Bridging the distance: How tech can boost engagement and recognition

The combination of total rewards, career advancement, and corporate purpose is a moving target as workers reconsider their priorities.

Bridging the distance: How tech can boost engagement and recognition

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In a distributed workforce, how can employers promote both team cohesion and making individual employees feel “seen” by their managers and peers? What have business leaders learned in the past three years about which technologies and practices are motivational and informative, vs. fatiguing or counterproductive?


  • Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott
  • Rekha Gurnani, Senior Director, Global Compensation & People Analytics, Box, Inc.
  • Marie Potter, Senior Director of Culture and Development, Getty Images
  • Casey Wahl, CEO, Attuned
  • Michael Watson, Head of Customer Success North America, Eightfold


Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company

Note: This content originally appeared during From Day One’s July 2023 Virtual Event titled: The New Keys To Employee Satisfaction, Recognition, And Retention.

Steve Koepp, From Day One 0:00
What have business leaders learned in the past three years about which technologies and practices are motivational and informative versus fatiguing or counterproductive? As our moderator for this session, we’re joined by Lydia Dishman, who is the senior editor of growth and engagement at Fast Company with a unique editorial focus on innovation and technology, ethical economics, leadership, and design. He has written hundreds of feature articles as a business journalist with our work appearing in Fortune, The Guardian, New York Times Popular Science, sleep, and many others. Lydia, we’re glad to hand you back over to you.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 0:44
Thank you so much to you. And thanks, everybody, for joining us today. I was listening to Adams presentation. And I feel like I have also many questions that are going to relate to what this panel is going to be speaking about, especially when it comes to motivating employees. As HR and talent leaders in the audience, you’ve certainly had a front row seat to changing in the workplace over the past three years. That is a total understatement. I know. But one of the more surprising trends that I’ve observed, As work continues to evolve is how we’ve witnessed these sort of twin spikes in both engagement and productivity in the early days of the pandemic in 2020. According to Gallup, it’s the gold standard for checking employee engagement. Since it started studying employee engagement, it found the highest percentage of engaged employees it’s ever recorded in the US was 36%, in 2020. And then it fell to 33 by 2022. And the trend continues downwards with now 31% of engaged employees. Alongside these more recent dips, we’ve also witnessed the other trends like the great resignation and quiet quitting all this goes hand in hand in record numbers. And it’s no surprise then that leaders across all organizations are struggling to retain their best employees. And we’ve certainly heard plenty around the necessity of beefing up soft skills for managers in particular, I don’t like to call them soft skills, you may have heard me say power skills, because I think there’s nothing soft about them. But they do help make workers feel seen, heard and valued. And we’ve also seen multiple tools to measure, measure and monitor the impact of these new strategies to recognize and reward talent. So we’re going to be talking about some best practices today. And what are the latest tools and tips that these five leaders who are working at the intersection of all of this have to discuss with us? So I’m going to ask them to introduce themselves briefly. And I’m going to start with a personal question. Tell us about a time you recognize that someone made you feel really seen and rewarded. I feel like we’re doing a job interview type thing. Tell us about a time. But anyway, Casey, why don’t we start with you, you’re phoning in from Japan.

Casey Wahl, CEO, Attuned 3:14
I am it’s early, it’s late. It’s kind of don’t know what time it is. But I’m Casey I’m CEO, one of the founders here at attune we create and provide intrinsic motivation software, it’s very connected to the lightspeed and how you can use that to understand your each and every single one of your team members to get an updated GPS to their motivation to ultimately create psychological safety as what we do. For me like being an entrepreneur, before I became an entrepreneur, like in all the weird spikes, my own motivation and the quirks I think I was incredibly hard to manage. So like the one manager out of all my previous managers that could really understand me was the time it was just nice to really feel understood.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 4:02
Absolutely, there’s nothing quite like feeling understood, like you’re speaking the same language in a sort of way. So thank you for that.

Rekha Gurnani, Senior Director, Global Compensation & People Analytics, Box, Inc. 4:10
Hi, I’m Lydia. Hi, everybody. Happy to be here today. I am Rika Gurnani and I lead the compensation and people analytics teams at a box. For me, it was during COVID. I was working obviously from home I have twin children. They were toddlers at the time. We’re dealing with a lot, you know, took them out of preschool where at home, I was working all kinds of hours of the day I was working Sydney hours or living in Pacific Time Zone. And working on a couple of M&A deals with the team in Europe. So it was middle of the night meetings and things like that. So I think what was really meaningful for me at the time was just having a manager who really acknowledged that recognize that gave me the flexibility to work I start late in the morning to have to deal with the kids or whatever time they are just really flexible with that. And just, she would do this thing. When we had our weekly one on one, she would dedicate the first five minutes. And she would call it real talk. And she was like, Okay, real talk time, five minutes, tell me how you’re really doing. You know, she sent me a care package for me and my kids. So things like that just little things really were meaningful for me at that time.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 5:24
Absolutely. And I just had an image of you as the Cat in the Hat, like juggling the fishbowl and the umbrella while standing on a ball.

