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There is a plethora of new employee engagement technologies on the market. In this blog I chat to Piers Brown of Centricalabout the challenges business are currently facing and how platforms like Centrical help.

Piers, there are seismic changes going on in the employment market including but not limited to:

• The ‘great resignation’ with employees deciding that they no longer want to put up with what they had to in the past; commuting and work life balance are often cited and the major issues

• A generational shift with 5 generations in the workforce

• A move to either hybrid or remote-first working for most businesses

• Employees failing to engage with Brands and corporate institutions

Stress and burnout particularly at junior and middle management levels

Your company has been undertaking pioneer research into these issues, does this resonate with your findings?

It absolutely does, Richard. The tide is beginning to turn on employee engagement, and it’s no surprise that we see people, process and technology transformation projects taking place simultaneously in many businesses to buck the inevitable outcome. There’s a lot of talk of the ‘future of work’, but that future is now – and businesses are reacting.

The data supports your point on burnout and disengagement as well. In their Global Talent Trends report, Mercer found that 41% of employees are planning to leave their current jobs this year. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s significant and a huge risk. With the competition for talent so high, it’s only taking slightly better benefits, flexibility, and tools to make employees jump ship.

So, if I can pass the baton back to you Richard – how are senior leaders like yourself supporting managers to minimise regretted attrition?

What I’ve been hearing a lot, Piers, is that managers lack data. They miss ‘management by walking about’, and they miss the conversations that used to happen in the office. In my experience, this if often the answer I hear from poorly recruited and unsupported or untrained leaders.

They were not brought up to lead through data, but more through their ‘gut feel’ which has its place, and sometimes through coercion, which doesn’t. The data often tells a different story from the paradigm belief - e.g. who really are your star employees? The ones who generate the most income in the reporting period, or the ones who ensure that customers are sold what they need so they keep coming back?

Piers, how have you seen leaders respond to data in the way that Centrical and others provide?

Our analysts have done a really great job at summarising the past 12 months. Our research relies on these insights of +100k employees in 156 countries. What we see is that there is a statistically significant relationship between engagement and motivation with the ‘organisational outcomes’ that business cares about: productivity, retention, customer satisfaction, safety and profitability. Gallup’s recent surveyseems to support our observations too.

For business leaders, I think it’s important to remember that employee engagement is an outcome too. You can’t just roll out a new program or suite of benefits and expect it to work without meaningful investment in people.

So, what does a modern employee engagement platform do?

That’s a big question! The reason I love my job is because our platform does two things exceptionally well: it empowers employees, and second, it turns the ‘daily-grind’ into an experience that is rewarding and ultimately fun.

The very best engagement platforms create communities of emotionally engaged employees, who live and breathe company values, are laser-focused on achieving their individual and shared goals, and who will go ‘the extra mile’. They will give you their discretionary effort, they will work hard, and they won’t leave for greener pastures, the latest iPhone or a bigger bag of swag.

I’d like to think our platform is the best-of-the-best. What we have created with Centrical is an employee-first platform that supports their journey within a business: from onboarding, into ‘production’, through to re-skilling and up-skilling as people develop and grow. Underpinning all of that are game-mechanics and exciting technology like performance management, coaching tools and personalised micro-learning that motivates, empowers and inspires.

So basically, this is a fancy way of more spying on your employees because managers don’t trust their people?

I hear your point, and this certainly comes up in certain regions and functions more than others. Managers often sit on ever-increasing piles of data, and I’ve certainly heard my share of horror stories out there which are all stick, no carrot. If I can be so bold, the horror stories show a misuse or misapplication of data.

The most valuable business intelligence is that which helps identify opportunities for growth and sparks conversation. Whether that’s front-line employees who might need support on changed processes or new products or middle managers who need help managing micro-moments, their team’s well-being, or spotting opportunities for positive recognition. That starts with transparent data, which is easily actionable and is above all – humanised.

