As a company founded on increasing employee engagement, one of our primary goals at Incentive Solutions is to lead by example. During our annual BthruB conference in October 2014, many of our clients asked us how we achieved such an engaged and productive work culture. The answer is simple: we practice what we preach. We reinforce positive behaviors by using the very same reward program we offer our clients. Our employees, just like our clients, receive points that they can redeem for fun rewards like electronics, home goods, hotels and cruises or vacation packages, and concert tickets.
We reward employees for following the company values by which we live and breathe. They are printed in a small booklet called The ISI Way given to every employee. Our values have produced a positive, energetic staff of people who love working and succeeding together. In this article, we’ll look at The ISI Way’s 31 cornerstone principles and explain how our internal incentive program reinforces them.
1. The Value: “Be Respectful”
- Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Listen to what others say and respond kindly. Don’t interrupt or act as if someone is inferior to you.
- Recognize the efforts and accomplishments of those around you. Positive feedback is a tremendous energy source.
- Be a thoughtful communicator. Write and speak in a way that people can understand, using the simplest possible explanations.
- Trust and be trusted. Don’t judge people before you get to know them. We believe that most people genuinely want to do the right thing. Act out of this belief.
- Be tenacious but even-handed. Fight hard for what we believe, but don’t win battles at the cost of losing the war.
How We Reinforce It
In our quarterly meetings, we always recognize one employee as Star Performer of the Quarter based on their going above and beyond the call of duty. Positive feedback and recognition are essential in showing employees that they are valued and respected. We award our Performers of the Quarter with a handsome reward points prize and a write-up in the company newsletter, which goes out to all employees and clients. We also, of course, give out an even bigger prize at the end of the year to our Elite Performer of the Year. All employees have the potential to earn these and other accolades, recognition, and points throughout the year.
Stressing the importance of verbal praise and recognition also reinforces the fact that everyone’s positions are respected, and everyone’s hard work is greatly appreciated. Mandy Freeman, Director of Account Management at Incentive Solutions, says, “If you take notice of a co-worker’s stellar performance, don’t just think it – say it.”
2. The Value: “Take It Personally”
- Take pride and ownership in everything you do. Regard every project as a personal statement bearing your signature. Always ask yourself, “Is this my best work?”
- Know your product inside and out. Be the most informed person in your discipline.
- Take our company’s success personally. View your decisions and actions as reflections of the organization. Always ask yourself, “What would I do if I owned the company? How do my actions affect profitability?”
- Seek what’s best for our customers and our company. Discover what our clients need and find solutions that benefit both organizations.
How We Reinforce It
We regularly reward our employees for the ownership and accountability they demonstrate, along with the little things they do to improve our corporate atmosphere. Our managers often use the Quick Points module to reward employees because the on-the-spot paper certificates are such a flexible system. Flexibility is useful because our employees often surprise us—we can’t always predict the ways they show their dedication! Rather than just rewarding employees for meeting goals or increasing sales (both of which are important), we can encourage all kinds of actions that show personal investment in our company and culture. Brittany Mize, Merchandise Specialist, says, “I recently received points for making the Account Coordinators laugh with a funny email, which they sent to my manager. I’ve also received points for answering a question correctly during a meeting.”
Quick Points certificates place importance on our employees’ ongoing pride in their roles. We use them as rewards for positive behaviors, not just job performance.
3. The Value: “Act Now”
- Avoid the analysis paralysis that comes from complacency, fear, and procrastination.
- Separate what must be done well now, and what can be approved later. Often, waiting to get a product or project perfect appears like inactivity, so gain ground in smaller pieces rather than waiting until everything is just right.
- Do it right. Take the extra time, double-checking all your work for accuracy and correctness.
- Focus on achieving great results and challenge yourself constantly. Good is the biggest enemy to great. We stress that everyone’s success falls completely under their control.
- Be proactive. Put the client’s needs before your own. Exceed customers’ expectations in all interactions.
- Set and ask for expectations. Establish clear priorities and deadlines to work on what is important.
How We Reinforce It
Our approach to reward program technology is one of the best examples of Incentive Solutions demonstrating our “act now” approach. Our leadership team, through their experience in the incentives industry, noticed a need among clients to have more affordable, responsive, easy-to-use reward programs. So we developed online software in-house that is module-based. Our IT team can improve these modules as time goes on, instantly applying updates to all of our template software.