Unknown Speaker 5:34
That’s probably what it looked like for those two years.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 5:38
Amazing. Well, you survived. And you look great. So thank you very much for being with us. And sharing that story. Michael, how about you go next.

Michael Watson, Head of Customer Success North America, Eightfold 5:48
Everyone, Mike Watson here from Eightfold, I help lead our customer evangelism team, here and excited to join you all today. I think, when I look back at the times, when I was recognized, I think being recognized when I didn’t expect it was what really made me feel great about my accomplishments, right? If we, if we knock out something that has a lot of visibility, we all kind of expect to be called out for that. But I think for me, it’s those little things when maybe someone calls you out in a team meeting for really helping them maybe through a personal issue. Sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with work. You know, I was dealing with this, you help talk me through it. You know, I’m dealing with my parents and being you know, me personally, I have a mom that’s going through dementia as 86. So, you know, if someone knows that, and reaches out to me, and helps me with that, or maybe calls me out on a team meeting, or an all hands for, hey, you know, Mike went above and beyond and went out of his way to recognize and help me with this, when I’m not expecting it, I look back on my career, those were the most impactful to me.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 7:00
I totally, totally hear you on that. And it’s, it’s also so important that people recognize you as a human, that you know, when you are dealing with stuff outside of work, and how difficult that juggling act can be, especially as a caregiver. I think that those are some really important moments. So thank you for that story and for reminding us all about the importance of that. Marie, how about you go next?

Marie Potter, Senior Director of Culture and Development, Getty Images 7:24
Hi, everyone. My name is Marie Potter. I’m Senior Director of Culture and development at Getty Images, what is culture and development, we are the team that are responsible for championing the experience and the engagement, the connection, the development of our employees, which includes learning and development, diversity and inclusion and people analytics, we shape and tell the story of our people. And speaking of storytelling, I’ll tell you three real fast ones. First one, my background image I got to share with you. So it’s Team USA, it’s with the FIFA World Cup. And the coolest photo was just dropped in our Getty Images site with a compilation of all the players and so I’m very inspired by that right now. And why I have that background. It’s very bright red, but that’s for the team. And you can find your own teams too. So that’s my first story. My second one is Lydia, your question for us around when we’ve seen felt seen, and actually I just have to echo my fellow panelists, it’s the little things. I remember an all-hands company all hands meeting and talking about our expectations and our goals. And our CEO says you know, and you have to maintain, like a positive attitude as we’re going through this and if you ever need someone to lift you up, find Harry Potter, and she’ll be the one and I was like, Oh, I was not expecting that. I’m glad I was paying attention. Right? But that was so little, but it was so meaningful. And it was so touching. And even just when people ask you, you know, how do you think that meaning when or what’s your opinion on this, I love it when people ask me my opinion on something because that means they value what I’m going to say. And then third thing and Mike this is for you, I love that you shared vulnerably you know that you have an aging parents, so do I and actually from day one connected us with a great resource through AARP around an employee caregiving series and we are full on in and so thank you from day one for reaching out and sharing some ideas because literally just wrote a whole proposal on the services that we’re not going to partake in. And so it’s I love these panels and this connection and community because we get to engage a lot with each other and be inspired. So anyways, Mike, if you want more info contact me later, I can share with you.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 9:38
I love this or just got that little, that little side piece taken care of as well,

Unknown Speaker 9:44
too. I was like I got to jump on what Mike just said there.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 9:46
No, no, no, that’s really good. I mean, I think that, you know, certainly there are a lot of sandwich generation people out there where you may be taking care of an aging loved one as well as have responsibility for Little ones too. And on top of all that, again, we’ve evoked the image of the cat and hat, juggling all of the things. So it’s, it’s an interesting time of life. Thank you very much for sharing that. And the information. Last but not least, Tyler.

Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott 10:15
Hi, everybody, I’m Tyler weeks, I lead what we call talent analytics here at Marriott. We’ve got about 4000 Associates worldwide. And the vast majority of them are working in our hotels, parking cars, getting to check you in cleaning your bed, your rooms. And so we’ve got a pretty big task trying to kind of understand what it’s like to work here for them. Because they’re not, they’re not logging in, they’re not spending time on enterprise systems, they’re there face to face with people all day. So it’s really kind of a fun challenge. And understanding if they’re engaged or not as tough as you can, getting them a surveys is hard. So in terms of a manager that made me feel seen, I have a couple, but the one that keeps coming to mind, it was actually this was years ago. So I’m a physicist by training. One of the things I love about HR is like none of us meant to be here, stumbled into it. I had made a career move, because I wanted to go solve business problems. And I stepped into HR. And I was kind of like, not sure if I’d made the worst mistake.

