Employee Engagement Programs in The Unprecedented Times: Q&A with Sudhanshu Tewari, Co-Founder and CEO of Rewardz

November 12, 20202:53 pm1100 views
Employee Engagement Programs in The Unprecedented Times: Q&A with Sudhanshu Tewari, Co-Founder and CEO of Rewardz
Rewardz team at a fun Global Catchup session.

Many businesses have transitioned to be more agile during unprecedented times. They ramp up their efforts to engage with employees, customers and partners remotely. Due to this shift, HR practitioners need to re-learn, adopt, and if needed, create new methods and practices to deal with this change. Some of the top concerns need to be managed by companies include employee health & wellness, business continuity, and productivity. 

But, what is the right way to ensure these measures work well amidst the unprecedented times? 

In this interview article, Sudhanshu Tewari, Co-founder and CEO of Rewardz, shares his thoughts and tips on how to better engage and retain employees during hard times. 

Mr Tewari, thanks for dedicating your time to this interview. The way we work has changed given how the pandemic impacts business and the world economy. Does it also mean that the way employers reward and engage employees should also change? Why and how?  

For engagement leaders and HR practitioners, COVID-19 has presented a whole new ball game, where they are trying to figure out the best ways to balance productivity and employee morale. The pandemic has hastened many a digital transformation journey, even in the employee engagement space. 

Keeping employees engaged as they work remotely comes with its challenges. Traditional rewards and recognition mechanisms would not prove effective amidst the new organisational dynamics and challenges posed by COVID-19, which has pushed companies to rethink their rewards and engagement framework.

A few considerations have assumed a greater importance. Showing empathy and supporting mental wellness of employees during such times can improve employee or customer stickiness in time to come. Moreover, keeping employees and customers close and monitoring their real time sentiments and engagement levels is important as it can have a direct impact on business.

What are the top trends in the employee engagement and incentives space, especially in this COVID-19 situation?  

Mental health has come under the radar and prioritising it will be a business imperative for all organisations, big or small. A global Qualtrics survey revealed that the mental health of two out of five of its respondents had declined since the COVID-19 outbreak. Working from home has brought with it newer challenges, with more than 44% of those surveyed attributing their declining mental health to the new workstyle.

Another key trend is the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life, which is why employees are striving to achieve harmony between the two as they manage work deadlines and personal/family commitments at the same time. Flexibility and empathy can go a long way in supporting employees in the current situation.   

Cloud technology and adoption of AI has become a win-win proposition for both employers and employees. Investing in the right tools and predictive analytics is becoming critical for companies and will be an overarching trend for the years to come.

How can HR harness the power of analytics to retain, engage, and boost employees productivity?  

The pandemic has offered an opportunity for HR practitioners to think differently – which is why the use of predictive analytics can play a major role in setting the future course of their employee engagement initiatives. And yet, there are limited sources of tangible data for a company to accurately determine how well engaged the employees are and how the company culture is. With Rewardz’s CERRA Points, our flagship product, companies can boost employee morale, raise team spirit and drive operational efficiencies in the current work-from-home environment, while also gaining access to rich insights based on actual user behaviour for measurable engagement.  

Based on your observation, what are some industries where the need to engage workers and keep them motivated has become of utmost important?  

One of the most critical industries that is helping us fight our way through the pandemic is healthcare. The frontline healthcare workers are the real heroes who have been clocking extra shifts and nursing patients while putting their own health and safety at risk. In challenging times like these, it is important to keep up their morale, recognise their valour and send all the appreciation their way.  We must take care of their mental health as they are subjected to high stress environments on a daily basis.

Another industry that has seen a rapid rise in intensity of operations is logistics and delivery. Logistics workers and delivery personnel have been quietly working to ensure the delivery of food and essentials continues unhindered. Encouraging and engaging them can go a long way in making them feel recognised and even improving customer service.

How does Rewardz help businesses thrive through its digital incentive programs? For example, does it include the use of gamification?  

Understanding employee motivation, wellness and engagement is a challenge during the best of times, but without the regular office environment given COVID-19, managers need digital solutions to understand, measure and analyse how employees feel and how motivated they are. Our engagement and wellness platforms – CERRA and Flabuless – allow firms to digitise key tenets of their business including employee engagement and employee wellness, quickly, cost-effectively and in a smart way.

