HRD Service Provider Awards 2023: Achievers

Achievers claims gold for its reward and recognition services

Achievers received the gold medal in the Rewards and Recognition category at the 2023 HRD Service Provider Awards. CEO Jeff Cates and senior manager, customer success APAC Emma Harvie sat down with HRDTV to discuss how Achievers helps organisations create a culture of recognition.

“It’s really nice to receive industry recognition for the work that we do with our customers,” Harvie said. “We’re really proud of the entire team for this award and it is a moment for reflection for our global team, not just for those in APAC."

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Kylie Speer [00:00:07] Hello and Welcome to HRD TV. I'm Kylie Speer. And joining me today is Jeff Cates, Chief Executive Officer and Emma Harvie, Senior Manager Customer Success APAC from Achievers. Achievers received the Gold Medal in the Rewards and Recognition category in this year's HRD Service Provider awards. Welcome to you, Jeff. And Emma. And thank you both so much for joining us today.

Jeff Cates [00:00:35] Oh, good to be here, and very exciting to win the award. So thanks for taking the time to spend some time with us.

Emma Harvie [00:00:41] Thanks for having us. 

Emma Harvie [00:00:44] Well, firstly, congratulations on your well deserved award. How does it feel being recognized for your outstanding contributions in this field?

Emma Harvie [00:00:55] Thank you. And as a business that is built off the power of recognition, I have to say that it's really nice to receive industry recognition for the work that we do with our customers, we're really proud of the entire team for this award. And it is a moment of reflection for our global team, not just for those in APAC, we have an impact on 3.7 million members around the world and trusted by 400 global brands that will help change the way that their people work. So personally, it's really rewarding knowing that every second someone is being recognized around the world with one of our programs, but we're only as successful as our customers. So I'd like to take a moment to specifically thank our customers in the Asia Pacific region, many of whom we've had long standing partnerships that we truly value. So this is as much recognition for them as it is for us.

Kylie Speer [00:01:52] Recognition is a critical aspect of employee engagement. How does Achievers help organizations create a culture of recognition and what sets your platform apart from others in the market?

Jeff Cates [00:02:06] Yeah, I'll take that there's really three core things we anchor around. One is designing both technology and experiences that are anchored in leadership science. And in particular, an area that we focus around this kind of concept of belonging, and being able to kind of fuse those insights into technology so that the technology is actually guiding behaviors, creating and supporting cultures that can thrive. And then surrounding that with a service team that really helps bring the best of those both things, bringing the leadership science from the Achievers workforce into Institute, which is our research arm. So bringing those best practices, but also bringing the how do you activate the technology in ways that help deliver on your people strategies. And so I think when you bring all those three things together, like really purposeful built technology and services, technology that's guiding behavior, and then a service team. It's like bringing best practices from other organizations that help you hit the ground running, that's truly when you can make a big difference.

Kylie Speer [00:03:13] How does Achievers enhance the overall employee experience for organizations? And can you share some success stories or case studies that highlight this?

Emma Harvie [00:03:24] Absolutely. Some of our most powerful customer stories or when our program performance is linked back to the business impact super retail group, which most people will know as Supercheap Auto, Rebel, Macpac, and BCF, which are some of our most iconic local brands. They have a really, really great program that unites the tribes of secret retail group under a common recognition framework and a common set of values which focuses on social in the moment recognition. The program's called SOULmoments, and there's been embraced across the business. And what the team did that was super interesting was analyzed the impact of recognition across their store network. And what they found was that average transaction value, so that basket size at checkout, they found that stores with more recognition, those in the top quartile had a 21% higher average transaction value than stores with less recognition, so those in the bottom quartile. And this is an amazing proof point for the program and validation of the connection between recognition and overall customer experience. Some of our success stories are when we migrate programs onto the Achievers solution. Often recognition programs are expensive, because they heavily rely on the ward to drive activity. And sometimes they're administration heavy, and that becomes a burden on the team to manage. They don't utilize integrations and communication to drive program performance. So there's always all lots of opportunity to create more activity make the program more simple to operate and drive better business outcomes. And one of the enterprise examples in Australia that we migrated and existing program onto Achievers. In the first three months, we doubled the amount of recognition being sent, we increase the number of social nonpoint based recognition by three times. And we reduce the average reward value per points based recognition from $48 to $14. While doing that, we also doubled the number of people being recognized. So we helped create more recognition moments impacting more people while managing the overall cost of the program to within pre established budgets.

Kylie Speer [00:05:47] Achievers prides itself on closing the gap between the promise of values and living those values through its technology. Can you share specific examples of how your platform helps organizations align their values with their daily operations?

