Talking Employee Recognition in HR Technology with Achievers

As part of HRMS World’s coverage of HR Tech Europe 2014, we sat down with some of the major players in the HR technology market to discuss market trends and how their products are developing alongside these. In this interview with Achievers’ Eric Allen, Managing Director, EMEA, and Rob Catalano, VP, Global Expansion & Engagement, we discuss employee recognition and the role HR technology can play in this burgeoning HR discipline.

HRMS World: For those of our readers who haven’t come across Achievers before, can you tell them a little bit about the software?

EA: Achievers is a cloud based software platform that providers a powerful new way to engage, align and recognise employees, with a view to increasing employee performance, engagement and understanding of the company purpose. By bringing together in one solution, the ability to engage, align and recognise employees, companies have seen benefits that ultimately support the companies performance, be it top line, customer satisfaction, higher employee engagement scores, lower attrition, etc. This happens because employees understand what is expected of them, they are rewarded for behaviour that underpins the companies values and they feel more appreciated by and engaged with their employer. In turn when speaking to customers, the customer gets a constant experience that really resonates with what the company wants to put out there.

RC: What’s interesting is the level of investment and focus on employees, as you can see at an event like HR Tech Europe 2014, it’s getting higher and higher each year. The challenge is, even if we look at the market in general, we spend 4 times more on CRM technology, looking at our customer, than we spend on human capital management software, looking at our employees.

I think the shift to investment in employees is getting there. They are as important as customers, if not more, because they’re the one that serve your customer and create successful business.

“we spend 4 times more on CRM technology, looking at our customer, than we spend on human capital management software, looking at our employees”

HRMS World: How is Achievers developing to meet the demands of this shift in investment towards the employee?

EA: Traditional HRMS systems, systems of record, they’re looking in the rear-view mirror, how did you do last year, how do you sit in the bell curve, etc. But the Achievers platform is built for the employee. It’s driven more by the employee than the employer, through social participation in a Facebook-like news feed. By virtue of that, the adoption you get around the platform reaches every employee in the company, every demographic and position, and they interact with the platform on a daily basis. One of the things I talked about when describing Achievers was employee alignment, if the company wants the employee to go to the right or go to the left, whatever their strategy is, quite often it’s hard to move the employee and get them aligned. This platform does that. Here are our values, here is our strategy, this is our purpose, behave in this way, and you’ll be recognized or rewarded for it. So, the employee moves very quickly and feels part of it.

HRMS World: Is there a danger that a platform, such as Achievers, that is built on social participation can fail if 100% adoption is not achieved? In other words, if one link is broken in the chain of social communication and recognition.

RC: What I think is interesting, especially in the recognition space, is where many of the links break are when barriers are added to the process that don’t allow people to participate. I don’t want to recognise someone if I have to go over to HR and ask for a form and fax it over to another place, it’s hard to do, but when you make it simple and remove the barriers there is really no reason why people wouldn’t participate.

I fundamentally believe if you make a system accessible and easy to use, then employees will use it. We’re not saying everyone is using the platform every single moment of the day, that would be naive, but our system is certainly accessible. We don’t train employees or managers to use the platform, it’s that simple. We discuss the impact of recognition, of employee alignment and engagement, and we have seen great employee adoption off the back of these discussions.

HRMS World: A central theme to this year’s HR Tech Europe seems to have been the development of “vendor cooperation” in the HR technology market. How are Achievers taking advantage of the more open vendor and software landscape?

RC: This has definitely been a change we have seen in the past few years. Everyone wants to have the conversation, especially at shows like this. So we’ve taken a similar approach, we want to be involved where it makes sense. If you look at what data fuels recognition or engagement along a platform, all the data comes from HRMS systems. So, you integrate with these because the data provides further insight for your users.

We also have partnerships with Virgin Pulse and a well-known LMS provider integrated into our platform. We have taken a similar approach, we’ve been vendor friendly as well, we’re having those conversations. We have a number of incredible partnerships that are in the pipeline right now that we’re very excited about – I’ll be able to talk about those in more detail next year. At the end of the day, if there’s a way to leverage it, it’s worth having a conversation.

We value these partnerships so highly, that we’ve actually just recently launched our own open API. We’re seeing a wide range of companies and customers using our platform and saying “we’ve thought of other ways to use this”. Now, we might not be able to get it into our product right away, but the vendor may be able to build it at their end.

The short answer is, it’s absolutely something we look at, something we will continue to look at. I think it’s something we’ve seen success with.

“Your workforce could be using their voice to tell you where your talent is, where your under-performers or over-performers are.”

HRMS World: Another hot topic at this year’s conference is how employers and employees are using the data that our HR systems monitor and produce. What is the Achievers approach to HR data and its use as a strategic tool?

RC: If you think of all the impact of recognition - who got recognised, who recognised the other person, what values they are recognised for, are there certain skills involved in that - the data and wording are tagged into that. There is this base of data there, but what do you do with it?

What we’re seeing is a couple of things. The first is insight into who our top performers are, who is getting recognised, who is accomplishing achievements in the system and hitting performance measures. Not only that, but insight into top performers from a high potential standpoint, the new employees coming in and engaging with workplace culture and work ethic. Companies are asking, “are there trends in the way we saw someone progress through roles during their time at the company?” If you think of something like recognition, that’s a fundamental leadership skill set. Not everyone is good at doing that, but if we have someone doing it right now, in a successful way, do we have a future leader in the organisation? It’s like Gallup Q12 says, “do you recognise a person once a week?” It’s something that is fundamentally a good management measure to look at.

When you start collecting all this recognition data, you start building employee reputation within Achievers. This would allow me to efficiently build a cross-functional team of people that are recognised a lot for customer service and maybe analytics for example. Or maybe I’m going to try and build a team of people who are already working within a lot of these cross functional teams in the business.

EA: Reputation is like your crowd sourced C.V. rather than “your version of you” which might be available on your LinkedIn profile. This makes your reputation very credible, and meaningful. As a manager, I make it my job to get to know and interact with my staff. But there’s a point where you’re going to miss things. You’ve got superstars out there with certain skill sets and you’re missing it. This whole crowd sourced reputation, the wisdom of the crowd, can be really powerful. Traditional HR systems are systems of record, fill this report in, fill this form in. Your workforce could be using their voice to tell you where your talent is, where your under-performers or over-performers are. You know we’re not a big data analytics company but we provide dashboards and reports that are there in our platform today, you don’t need to hire Einstein to use it and it’s really insightful. So, it has an application, that’s the point, it’s not just data.

author image
Tom Feltham

About the author…

Tom Feltham is the Editor and Content Guru at HRMS World. In between updating our HRMS software guides and managing our expert contributors, Tom keeps tabs on the HR technology market and occasionally puts his thoughts on paper.

author image
Tom Feltham