We continue to retool and refine our modular technology based on clients’ immediate, real-world needs. Our latest projects, for instance, involve mobile app and texting communication capabilities. We believe in looking carefully at the industry landscape and responding quickly but efficiently to the needs and desires of our consumer base.
4. The Value: “Collaborate”
- Focusing on problems drains energy, so apply your creativity and enthusiasm toward working together on solutions.
- Look for opportunities to help colleagues, even if it means doing something not listed in your job description. Identify and act on opportunities to help others.
- Be consistent. Our clients rely on the combined efforts of all departments, and all departments within the organization rely on each other for success.
- Actively listen and communicate concisely. Listen three times more than you talk. The cornerstone of teamwork is communication.
- Celebrate our collective wins. It’s important to share success together.
- Check your ego at the door. Consider the outcome of your words and actions, ensuring they benefit others in a positive way.
How We Reinforce It
Our Total Recognition Suite is a social media module we developed specifically to boost employee engagement through peer-to-peer recognition. It’s very similar in spirit to online platforms like Reddit message boards and Facebook walls. Our employees are excited to check the latest posts and conversations on our internal Recognition Suite. It’s updated weekly with new employees receiving accolades from managers and peers alike. Our employees love to congratulate each other for their help and hard work. A few recent examples:
“His quick actions allowed me to resolve the client's issue in short order, helping our company look good. Thanks!”
“Thanks to the Account Coordinator Team for their great customer support during the activation campaign for one of our biggest clients!”
“I just want to give a hand to my department teammates. Though they work diligently behind the scenes they rarely get noticed. So I just want to let them know that I appreciate everything they do. Great job guys and it is an honor to work with you all.”
5. The Value: “Make It Better”
- Never stop asking questions. Challenging and questioning the norm often leads to new, better policies. Always seek out new ways to understand and improve.
- Think outside the box. It is important to look at problems from different viewpoints. Sometimes you have to go back to the beginning and try a different path.
- Seek to understand and improve the big picture of our strategy, our marketing, our clients, and our suppliers.
- Create new ideas that are useful to our customers. Prepare by anticipating future needs and addressing them now.
- Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.). Minimize complexity and find time to simplify. Often, the simplest solutions produce the best results.
How We Reinforce It
We always leave ourselves receptive to new ideas by maintaining open communication, regular departmental goal-tracking meetings, and our managers’ open-door policy. We want to make sure all employee voices are heard and their ideas expressed. For example, our company President Mark Herbert hosts a quarterly AMA lunch in which staff is encouraged to ask him about anything that’s on their minds. This open approach to dialogue extends down to every manager in Incentive Solutions. We believe it’s important for employees to feel comfortable with their managers and teammates. Open-minded discussion encourages the expression of different opinions and is the best path to innovative new ideas.
6. The Value: “Do the Right Thing”
- Act with candor and directness. Approach issues head-on rather than skirting around them.
- Only say things about coworkers that you would say to their face. If you have an issue with someone, bring it up directly and with consideration.
- Be quick to admit to and learn from mistakes. Mistakes are learning opportunities. Ask yourself what you learned from your error, and what new behaviors you can practice to avoid making the mistake again.
- Keep your promises. Be on time for all appointments and meetings. Punctuality is a reflection of respect for others.
- Question actions inconsistent with our company values. It’s everyone job to hold each other accountable to our company policies.
How We Reinforce It
Every week, one of our employees' emails and posts a short article about one of our ISI Way values. In these articles, employees demonstrating how they follow our guidelines, citing mistakes or challenges they’ve overcome to learn important lessons about management, problem-solving, or work ethic. Regular communication through blogs and meetings encourages open dialogue in the office and reminds employees why our principles work so well. “The right thing” isn’t the right thing to do, after all, unless we think and talk about why it’s an effective strategy.
At Incentive Solutions, our strategy for a positive and productive office environment has been simple: establish clear organizational values, then enforce those values in our daily activities and interactions. Using our own incentive program technology has played a major role in keeping our staff engaged and enthusiastic to work with one another. It also improves our relationships with clients. Sarah Smith, Account Manager at Incentive Solutions, says, “Being able to participate in our own internal rewards program really helps when talking with clients about the benefits of these types of programs. My clients always seem to appreciate hearing about what I personally redeemed my points for. It’s fun to share those experiences and it gets the clients excited because that’s what we would expect from their program participants, too.”
When people ask us how we achieved such an outstanding company culture, our answer is always the same: by practicing what we preach.