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8 min read

From a global pandemic to shifting our 400+ strong workforce to an entirely remote one, I know that industries and leaders everywhere are facing new challenges and weathering their own personal storms, and I hope our own story offers some practical advice and inspiration on how you can navigate the situation we’re all in. 

I think what’s made me most proud is seeing how our company – and our clients – have stepped up to the plate in using this time to engage their employees in new and innovative ways. Though we’ll be sharing many other stories with you in the coming weeks, I wanted to take a look back at the last month for Reward Gateway, in the hopes that you can take away some ideas from our experience. 

Open and honest communications with our teams

Working hand-in-hand with our Head of Global Engagement and Internal Communications Catrin Lewis, our focus first became “how do we communicate with our employees?” What do we say, how do we say it, and who says it. 

With internal communications at the heart of our employee engagement strategy, we had already created a themed communications calendar that incorporated voices from our frontline employees, Leadership team and managers, but we had to shift quickly to make sure we were delivering the most relevant, useful information to our employees. 

So this themed calendar, which was focussed on Mission Monday, Tech Tuesday, Wow Wednesday, Thank You Thursday and Feel Good Friday, evolved to this: 

Mission Monday: We focus on our Purpose, Mission, Values. Reflect on the past week and look at how to make a success of what's ahead.

mission-monday-boom
Tech Tuesday: Talk all things Techie to me with I.T. Security and Success Portal knowledge.

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Wow Wednesday: Product release means time to drop the latest news on the latest features, fixes and product releases all created to delight our customer and wow them!

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Thank You Thursday: Manager-led recognition is the key to a hugely engaged recognition culture. Our managers take the spotlight to communicate the moments our people have pushed the needle and moved our mission forward.

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Feel Good Friday: We share People News updates and our People Team take over to share how we're making RG a great place to work. 

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The basic format of it didn’t change, but every communication became focussed around COVID-19, whether that meant more communications and content around how to work from home, what we’re doing to support our clients in these times of uncertainty, or managers taking the time to shine a spotlight on employees that have really moved the needle in our business initiatives in a tough time. 

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While our readership levels varied week-by-week pre-COVID-19, the last month has seen more than a 35% increase in readership across our blogs compared to this time last year. Our clients have also felt the impact of internal communications with a 560% increase in unique blog views from this time last year. Part of this was due to our Client Success Team hard at work building more than 500 coronavirus-related hubs and individual pages, similar to the one Cat and her team initially created for Reward Gateway. 

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Gain more ideas for improving engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic »

While we have (technically) an Internal Communications team of two, it feels more like we have a team of 20 because so many in the business are contributing to our internal communications strategy. 

One of the biggest takeaways I’ve had in this experience is making sure that we have a united voice across our Leadership Team in what we are saying to the rest of the business and why.

We’ve all worked together to create a calendar where one of our nine Leadership Team members is posting daily throughout the week to keep leadership visible, and to connect people to one another, as well as the business as a whole. 

Building up a recognition focus to make our people feel valued and connected

The key to keeping connections and building community through a challenging time was making sure that our teams had visibility on what others were doing throughout the business, and that we shouted out about it loud and proud through special recognition. 

Managers emphasised the importance of recognition to their teams, and an emphasis came about via the Leadership Team as well to recognise others. In the past month, Doug alone has sent eCards to more than 15% of our employees! 

We also brainstormed new ways to bring our “new normal” to life, incorporating WFH eCards into our usual suite and adding in one around Friendship – many of our employees are friends in real life, and we wanted to give them a special eCard to recognise that it was difficult to not have the everyday connections we were used to! 

The phrase, “distance makes the heart grow fonder” definitely rang true for us here at Reward Gateway, as we’ve seen nearly 85% of our 400+ employees receive recognition, and more than half of them have sent it, totaling nearly 2,000 moments of recognition across our business. Our client base has also seen their eCard usage nearly double year over year. Here’s a look at some of what’s been created: 

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When you compare this to our recognition moments sent last year at the same time, the results are incredibly uplifting to see. Here’s a peek at our own Recognition dashboard (the orange is this year, compared to the pink from last year). 