Unknown Speaker 11:37
Or the best, or the best,

Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott 11:38
I wasn’t sure it was kind of new. And I had a manager that gave me a really long leash, I sort of put out some proposals and started putting out some ideas. And I was way off on some stuff, and probably pretty close on some other things. But he gave me the room to go experiment and try and learn. And without, without sort of sort of taking my legs out from under me. And that that really kind of inspired me and got me got me roped in. And now I love, you know, really glad I made the change. But it was actually probably a couple of managers in that in that in that first team that really did that. So

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 12:22
amazing. Well, we’re glad you’re glad you made it. And I’m glad you’re here with us today. Thank you so much. You know, and I also want to put a pin in this because I want to get to it a little bit later in the conversation. But right now you also mentioned flexibility. And I think that Tyler you are mentioning autonomy or the long leash as it were, those are some interesting ways to get people motivated, I always look at them as sort of the benefit that isn’t part of the healthcare 401 K plan. But you know, I do want to come back and dig into that a little bit more. But I’m Casey, I want to come back to you first, because I would like for you to set some context with this question. From your broader perspective. You know, certainly as you’re dealing with clients, and then within your own workforce. Can you explain a little bit more about how engaging employees has evolved over the last few years? From what you’re what you’ve seen?

Casey Wahl, CEO, Attuned 13:19
Yeah, sure. I think what we’ve seen, and experiences is a couple of things. I think there’s one personalization of it. And then kind of the nudges to help people who are really busy. So engagement, software’s out there, lots of people use it, it’s a category, it’s useful. But it’s good at the larger number. So seeing that forest or kind of the organizational level. But as you get to the team level, and you get to the individual level, the data in the insightfulness becomes less useful with a lot of the technology that’s out there. So how can you use it to understand each individual and personalized that is a trend that we’ve seen coming up more and more so you can see personal engagement, and to understand that what motivates or what engages each person is different, right? So if you’re asking, Hey, Casey, do you get feedback from your manager? Did you see it was valuable that to help you work? That might be data I might throw into an engagement software system, but it’s not actually what motivates me or intrinsically motivates me. So you get mixed data with kind of the bigger survey. So going towards that personalization, I see. The other trend that we’ve seen is, people are really busy, you know, they get the engagement data back, you know, they have that manager effectiveness dashboard or whatever, and everybody wants to be better or most everybody wants to be better. They want to help their teams, they want to inspire them, they want to motivate, but they don’t know what to do. They come back and say, Okay, your teams not engaged. Here’s why they’re not engaged. Okay, what do I do? So I think that help in using technology to give that nudge at the right timing with the right context, with all of those relationships going on is the other trend we’re seeing which is incredibly complex and you We probably need a physicist, well, we do need physicists to actually solve these problems. So I think those type of things is what we’re seeing trending.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 15:07
Yeah, well, that actually leads me into the personalization part in particular. Because I think that it’s, and this was a mistake that I made too, because I’m obviously an extrovert, I get a lot of energy from being in social situations. And if you’re going to recognize me, I like to be called out, like, in public, that’s great for me. And it was a revelation when I was sitting next to a colleague who was called out in an all-hands meeting, and this person was literally shrinking in their chair, they did not want the eyes on them. So I think, you know, this question is, for all of you is that not everyone likes to be publicly recognized. And you all tell very different stories about how you felt seen and recognized? How best are your recognition efforts, working for all types of personalities, and also different workplace setups, so I want to go around the room. So Tyler, we’re going to go backwards around. Tyler let’s start with you.

Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott 16:20
You’re on mute. Every time my number one tactic to help people feel engaged, they go on mute, and just let them imagine what I’m saying. It’s like the ultimate personalization.

Unknown Speaker 16:36
All the physicists can come up with?

Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott 16:40
Look, I think there are. Look, I think one of the number one things that I hear people complain about at work is bureaucracy that there’s levels or that there’s red tape, and like, I’ve kind of harbored that like a lot of my career to have like, oh, man, if only it wasn’t for the company, look at all the great work we could do. But I do think that there is sort of a, there’s a huge advantage. And there’s a reason that we have that right like the if you’re familiar with Dunbar’s number, we only have something like 120 slots in our head and to like, keep track of relationships around us. And so like, as soon as you’re in a company that’s bigger than half of those are like friends and family. So as soon as you’re in a company that’s bigger than like 40 people, there’s no way you can keep track of every relationship having every person and know that somebody doesn’t want to get embarrassed in front of everybody versus somebody wants to get like, likes sort of public recognition. That’s why you have to have managers, you have to have sort of layers of people who are in contact with people. Because as much as there’s great software out there, there’s no software that’s really figured out how to be your friend. And that’s a thing that I think is way different than like a really convincing chatbot or like, it’s good to given you information. It’s having empathy and compassion. And I think that’s the thing that we like, even if it’s not perfect, we want to feel it, we want to kind of know that it’s there that there’s somebody on the other end. That’s hearing what you’re saying. So I think that while I think when I look at like out of the organization, I’m trying to measure the health of the organization, I actually sort of think about it more like a map, not like how each person is feeling and can I have an engagement score, but what’s their neighborhood like? Like, what does it feel kind of around them? And I think that’s when I think about engagement and how we sort of bring employees in. I focus on the neighborhoods, if that makes sense. So yeah, no,

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 19:01
that’s a that’s a good perspective. Thank you, Marie.

