look with fresh eyes at our old engagement and reward programme it was clear it wasn't working. Sharply focused by the need to unite our global workforce after several acquisitions, what we saw was something dry, unwieldy and unloved.

I don't think our experience is unique, yet companies continue to roll out the same kind of programme - and get the same old results. And if those results are people feeling manipulated and demotivated by the mechanism you've designed to achieve the opposite, it's time to get real.

We've entered a new era in terms of what employees want. They want to be given the space to be who they are, to be trusted and have a voice, and be gently, genuinely inspired to be part of the success story. You can't force it, but if you can get more people coming to work with a smile on their face you're getting somewhere.

Walking the talk involves a huge shift in the corporate mindset, away from reinforcing hierarchies and squeezing more work out of people to a more subtle, realistic and democratic approach. We also decided to put at the heart of our approach an understanding of human nature and what, fundamentally, makes us feel happier.

The solution we developed with Avinity turned out to be so radical it felt more of a run than a walk! Maybe that means we'll get where we want to go faster!

The five things we've done with engagement

Handed power over to employees

We've put people totally in control of our social engagement platform, by making the reward and recognition process completely transparent and fair and creating a relaxed vibe around it. Everyone from junior recruits to managers to the CEO is equally free to choose to get involved, or not, earn as many rewards as they want, and recognise anyone they want for doing something that's made their day.

Given every individual 'room to bloom'

We've turned engagement from a one-size-motivates-all concept into something people can make personally meaningful and enjoyable. All kinds of challenges can be chosen to earn rewards, which means that people with all kinds of perspectives and characters can accomplish new things and feel appreciated for who they are and what they care about.

Nudged people to live our values

We're changing what people do and delicately nudging them to live our values rather than attempting the impossible: changing the way they think. Choosing to take different rewardable challenges, which are linked to our values, triggers little culture-shaping shifts in outlook and behaviour that bring home what our values look like in action and mean they sink in to become part of how people do things.

Brought out people's playfulness

We set out to bring a little lightness to employees' lives by capitalising on the sense of playfulness we believe is in all of us, often dampened by life but always waiting to come out and do its stuff. Our platform introduces some of the fun of playing a game into employees' lives in a way that isn't forced or fake, just a natural result of its challenges, gamification elements and social side.

Made engagement part of everyday life

We've established engagement as a strongly branded internal product, which helps keep it visible and alive in a way that managers and HR haven't the resources to achieve. Softly and surely, the social wall has become the place to hang out and see what's happening and the process of integrating behaviours into everyday practice is becoming automatic, putting engagement where it needs to be: on the frontline.

Judith Schmuck is head of employee engagement at GVC Group

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