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What’s in it for the company? That’s the wrong question when thinking of employee engagement

April 17, 2016 • gal

what's in itMany vendors – old and new, traditional and disruptive – offer their platforms and tools to the HR software market.  Conventional wisdom is that companies need to know what’s in it for them in order to buy into the vision HR software vendors are offering. Conventional wisdom is that companies – such as Gameffective – would need to show how the companies would benefit from using software for better employee performance and learning. They should show a positive ROI in terms of employee productivity and engagement.

The problem is that this conventional wisdom is often wrong since it misses one important point: what’s in it for the employees themselves.

Today’s HR and business leaders are coming to an understanding that for anything to happen, employees need to engage, and do so willingly. Otherwise, companies risk deploying yet another tool that won’t be used. Here are some practical implications of this understanding:

1. Worklives Matter

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, in their book The Progress Principle, coined the term “Inner Work Life”. What is it? They define it as “the constant flow of perceptions, emotions, and motivations that people experience as they go through their work days. In essence, inner work life is day-by-day engagement at work”. Correlation of employment factors with Glassdoor recommendations as place to work show that culture and leadership are three times more important than salary. This isn’t because employees are dazzled by perks or stories about corporate culture – it’s because they figure their worklives will be better in these environments. This very same logic drove Citi to define its “Smarter Worklife Challenge”, to discover up-and-coming trends and ideas for HR (check it out, Gameffective is one of the winners).

This also means that tools that are used to measure employees and drive performance should instill a sense of fairness, transparency and an opportunity to improve oneself. They should not use overly threatening competition. As the performance review is dying companies should think of a way to discuss performance that is transparent, real time and that measures things that matter to employees and their success at work.

2. HR and line of business managers aren’t looking for better command and control

The naïve perception of management – one that is very focused on micro-management – is that managers need to see everything employees do and control their every action. But the fact that the internet of things can track everything employees do – check out Volometrix for instance – doesn’t mean that this it the best way to engage employees. As a matter of fact, companies are increasingly trying for other sources of motivation and better self-directedness. Gaining employee trust is paramount to the adoption of any tool. Managers get that. They don’t want tools that will make them better at controlling employees – they want employees to opt-in to these tools and believe they are going to be better off for doing so.

3. Don’t worry about attrition or lack of engagement; worry about the employee experience

I recently spoke with the management of one of the world’s largest business process outsourcers.  They conduct regular research into finding out what tools are likely to change the lives of their employees. “The point isn’t attrition,” they told me. “It’s true we have high rates of attrition, like many other business process outsourcers, but we don’t focus on the short chapter we play in employees’ lives. We want to understand what would make them make this chapter a longer one, what they want to take away from it”. And what they discovered was that two things matter: one was the employee experience. The other was that employees care about learning.

4. Employees know that more learning is more earning

Corporate learning is big and growing. Again, I can explain what’s in it from the company’s point of view. But the real point is that for millennials, learning and development are the most coveted job benefit.  Employees know why: education is strongly tied to earnings. For them, one of the greater benefits is learning something at work that would help them in their future employment.

For software vendors, this means that better educated and trained employees are a core goal since this is what both employees and companies want and need. That’s why micro-learning is becoming a core component of many systems.

5. Employees care about recognition and teamwork, not competition

Another trend is that although a certain type of employee may be competitive, most employees are better motivated intrinsically, and want teamwork – and that their goals, recognition, and kudos reflect this, They aren’t asking themselves how to become a top tenth percentile performer, or checking their leaderboard rankings, they want to know how to become better at what they do, work with teams and have the sense of a job well done.

6. Working in silos, employees crave connectedness

Many employees work in vast cubicle farms – and in sub-units of the organization. For them, according to many of our customers, part of the creation of meaning and a sense of value at work, is social connectedness at work. Employees are increasingly feeling isolation and that they are working in a silo. HR software should open that. Knowing what other teams are doing, how they deal with challenges and what makes them tick is important to employees – this is what they’d like to do in their downtime, connect with peers near and far. Social features enable this, from team challenges to kudos.


In short, HR software cannot afford Taylorism; without providing a clear benefit to the employment experience of employees, they won’t stay around long enough to make an impact. The flip-side is significant: changing the work experience changes work culture and work lives. This is a huge opportunity for everyone – vendors, employees, and employers. Grab it.

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