Marie Potter, Senior Director of Culture and Development, Getty Images 19:06
I was chuckling at the Dunbar comment because Tyler I’m always like, I know we’re on Facebook together. But I’m not going to reach out and say happy birthday for all the 600 connections I have because I’d be saying happy birthday all day long to everyone. And it is true like the we’re built as humans for those closer communities. I love the way you said that neighborhoods Tyler. So fun thing this morning I woke up to a Slack posts. We have this app that posts to our team channel. So I’m going to speak as a manager right now. And it was just a call out to the team. It’s we call it a wallet watercooler conversation. I have a global team, we’re all spread out, no one’s in the same spot. And it said ask for your rose your thoughts and your bud. And so the rows is what’s something you’re grateful for as positive right now, the budget is what’s something you’re looking forward to or that gives you hope or motivation or opportunity for growth. And the thought is that something challenging or stressful right now out that you could use more support with. And it’s our team, there’s nine of us. It’s a small team. But then everyone responds with their rows and their bed and their Thorn. And that’s a lead. That’s a little just teen technique, that real life action. And we did it today with my team. And with that, I think it really stresses what Casey and Tyler says those personal engagements, your neighborhoods, your start small, and what you can do there, and we’re all we all have the opportunity. From a macro side, though, I’ll step out into my leadership role within the company, be really strong partner. So I’m an HR really strong partner with our internal communications team, because a lot of what we do around recognition comes in partnership with how communication structures things like we have an inside weekly, or weekly inside Getty Images newsletter, and there’s deep dives that feature certain employees. And usually those employees are connecting what they do with how they live our leadership principles with how they utilize our operating principles with what’s the fun things they like to do on the weekend. So there’s, every week we get to learn about a new employee, there’s 1700 employees, by the way, at our company, and we are global. So that that gives you a bearing recognition and all hands, we actually have a recognition feature where we talk about folks, we have a leadership award. And that leadership award does come with a monetary reward, and we give it out every month. And it’s a sizable reward. And those folks are celebrated with a cut right across slack and an all hands and here’s our Leadership Award winner for the month of July and we celebrate them. And then a smaller way of celebrating folks is with we do a spot bonus award as well. And that’s usually just to the individual, there is a monetary component, which varies based on that level of impact. And those aren’t talked about, you know, on the stage and all hands or in Slack, those are just celebrated with that person. And usually, for example, our team HR, we give awards within our team, and we give awards to others that are impacting and influencing the business really well. And so whoever, you know, whatever leader sends that recognition out to that person will have the whole our leadership team on it. And then all of us will respond in kind, and not to like just like here, here plus one, but it’s like, Hey, this is how I seen you showing up or Wow, this reward is so well. So it’s small, but it’s meaningful, because it has visibility into it from, I think people that that individual that recipient would want to be hearing those words from. So lots of different ways we do that, again, I give you a manager example. And then a leader example. But I think you have to have a variety of ways of doing it.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 22:35
Yeah. No, absolutely. Just like you have a variety of people to dish that out, too. So exactly.

Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott 22:43
Make a follow up comment to that. I’m sorry, I’m stepping out of the thing here. But I love how you said that. And I just one little anecdote, and this is a previous employer, we were doing sort of large-scale attrition prediction, sort of like looking at where we can see people are likely to leave the company. And we were using kind of this like neighborhoods concept of not like who is going to leave but which neighborhoods are likely to have the most attrition. And the single most important factor that we found was or to predict was we had the at that time a recognition tool where you can go in and just like recognize up here. And there was some monitors like you given them like 10 or $25, that would go like on a Visa card or something. The teams with the lowest amount of peer recognition were the highest. In addition, it was like the simplest thing out of everything that we could have pulled in that was the thing that kind of gave us the best temperature of what the sentiment or live engagement was like in that team. So anyway, I just thought that was cool. You mentioned that. So

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 23:51
wow, that’s a that’s such an important observation. So thank you for sharing it. But we’ll proceed back around the virtual room breakout.