Gamification has taken a real hold in everyday life with apps like Duolingo helping people to learn languages whilst having fun, and Vitality Healthcare incentivising its members to lead healthier lives. Does this have a place in corporate life?

Well, I’m certainly a little biased – but in short, yes. If I think back through my career, all the way to my first jobs in Topman and Vodafone’s contact centre and since, they have all incorporated game-like elements into career progression and performance. The demands of employees are ever-changing, and part of that is an expectation that our experience at work is aligned with our personal interests and experiences as consumers.

It applies across the entire generational spectrum too. Every generation has been on a ‘digital transformation’ journey over the past few decades. Think about the past 2-years. Even the grandparents of digital natives (born with phone in hand) made the switch to video calls on Facebook Messenger, online shopping, and virtual GP check-ups. The internet usage of 65–74-year-olds has increased from 52% to 83% in the past decade alone, according to the ONS.

But surely this is a bit American and we don’t respond well to this ‘have a nice day’ shmaltz……?

… and good luck until next year’s performance review!

Employees who feel listened to and supported are nearly five times more likely to feel engaged at work. That’s why it’s critical to collect data and have conversations around sentiment. How are you feeling today? What are your current workloads like? If you don’t measure it, then you certainly don’t know how to improve it or support your people.

As UK employers we have a duty-of-care to employees that extends beyond health and safety to well-being. In the current climate with many of us working hybrid roles or permanently at home, ensuring wellness and avoiding burnout cannot be understated. Regular check-ins and monitoring help with this, and technology enables that.

What benefits do these new tools bring to employers and employees?

If you look back at the Gallup’s report, they were able to demonstrate the correlation between 11 organisational outcomes with employee engagement and better employee experiences. I won’t list them all here, but customer loyalty/CX, profitability, productivity, absenteeism, retention, well-being etc.

It’s always better from the horses-mouth though, Richard, and you were once my customer while you were COO at Brightside Insurance. Why did you deploy one of these new gamification tools?

We had 500 people successfully working from home (WFH), we didn’t see a degradation in productivity and did see a significant reduction in sickness absence and turnover.

However, we never rested on our laurels; we knew that there was a proportion of colleagues for whom WFH was not great. Reasons included loneliness, missing colleagues, not feeling part of something etc. We provided a lot of mental health support and wanted to find something that recreated the buzz of the office particularly for the front-line sales colleagues.

To cut a long story short, working with Piers we test piloted gamification software linking business objectives to colleagues' targets and performance management. We had data fed into the tool and it produced dashboards of information for the colleagues, team leaders and managers and proved to be a really fun way of delivering performance. We built in short- and medium-term recognition and reward. Colleagues loved it, team leaders also and we saw a marked uplift in productivity. I am a huge fan!

Back to you Piers, one of the questions we got asked was is this a replacement for team leaders?

Absolutely not. There is no substitute for effective team leadership, and team leaders are generally the difference between success and failure in most businesses. A good engagement platform should help leaders be brilliant and do what they do best – develop and coach their people to be their very best. They’re the ‘face’ of your business, but they are your people’s work besties too!

One last question for you Piers. Surely this will all drive poor outcomes for customers?

A nice, easy one to finish on Richard – thank you! There is a mountain of research and evidence that organisations who make a strategic investment into the employee experience, reap the rewards of higher customer (experience) metrics. If you’re looking for stats on what employee engagement means for the customer: customers show 10% higher loyalty, which makes business 23% more profitable. Those businesses also see 81% less absenteeism, and 18% less turnover. If my maths is correct, that adds up to a 100% worthwhile investment in your people.

Thanks for inviting me to chat Richard, it’s been a pleasure! For those who’d like to learn more, they can download our latest eBook The Great Re-Engagement: A 360 Degree Look at Work Reimagined from our website.

I hope you found this article of use and if you would like to learn more, please reach out to us.


Richard Beaven

Managing Director

Unlike Group Ltd

Piers Brown, Sales Director (EMEA), Centrical

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