Jeff Cates [00:06:04] It's arguably one of the most powerful things you can do we have a really high active usage recognition program, one of the most powerful tools to make values interactive. And what I mean by that is that each and every day, people are going on to the system and recognizing others or seeing recognition sent to others. And each of those are usually tied to the value. And so what that means is when people are recognizing somebody, they're saying, oh, that's an example of blah blah blah blah. And then they're, they're responding to that they're engaging with that. And so one that cements the behavior, and it's, it shows up in so many different ways, based on how people are recognizing each other. But on top of that, as leaders, we can go on and pile on, Oh yeah, that's exactly what it when with customers means and no, I love that about that. You just did that. And so we're able to use that positive reinforcement to be able to anchor on these behaviors that you want your organization to rally behind. It's so incredibly powerful, nothing quite makes values lived. The way a high frequency recognition program does.

Kylie Speer [00:07:15] Emma as the Senior Manager, Customer Success, APAC, what unique challenges and opportunities have you encountered in these regions and how does Achievers cater to the diverse needs of your clients there?

Emma Harvie [00:07:29] What's been really fascinating and also really encouraging over the last few years has been the uptake of our programs right across the world. We're working with a diverse range of customers, teams in markets like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Dubai, France, New Zealand, And we're yet to encounter a company where launching a recognition program doesn't resonate with the team. We do see some markets more heavily biased towards reward initially as a program launches, but recognition remains the front and center as the driver of program usage. And an area that we've invested heavily in is our go global capabilities across the regions to leverage our global marketplace to ensure that rewards are sourced from local suppliers. They're shipped within country and so we remove any issues with customs and duties and time for people to actually receive their award through to our budgets and points management tools that we use to ensure that we're fairly and equitably managing reward spend across multiple markets. Now, at Achievers, we know that communications are a powerful driver to drive program usage and impact. And as part of the Achievers offering, we have a global communications catalog available to all of our customers, which makes it really easy to deploy campaigns. And we've made investments to localize these communication assets to ensure that they're really relevant to our customers, no matter where their employees are located. And that's from celebrating Diwali to Lunar New Year through to raising awareness of events like ''are you okay?'' day and NAIDOC week in Australia. So we're ensuring that our programs meet the needs of our customers, regardless of their location.

Kylie Speer [00:09:20] Jeff as the CEO of Achievers, what inspired your passion for creating environments where employees can do the best work and how has this vision contributed to achieving success?

Jeff Cates [00:09:34] Yeah, I've been in the technology space for pretty much all of my career. And a couple of companies was HP, Apple in2IT had a reward system and, and that was great. It was a way for me able to pass like a small amount of reward or large for that matter to somebody rather than using payroll, and it offered them the ability to take that reward and buy something that was semi personalized for them. And that's pretty, that's pretty good. That's pretty powerful for an organization. Sometimes you've put recognition on that book, what the research was showing is that reward does create a pop and a behavior a feel good moment, but it doesn't tend to last very long. What does last is recognition, when I feel like I'm being seen being recognized for the contribution I've made, that creates a dopamine release for not only the individual receiving, but also the person that's sending it. And so if you can unblock or unlock the frequency of recognition by not putting it behind the budget, you can really have an impact on culture and how people feel. And we spend so much of our lives working at work, that the ability to actually create positive energy and really anchor around things, they're gonna make you feel people feel better for their contribution. This, it's, it's a big deal. And so I'm excited about what we do the impact that we have, and in particular, our ability to help leaders be more effective, help leaders create better bonds and connections with the people on their team, and help the people on their team feel better about the contribution they're making.

Kylie Speer [00:11:18] Employee belonging is crucial for fostering a positive workplace culture. How does Achievers support organizations in promoting this sense of belonging?

Jeff Cates [00:11:28] Let me take that we this is an area that we've spent a lot of time researching as a concept kind of before it became part of the vernacular. And really, there's a core set of things that we've recognized that one, if a individual feels like they belong in an organization, there are three times the level of engagement, commitment and productivity back to the organization. So you know, simple, just software belonging, but what does belonging mean? And we broke belonging down into five core elements. Welcomed, so you're introduced to an organization, you're incorporated within that team structure, you're known. So you're understood, you're motivated and celebrated as an individual, you feel included in decisions that are being made and contributing to the culture of the organization and accepted for who you are, you're supported, so consistently given feedback, and given an opportunity to develop. And lastly, connected that opportunity to create relationships within teams, but across teams, to help you be able to have a bigger impact, but also be able to create connections that go beyond the individual job. And so organizations that are really good at hitting those, those five things Welcomed, Known, Included, Supported and Connected, can have a significant impact on productivity, engagement and overall commitment to their organizations.

Kylie Speer [00:12:57] So looking ahead, what are some developments or innovations that we can expect from Achievers in the coming year?