Rekha Gurnani, Senior Director, Global Compensation & People Analytics, Box, Inc. 24:03
So yeah, what I’ve kind of plus one to what Tyler Murray talked about, as a manager myself. I’ve also had globally distributed teams and people have different preference, I think it comes down to like, really letting people have an opportunity to tell you what they want. And then actually like, honoring that, and like, you know, making that known. So what I’ve done personally is I’ve had globally just reload teams have always had kind of a shared team document where I asked everybody on the team to go in and tell us what hours you know, what are the core hours that they’ll be online and that way like we have everybody we can find the overlap so that that’s the time that we scheduled meetings where we all need to be there whenever we kind of know what went to find this person if you have a question for them. I asked them to share like their preferred mode of communication. Do they want to be sent a slack? Do they want to text do they want an email? What’s their preferred mode? of communication. And then one of the questions that we asked her is also about recognition, recognition, like, what’s your preference and how you want to be recognized, you want it to be public, do you not want it to be public. And also, like, as I’m getting to, every time I have a new person on my team, and I’m onboarding them, and having those initial one on one conversations with them, I try to gauge for that. And keep that in mind. Right now, we use a platform companywide for recognition, which does not really allow for unfortunately, for public recognition, I wish it actually did more of that. But the way it’s set up is, you know, someone will start at a board for someone and then invite others to go in and, you know, put a gift or a note or a message or something funny or whatever, or just congratulate someone, and then it goes only to that person who it’s intended for. So unless you’re invited to be on this list, you don’t actually see it. But we’re actually as we’re looking for, like new tools to maybe implement, and then in the coming years, when we have more budget for, you know, an upgraded tool and things like that, that’s one of the things I’m looking for. So in fact, I’ve actually been going through a few demos lately with platforms in this space. And one of the questions I always ask them is, is there an option for someone to go and select whether they want the public, their recognition to be in the public feed, or just from manager to them directly, and only they see it? So just kind of allowing people to give that opportunity to tell you what it is assuming that and kind of actually, like sticking with it, and passing that information on to relevant stakeholders, I think is the is what’s worked well. Yeah.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 26:40
And that’s a that’s a good one to think on for, you know, things that haven’t necessarily worked. Like it sort of works, but not really. And, you know, we’ve, I think, all experienced those experiments where, you know, it sounds good, and then you try it, and then in real life, it doesn’t actually quite work the way you want it to. So, Mike, you want to weigh in?

Michael Watson, Head of Customer Success North America, Eightfold 27:03
Here? Yeah, I think it’s a lot of what’s already been said here, right. Moving to a dispersed workforce during COVID, right, we had to find new ways of doing this, right. So we do have awards that we give out on a quarterly and yearly basis around our core values, we think are very, very important. keep people in line there, we also started using a tool was called nectar. And I’m sure some of you maybe have used it or have seen it in the past. But that seems to have really good engagement. Where I’m, as a manager, I’m allocated a certain amount of points every month, I make sure to hand those out, people can save up those points. You can use it towards gift cards, we give up points for anniversaries. I remember I just had my three-year anniversary, and I got a substantial number of points, I think I’d trade in for a $200 gift card at Home Depot, I was doing some home improvements. So that really helps, right? That helps. didn’t cover all the costs, trust me, but I covered quite a bit but during this season, and I think the other nice thing about next year, what we’re seeing now, and I’m sure this is like this with any platform is if you want to donate your points to a philanthropic cause you can do that as well. And, you know, we’re doing some backpack drives right now for kids getting ready to go back to school. So all of us on our team decided like, hey, for these next few months, you know, I appreciate the recognition don’t need to give me points, if you’re going to join any points donate points to the backpack drive in my name, where we can turn that into a financial donation to those philanthropic groups that are helping to serve those folks. So that seems to be working really well for us right now. And

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 28:53
I think that’s definitely worthy. And I think there’s a lot to be said, for allowing people to contribute something to a charitable organization, because that makes you feel a part of a larger community. And that’s a motivational tactic as well. intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I know Casey can speak to this better than I. But I’m curious about when we talk about points, converting to dollars or just recognition tied to dollars. That’s a really interesting concept, you know, marine used to mention something about spot bonuses. But Rick, I know that you’ve mentioned that there are recognition is tied to compensation. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Yeah. So