CERRA Points offer unique and relevant spot rewards and help deepen engagement through personalized birthday wishes, season’s greetings, appreciation notes, product updates and more. Real time updates and statistics can help track event attendance, monitor user engagement and assess usage behaviour patterns.

The key is to provide the right incentives in the form of points that can be redeemed in a manner and place of their choosing, and incorporating gamification into the platform. For example, through CERRA Points, we gamify performance by awarding points for exhibiting the right values, hitting KPIs, and other behaviours aligned with corporate goals – all through fun leaderboards that encourage goal-setting and healthy competition. This also lends transparency to the rewards and recognition process.

Similarly, through Flabless, a fun corporate wellness program, we are helping companies foster healthy habits and shape a fitness culture within the organisation. Companies can choose from a variety of challenges on our corporate wellness platform, including Steps and Weight-loss, to create buzz and excitement for their wellness programs.

Rewardz team at a pre-covid volunteer event

Image: Rewardz team at a pre-covid volunteer event
In line with the previous question, how effective is gamification to drive more learning through higher employee engagement?  

Using game mechanics in a non-game domain – also known as gamification – incentivises participants to finish what they started. Gamification of learning maximises enjoyment and engagement by capturing learners’ interest and inspiring them to continue learning. According to research, it takes an average of 66 days on average to form a habit; gamification is a way to incentivise and motivate someone to persist to the end, thus making it likelier to form a beneficial habit.

It makes sense, therefore, that positive behaviours and healthy living among employees should be encouraged through gamification. There are several ways that firms can do this, be it through organising a company-wide walking competition, incentivising short-term performance milestones, encouraging a culture of peer appreciation, completing learning modules, attending wellness events or setting intra-department goals on fitness.  Relevant incentives should be put in place, in the form of digital vouchers and products across F&B, lifestyle services, health & wellness, ecommerce and more, to appeal to the needs of your diverse stakeholders.

What are your strategies to maximise employee motivation besides providing better benefits and perks?  

Employee benefits are evolving from traditional to more creative, as more and more millennials and Gen Z join the workforce. Millennials value experiences. Employees today want more from their workplace. Therefore, a traditional rewards and benefits program will not be as effective as it once was. Employees now demand flexible work routines, a healthy work life balance, and a larger sense of purpose. They prefer unique, personalised and thoughtful employee benefits and perks.

Especially in these tough times, it is important for senior leaders and HR to find ways to connect with employees and understand the impact that the pandemic has on them. Benefits should be customised based on individual preferences and in sync with the times. For example, work from home benefits are a huge hit with employees right now which also demonstrates that employers are actively thinking about employee wellbeing.

Beyond 2020, businesses will need to strengthen their focus on employee wellness. Employers that value mental health of employees shall qualify as the ‘employer of choice’. On the other hand, employees that are physically and mentally fit will be more productive and creative, thereby enhancing the company’s bottom line.

Lastly, what is your insight on the future engagement after this new normal?

In the next 5 years, engagement and wellness will be ubiquitous across all companies – a given rather than a good-to-have or afterthought.

The once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has resulted in heightened awareness of wellness (both physical and mental); these will be an essential component of HR policy/benefits over the next 5 years, and we will see a change in the way companies operate and react to issues like stress. Engagement will be a differentiator across companies, as well as a key consideration in being an employer-of-choice and in retaining employees.

The field of employee engagement will also become advanced and analytics will play a major role, making it a part of boardroom conversations. There will be enhanced focus on how rewards and recognition will impact the business bottomline. The HR industry would have moved beyond the standard mould of ‘pay and performance’ with more innovative models in play.

Read also: The Future of Workspaces Post-Pandemic: Q&A with Narita Cheah, Co-founder & Director of Paperspace Asia

About Sudhanshu Tewari:

Sudhanshu is the Co-founder and CEO of Rewardz, a mobile-first leader in digital engagement solutions for employees, sales teams, customers, and partners. Establishing Rewardz in 2012 with two co-founders, Sudhanshu bootstrapped it to become one of the largest players in employee engagement, recognition, and wellness solutions across Asia. He hails from a banking background with over a decade of experience with reputable investment banks, including JP Morgan, RBS, and Credit Suisse.

Connect with him on LinkedIn. 

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