KBS+P says hello to new employee-engagement program

Like most senior management types, Cameron Wykes believes that a happy, motivated and engaged workforce is one of the keys to running a successful 21st century business. Rather than sitting back and hoping those traits evolve organically, however, the chief innovation officer for Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners is attempting to nurture them through a […]

Like most senior management types, Cameron Wykes believes that a happy, motivated and engaged workforce is one of the keys to running a successful 21st century business.

Rather than sitting back and hoping those traits evolve organically, however, the chief innovation officer for Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners is attempting to nurture them through a new employee-engagement program.

The MDC-owned agency recently imported a program developed at its New York office called “Hello Moments,” which relies on the collective brainpower of agency staff to generate suggestions for everything from improving internal processes to solutions that can be applied to clients’ business—all with the ultimate goal of boosting employee morale and retention.

“I’m really big on culture,” said Wykes. “You can work at an advertising agency and focus on a really good client and deliver on what you need to deliver, but I think culturally we want people to feel this is more than just a job.”

The first “Hello Moments” event in Canada was held this summer, attracting about half of the agency’s approximately 144 staffers in its Toronto and Montreal offices.

It yielded a new employee reward system with the working title of “+Bucks.” The program is still being developed, but when fully implemented it would see KBS+P staffers given a finite amount of fictional dollars which they will in turn award to peers based on their contribution to the agency—whether it’s working late on a project or helping others develop a presentation.

At the end of a stated period, this “currency” can be redeemed for everything from paid days off to career training or even cash. “It’s all about fostering that culture of peer-to-peer support within the agency, so they can translate that value into whatever they want,” said Wykes.

The “+Bucks” program is valuable not only because it fosters cooperation and boosts employee morale, said Wykes, but also provides senior management with a true picture of who is making a notable contribution to the agency—not just the people who are perceived as key staff members by virtue of their tenure and/or office politics.

“It not only helps with retention of really good people, it also allows us to tap into so many people that I think are extremely underexposed just because of their roles,” he said.

The five-person team that came up with the concept will share a $2,500 prize.

The program has also led to some process-driven client solutions, such as ways to improve creative briefs, said Wykes. The next session, he said, will feature a series of “client-specific” mandates.

“If we were to go above and beyond for client X, what are some really innovative ideas we can apply to their business?” he said.

Timothy Holden, founder/owner of Toronto Training & HR, which develops custom employee training programs and provides HR support to mid-sized, private-sector companies, said programs like “Hello Moments” have the potential to significantly boost morale and create more engaged employees.

The use of such programs is growing, said Holden, fueled in part by a lacklustre economy that has created anxious employees and, in the case of some business sectors, increased pressure from other geographic regions.

If an organization can’t compete on things like cost, he said, high employee morale can be a deciding factor in making a business competitive by creating employees who are strongly motivated to help it succeed.

“If somebody is happy and positive and motivated, the chances are they’ll do a better job. When the snow comes they’ll battle their way to work rather than stay home,” he said.

The key to making such programs work, said Holden, is conducting both pre- and post–program studies to arrive at a set of benchmarks. The efficacy of programs can be determined by tracking everything from absentee rates to employee retention or internal employee satisfaction surveys.

Holden suggested testing a program within one segment of a company and then refining it before rolling it out on a more widespread basis.

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