Rekha Gurnani, Senior Director, Global Compensation & People Analytics, Box, Inc. 29:44
yes, in a way that me as the compensation leader for the function owns the recognition programs. So in that person, yes. And I’ve seen it done differently at different companies. And I think that kind of tells you also how the company thinks about recognition. Should, right? So here I do on the compensation team owns recognition, I’ve seen it owned by benefits. I’ve seen it owned by like HR business partner talent type teams, I’ve seen it owned by like workplace experience, or finance in some orgs and things like that. So it really kind of depends on how the company thinks about recognition. And I box we do have the compensation function that owns it. So what that looks like has looked different in different years, you know, when we’ve had more of the budget to, to recognize people with those points, or those gift cards and just kind of more of the monetary aspects. It’s been more kind of figuring out the appropriate and developing the budget with within with our finance partners, allocating that to different organizations, and then giving them certain guidelines from a compensation perspective to keep things equitable. All right, and what are the milestones that we want to recognize as a company, how to do it? What are the process for it, move approval, amounts, guidelines, on amounts and things like that? And, again, globally, different countries have different things that, you know, they value when we’ve done gift cards in the past, we can’t just have like, a vendor that’s in the US, because that may not be available in other countries. So just kind of thinking about all those things. And operationalizing, that more recently, it’s we’ve had to get a little bit more creative, because we don’t have those kinds of budgets at this at the current time. Any, you know, tech companies and are definitely dealing with the same issue. So we’ve tried to find something where we have a balance between kind of recognizing people acknowledging their efforts, but maybe not always having the ability to attach a monetary element to it. So things like I think some of you have mentioned that those quarterly awards, we do those where we have like a company value that we select for that quarter, and we ask for nominations of who are the people who embodied that value in that quarter. And those nominations and the rationale like the people share and everything that’s kind of public, so you still get some recognition that I’ve been out, I’ve been nominated, and there’s a price attached to it. But then, you know, there’s usually like one person pulling up, put in a pool, and there’s either just like a lottery drawn or some sort of selection process. But you know, only a couple people maybe actually get the monetary reward. But there’s so we’re trying to find that kind of balance between giving people the recognition, but also limiting the spend. So that’s the ways that we’ve you know, as a comp team, been across the recognition programs, again, every year, it really depends on what we’re dealing with. And you know, what that entails?

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 32:40
I’m going to work backwards a little bit, Casey, because I mentioned intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. And can you talk about a little bit about those two things with regard to who might get motivated by a monetary recognition versus somebody who would accept the, you know, sort of quiet pat on the back?

Casey Wahl, CEO, Attuned 33:04
Yeah, absolutely. And maybe even in linking it to that kind of last conversation a little bit, I think, is recognition. And the question about having the monetary link to recognition is the point that you’re getting the money or the money that’s coming, it’s after the fact. So you’ve done something, you’ve been recognized it maybe by your manager, or somebody whose opinion you value, and you’re being seen, you’re feeling valued, you’re getting respected. And I think that’s okay. And the money parts, just nice, you know, it’s not connected to them going to that extrinsic money, motivation. Usually, those are incentives, usually their money or some other type of flashy carrot right in front of you. And you’re putting it there. And that generally doesn’t change performance, except short term performance, and repeatable simple type of skills. So if you want creativity, you want teamwork, you want to complex problem solving, which is all our normal jobs, most of the time, extrinsic motivation, using those incentives before you do something before the fact putting money before that activity or behavior generally doesn’t work going into intrinsic motivation. So we’ve identified 11, we actually have financial needs, as one of those in there is a set of the population with 20% of the population. That’s the top motivation. That’s why they go to work. And that’s what is going to continuously give them the energy to go to work, but there’s a whole 80% of the population that that’s not a core driver for them. So I think getting these insights to okay, what is going to work for everybody, and how complex we are as humans and our motivations, it’s one in a million chance that somebody is going to have a similar motivation profile. And this is the difficulty of being a manager is usually where trial and error okay, what works with this person, and that’s the key to that manager interface. And you have to do those one on ones. But the real difficulty is when we’re dealing with somebody, unlike ourselves, because we can’t get out of our own minds, you know, we just have to how to do that and going back and I Think this is where technology can be a champion, you know, coming from the software side of things to get us past Dunbar’s number, if I can get them out to 1000 people, then I can context which even though I’m at 150, I’m at my threshold of who I can remember? And what are the motivations?

Marie Potter, Senior Director of Culture and Development, Getty Images 35:18
That does it if it’s okay, I’m going to pull a Tyler and a riff off. And I think it’s really interesting that you know, what motivates your teams, and I was going to ask a question, I’m interested in your answer about kind of how did you gather that data, that information. But I will also tell you what, we did something similar. So we have in, it’s around technology and engagement. So we utilize quantum workplace as our engagement survey platform. And they have a series of recognition tools there too. And their engagement tool, we do a biannual survey. And one of the items we had asked was around connectivity and being in this global hybrid working world we’re in and we ask people do feel connected, and we got this survey results back and some did, some didn’t. And then we realized, like, Should we ask them how connected like how important it is to them. So beyond kind of the, the needs for the business, like how important is connectivity to you. And that was really interesting, because we got a good sense of, for some folks, as long as they’re able to do their jobs, find the right people, they feel connected and engaged that way, they’re good to go. And for others are like, and I would like some pizza parties with other people, you know, like, you get this like sentiment of social versus, though the work relationships. And we found actually that more people, they feel pretty good and connected around getting their work done, and they know their way around the business and who to talk to you. That’s great. That’s great for productivity. And yet, we still also have a subset of folks a small amount of folks who may need either recognition or connection in a different way. And so the engagement survey through kind of like a little tweaking we were able to get to that. But you know, Casey, I’m curious as to how you all did it, too. And Lydia, keep us honest, if you need us to?