Emma Harvie [00:13:05] I feel like some of the exciting things is the work we're doing around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. So building off the belonging pillars that Jeff just spoke about the use of AI as an example to help people write more inclusive recognition. So one of the most common phrases to perhaps nudge people in different directions as the term of Hey guys, and providing an alternative as they're writing a recognition so they can write more in inclusive recognitions. And then the other spaces, integrations and partnerships with the likes of Microsoft and Workday. Maybe, Jeff, you could comment on both of those.

Jeff Cates [00:13:49] Yeah, we're really excited about problems that we can solve. But as a platform, we're really thinking about how can we take these behavior drivers that we have, and be able to apply them to other investments that organizations have already made in HR technology, like, for example, positive reinforcement recognition can be used to be able to help drive learning and development, Hey, I just completed the following task, I get a badge for that, or I get recognized. Or maybe I even get rewarded in a small way a nudge. And so we think we can take the things that we do that are behavior drivers, and we can apply them to other problems across the HR technology stack, and how organizations or other HR technology companies solve that. We were selected as a partner to Workday to be their recognition provider. And we're excited about that not only because we can serve that 10,000 plus workmates around the world, but because we can partner with our product teams and do exactly that find different ways where we can really help activate the great problems they solve with the behavior drivers we have in our application. And then beyond working with others. We're also pioneering in our own kind of swim lanes if you will. One of my favorite products is called employee connections and It's really all under that connect like black ladder pillar that I mentioned, where, when you're in the office, you may have opportunities to run into people. But as organizations have been more global or maybe distributed work, it's getting harder to create those personal connections that go beyond the day to day job. And so employee connections is really this out over the matchmaker, where you can say, oh, I want to put people together that happened to live in Melbourne and want to run. Or maybe it's people a certain job skills, or maybe it's a mentor with these skills with a mentee that's looking for the following. Where we think it's really cool. That's a great way to be able to use digital methods for creating connection, some cases serendipity, and where you want to apply some frameworks around that to help drive meaningful connections.

Kylie Speer [00:15:45] And finally, what advice do you have for organizations looking to enhance their recognition, employee experience, engagement and belonging initiatives based on your extensive experience and expertise?

Emma Harvie [00:16:02] There's really three things that come to mind for this. The firstly, aligning the program to key business outcomes, similar to what Super Retail group that I mentioned earlier, getting really clear on what the purpose of the program is, the impact that it's going to have how you're going to measure success, and use that to help create a business case for implementing the program in your business. We know that budgets are tight and organizations need to maximize the return for every dollar. So you need to ensure that you have this robust business case to support your investment, and then measure success on an ongoing business. The second is comms, nudges, integrations to ensure that the program is integrated into the flow of work for your employees. Recognition is most powerful and effective when it's in the moment. So you need to make it really easy for people to access. And by integrating with the likes of Microsoft Teams and Outlook or with Slack, you can make it much easier to access the program. And then also get the advantage of nudges to recognize such as when you wrap up a meeting get a little reminder to to recognize the people that you've just met with. And all of our great programs supported by robust communication strategy and calendar. And this doesn't need to be all owned by the recognition and reward team. This is an opportunity to engage your DEIB team to add a recognition call to action to every initiative that they own. Same for safety, same for learning and development and so on. Any initiative that impacts your people can have a recognition element. And they can leverage existing comms channels within those business areas to create a culture of recognition. And then finally, the most effective programs have visible and active usage by the most senior leaders in the organization. Ensure the leaders across the business, understand the value of recognition and the impact that it has on the business and the role that they play in creating a culture of recognition. And there's almost as a double duty, it helps support the culture of recognition through the program, but also helps your senior leaders create a profile within the business a position of trust or position of leadership, because they're also identifying the great work that's happening in the organization. And being able to call that out publicly and transparently in a recognition program.

Jeff Cates [00:18:30] I suppose to pile on to that, that, that comments about senior leaders engaging the best programs, the one that have the most amount of energy, the highest recognition sent and received are those where the senior leaders really engage and embrace like a great story. When I was in Australia a couple of weeks ago, we met one of the large retail chains, they're very well known. And they had a million recognition sent in the first year of their program. But the CEO, she went around to two different store locations and distribution centers. And they said like what's working well, and the top thing she heard was their program. And that's just goes to show that this opportunity create connections across the organization. It just takes a little bit amount of energy but it has a maximum amount of impact. So great programs really harness the opportunity for for leaders to engage and build brand and connect. Our technology just makes it easy for that to occur.

Kylie Speer [00:19:32] Well congratulations on your well deserved accolade. And thank you so much once again for your time today, Jeff and Emma, it was so great speaking with you. 

Jeff Cates [00:19:42] Yeah, thank you very much. And for the award. It's great to have the opportunity to be able to celebrate what we do but more importantly the impact our customers have on their employees life. So this is very cool.

Emma Harvie [00:19:55] Thank you. 

Kylie Speer [00:19:56] And thank you, of course to our viewers for watching the latest. Episode of HRD TV we look forward to seeing you again soon.