Notes from Naomi Simson - Part 3 The energised workplace

RedBalloon For Business

Feeling good at work stems from many things – and a simple ‘thank you’ can really help.

This week, Naomi discusses how incentivising people in ways that make them feel valued, can lead to positive energy and great workplace morale.

Our RedBalloon vouchers have been used to spectacular effect over the years to motivate and reward staff. Let me tell you, when someone sees that well-known bright red voucher, their eyes just light up. It’s wonderful to watch the excitement on their faces, and to see them thinking, “Oh, I wonder what’s in here?” The anticipation!

(On a side note – even my Mum gets excited! I’m forever gifting her different experiences. You can almost see her thinking ‘Now what?!’. But she still enjoys them. Recently, I gave her a cooking class with a string quartet. It was perfect for her, and she loved it.)

Gratitude, happiness and productivity – where’s the nexus?

In a workplace scenario, thanking people for doing a good job will always be a wonderful thing to do. We know gifting makes people happy. But does it motivate them to ‘do better’?

What does ‘doing better’ mean, anyway? I like to say, I’m not creating a kindergarten. You know, people like to work. I don’t like the word ‘productivity’. Because actually, people know their right role, they know where they’re contributing and how they impact a workplace. That doesn’t mean ‘Oh, they’re being productive’. Our job as employers is to support people with their learning, their development, and their growth.

I believe in focused, ambitious organisations that achieve an outcome, and I believe that people do want to work and participate and be a part of something bigger than themselves.

In an interesting and wide-ranging interview from 2019, a McKinsey report quoted Sir Richard Layard as saying: “If we can’t have a society in which people are enjoying their work, there’s something very seriously wrong. And the employer has a huge role in setting the context within which people spend their time at work.”

He also noted, “Employers have a real duty of care……and [employees] are going to respond if the employer is making their life better, because they want to make their life better. And that’s the moral thing to do.”

Creating an aligned workplace, where people are truly seen.

I completely agree. I believe you need to be a better person when you’ve left an organisation that when you started. It’s part of the journey of life – experiencing and evolving – but what it’s not, is happiness for the sake of happiness. I don’t think of it as having a happy workplace, so much as an aligned workplace. A focused workplace, so that

people know how and where they fit in and that they belong. And that people are seen for who they are. They can bring all of their gorgeous differences into the office and it’s all absolutely OK. That feeling of “I see you as the person who provides this level of contribution.”

So, while you can create what you think is the best workplace in the world; table tennis, free food and so forth, unless people feel truly appreciated or noticed, it’s all for nothing. It can actually create an environment of entitlement. Our job as leaders is to challenge people to do their best work, but to connect to the impact that their work has on other human beings. And to remind them over and over again why that purpose is so important.

And of course, to reinforce that notion of people being valued.

Feeling valued, a voucher at a time.

When providing vouchers, there are so many different constructs of how experiences can be used to drive behaviours. What am I trying to achieve for my business? That’s where we come in – you brief RedBalloon and we do the rest, designing a whole programme around your goals. It might be a gift-with-purchase, or a promotional thing, or we want our customers to talk about something or to see a certain hashtag in social media, or to build a relationship with our suppliers. Or that simple ‘thank you’ as we did so successfully with MetLife (see below). Just tell us what the need is and we’ll take it from there.

It might simply be, I want to thank people for a tough year and I want to do something really special, because money is scarce. Let me tell you, a $100 voucher for a family to spend time at a theme park or go jetboating together will stand out when times are tough, as they currently are – so it doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be thoughtful.

The true value I find, in my business, comes back to those looks on the faces of the people receiving the vouchers. You can’t really put a price on that.

Case study – Metlife

We all remember that during Covid, times were difficult and morale was at a very low ebb. One day, the MetLife CEO told me: “I need to thank people for just logging on every morning, and doing their jobs when it’s hard and it’s lonely.”

Of course, it was a matter of “Leave it to me! You don’t have to organise logistics, you don’t have to do anything, I will do it all for you,” and of course that’s the real benefit, because people are busy. We then did an incredible programme, whereby Metlife chose to give every single one of their team members (we’re talking hundreds and hundreds or people) a RedBalloon voucher – just to thank them for working from home, for showing up every day.

Later, the CEO said it was the single greatest thing they did for employees to shift the conversation about the business. And the second greatest thing – which no one really expected – was how people were waiting to use their vouchers to be able to do things together, post-Covid.

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