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 36:52
Well, yeah, I just I, you know, I’ve we’ve only got about eight minutes left. So I want to make sure that that we can get to everything. But you know, it’s an interesting point that you brought up Maria, about the doing the engagement surveys, because Tyler, you said at the beginning, you’ve got a big part of the workforce that you can actually survey well, because they’re not in front of computers all day. So for the folks in the audience who are dealing with, let’s say, hourly workforce, or people who are not at computers all day, what are best practices for, you know, getting sentiment analysis and rewarding them?

Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott 37:31
Yeah, so the, the strategy that we’re taking, as we move, because we’re actually trying, we’re actively moving over the next few years away from just a single because right now we do one engagement survey years kind of a complete sentence. And that’s a huge investment for us. Because every hotel, the HR leader needs to sort of rally people get them into a room, set them down at like a kiosk or an iPad, and they’ve got to take time away from work to go do it. So the approach that we’re taking as we’re, we’re identifying and documenting, and sort of inventory, building an inventory of the moments that matter. So there’s certain turnstiles, and everybody’s workday or month or year that they have to pass, right. So you if you want a new job within the company, you’ve got to apply to it. That’s like a turnstile that you had to go past it when you have a when you get a promotion or performance review, or you’ve got to go on and take required training. At each of those moments, you are interacting with something, and we can’t waste a single one of those. And so we’re trying to kind of capture them all. And really just move away from asking you a bunch of explicit questions about your experience and more to kind of an NPS or Net Promoter Score type question where the context of where we asked it is maybe more important than the question itself. So you know, that’s why in the bathroom or at the grocery store, you’ve got the smiley faces and right you’re just like even asking somebody how’s your day to day, knowing that I asked them on the when they were punching in, in the morning, because they there’s still like a physical machine that go clock in on. If I can ask them, they’re on that screen. Or if I can ask them when they happen to be back, doing something with their W four in the back office on the HR computer and a pop up comes up and ask them how their day is. That’s the place that we’re going. And I think for a workforce like ours, where we have a massive digital shadow internally. That’s how you have to do it. You’ve got to take advantage of every moment that matters to them. And insert opportunistically just a very low, low investment, like how you doing? And that’s yeah, anyway, that’s how we’re

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 39:49
nursed and the like the smiley faces like where are you? Yeah, exactly.

Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott 39:53
Make it simple because even in the US we have every time we do something we’ve been translated to 60 languages because you English isn’t a primary language even for all of our hourly workforce. So we’ve got kind of layers of complication that we’ve got to get around.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 40:08
Right? Well, when we’re talking about, you know, the spend and how to remove the friction, you know, when we are thinking about recognizing and rewarding. Mike, I wanted to ask you this one. It seems like learning and development is a way that some organizations are using to recognize and reward their talented people. Can you talk a little bit about how that works? Where you are?

Michael Watson, Head of Customer Success North America, Eightfold 40:43
Yeah, so one of the things that we have inside the Eightfold platform on the talent management side is project marketplace, right. And our whole thing is, we want to become a skills-based organization, and we want to help you gain the skills you need, selfishly for us, but also for you and your career, right, we realize that you’re probably not going to work for us for 3540 straight years, like my father did with one company, right? That paradigm has shifted. So yes, we want to upskill you for some of the needs that we have as an organization. But we also want to upskill you to make you more valuable and more attractive in the market. Right. So by having this what we call project marketplace, and if I’m a manager, and I need help with certain project, I can go on there and create this project. And I can say it’s five hours a week, here’s the skills, you’re going to gain, here’s the duration, that’s going to last it saves me money. So I’m not having to go out and hire a contractor or a third party to come in, right, I’m building those connections with some of our best people and the people we want to keep by including them, right? So it’s cutting down on that. Hey, Mr. Mrs. Manager, I’m leaving the organization because I don’t see any future here. I’m not learning anything. Right. So we’re really opening those doors. You know, you don’t have to go and ask permission from your manager, right? We think you’re all mature, or else, we wouldn’t have hired you to manage this with your regular workload. That’s one of the ways that we’re tackling this. And a lot of our customers are also tackling this right, we have a very large pharmaceutical company that that’s using our product marketplace, to do just that upskill their folks and make sure they’re their best people aren’t walking out the door. Yeah,

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 42:27
that’s certainly a strategy. And the investment, I guess, is has its own return on investment if your workforce is as skilled as they can be. Again, I want to watch the time here. And I have to ask the question around AI, because I know that there are plenty of workers across all levels of organizations and all types of organizations, that maybe they’re not like lying awake at night thinking I’m going to be replaced by a robot. But there is certain level of anxiety, especially as we’ve seen, you know, so many layoffs in various different organizations, not just in the tech industry. So my last question to you is, is there a way to tie recognition and reward to a swaging the fears, low level, though, they might be that a workforce would have that they would be replaced by AI and automation. So we’re going to do a quick round robin. Casey, I’m starting with you putting you on the spot.

Casey Wahl, CEO, Attuned 43:31
Yeah, that really is on the spot. My instinctual answer would be no, in terms of, you know, recognition and awards to assuage that, because that fear is for the future and the uncertainty of the future. And I don’t think any responsible leaders to say, Hey, your job is safe, it’s not going to be replaced by AI in the next two or three years, or most people are not saying that. There certainly are jobs to do it. So I think anything creative, anything dealing with humans or interrelationship type of thing, those positions will be safer. If it’s a repeatable tasks, then those will be more difficult, right? And where you would put the recognition into those components to either reassure this sector of it or try to help somebody learn new skills and move them over here is where the challenge will be.

Rekha Gurnani, Senior Director, Global Compensation & People Analytics, Box, Inc. 44:21
For sure. Yeah, I mean, I guess hasn’t really been top of mind yet. But I don’t know if I wouldn’t necessarily say, using recognition or awards to reduce that fear is such a fear but more about giving recognition or rewards to help employees when they do upskill. So that’s going to help them win if this ever happens, and their jobs are in jeopardy that they’re prepared to, you know, apply skill somewhere else and so constantly encouraging that rewarding that and recognizing that would probably be the way I would go think about it. All right.

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 45:01
Mike, you have already talked about the L&D portion of this but

Michael Watson, Head of Customer Success North America, Eightfold 45:07
AI company, right, I wanted to, and I’m a former customer of Eightfold. So I was on the TA side for 25 years, I implemented this technology in 2018, and 2019. So it’s not so much rewards and recognition. But one of the things I told my recruiters that I was interviewing to come work for me at the time was, I was going to give them that next set of skills that was going to keep them employed for the next 25 years. When I came in to recruiting, we’re still using newspapers, that’s how long ago it was, Oh, wow. Gift online, where everyone is using LinkedIn, hold the shift to using AI. The faster AI is not going anywhere, it’s here to stay. So the faster you can get on board with that and learn new skills and traits, you’re just setting yourself up in the future. And so that’s one of the things that I’m building into my conversations with candidates and new hires, when they join my team is, hey, I’m going to arm you with the skills that you’re going to need for the next 25 years to be successful. So I guess it’s a form of recognition, right, recognize what needs to go in their careers, but being very transparent with them and you know, offering the world when it comes to upscaling and making sure they’re marketable in the future.

Unknown Speaker 46:26
All right, briefly, shields were

Marie Potter, Senior Director of Culture and Development, Getty Images 46:29
leaning into the fear and learn. And my best example is have you if you’ve seen the Hidden Figures movie, or heard the story about this, when NASA scientists, this woman, Dorothy had to learn the programming language for the IBM computer being installed, and instead of being a fear, she had fearful she adapted, and it’s true story, adapted, learned and brought her team along with that, that’s what we can do for our teams in AI is adapt, learn, and be at the forefront of that versus being the recipients of the unknown.

Unknown Speaker 46:57
Amazing, great example,

Tyler Weeks, VP, Talent Analytics, Marriott 46:59
Tyler. Because you don’t look, to me AI or data science in the workplace is like special effects in a movie, you only notice some if they’re bad. And so I think, you know, if you’re watching a movie, you, you get into the conceit, you just believe that that person is flying for a moment. And I think if you look at where you’re using AI in your daily life, nobody’s saying, I’m going to use AI to get directions to the restaurant, I’m going to use AI to find a movie tonight, you just go to Netflix, or you go to the map app on your phone. And so I actually don’t think that there’s much of a sort of incenting and convincing people that this is a thing. I think the burden is on us to show them value. Right? And to sort of bring them a thing that is doesn’t feel like a robot, it feels like a task that they had to do anyway. And it just made it really easy for them. And if you’ve won, you’ve done it right, if they don’t call it AI if they call it whatever, you don’t like the thing. Yeah, but the thing then, like you, you’ve sort of brought them along, so I maybe have a little bit different sort of perspective in your question was looking for but…

Lydia Dishman, Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement, Fast Company 48:15
No, no, that’s, that’s great. I think that you know, if we normalize it, you know, that it becomes like Kleenex like Xerox, like googling for, for all of those reasons. So that’s great. Anyway, we are well out of time. So thank you for indulging me. Mike. Rekha. Casey, Tyler Murray, thank you so much for being with me, Steve.

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