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You can see how big of a spike we’ve felt as the RG family across the world are finding new ways to recognise one another. 

Focussing on the wellbeing of our people through activities, content and benefits

Alongside our recognition and communications machine, the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees was critical. Employee safety and wellbeing has never fallen from the top priority for us – while we understand that performance is important, what’s been more important is showing that we genuinely care for our RG family.

And that’s long-term, as well as short-term. So we looked at this in phases: 

First, we phased our offices into working remotely from home to try to make sure the change wasn’t abrupt or severely disruptive to the day-to-day. This involved close collaboration with our IT teams to set everyone else up for success, including making sure our equipment was ready and informing our employees to bring their devices home with them every night (just in case!). 

Through our communications and wellbeing solution (and via our new coronavirus internal hub), we also put a big focus on benefits that could help people cope during this time, such as our EAP and reminding employees to use their wellbeing allowance and our discounts platform to get any tools or items they might need in terms of technology or exercise to stay well.

Month over month, the visits to our wellbeing section of our engagement platform has increased by more than 15%. 

The most popular views have been on the physical wellbeing section, Move, which shows that our WFH employees are looking for new ways to incorporate physical wellbeing into their day-to-day (yoga and pilates has been particularly popular!). Since April is Stress Awareness Month, our Internal Communications Specialist Kristen Peters also pulled together an April activity calendar for our teams called “5 Winning Ways to Wellbeing” to make sure our employees are taking steps to battle stress and work their ways to better wellbeing. 

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Plus, of course, as part of the People Team we made sure that the entire team was available as employees needed us, setting up virtual drop-ins or further opening up lines of communications. Our internal teams have also built out more than 100 new wellbeing hubs for our clients to help them support their own employees, too.

Making sure we still had the RG magic and fun in our new normal

Shifting more than 400 employees to be equipped for temporary remote work and keeping our business fully operational hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a lot of collaboration, careful planning and truly putting our people first to make sure we were making the right decisions on how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

We want to make sure to keep RG at the heart of every employee experience, and bring all the in-office fun to our people, even though they’re all virtual. 

Our Experience Managers and other teams have been working hard to play hard, which shines through in our moments where we take a breath and remember that it’s OK to play. 

Some of the things we’ve done include a virtual Easter Egg hunt, which our London Experience Manager Will Elliott orchestrated for local managers to deliver to the different offices, and share more photos of our four-legged children more than ever before. 

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Many of the offices have set optional, virtual “happy hours” where people can still feel like they’re meeting at the pub to decompress after a tough work week, and some of these have even involved fancy dress.

What comes next? 

Listening to our people has always been important – one of our eight values is “Speak Up,” where we encourage employees to reach out anonymously (or state their name if they wish) to our Leadership Team on issues that matter to them. 

But in times of crisis, this has never been more critical to learn from what we’re putting in place. That’s why we’ve introduced the “We Listen” tile on our employee engagement platform, where employees can submit questions or feedback directly to Doug, who will work with our other Leadership Team members to answer the query in one of our boom! Posts. 

We’ve also developed new surveys as part of our employee surveys solution to find ways to improve people’s WFH situation, or to get a general pulse-check on how employees are feeling about the COVID-19 pandemic. These have helped us gain better insight into our own organisation, which led to making these templates available in our survey library, so clients can share them, as well. 


Though we’re in a challenging situation, the most important lesson I’ve learned from all of this is to make sure that what keeps us “RG” hasn’t gotten lost. Sticking to our core values and putting our people first has set us up for success, and as we continue to learn and grow from these uncertain times, I’ll be posting here with more on what we’re doing to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I know that many organisations are going through their own set of challenges. I’ve been speaking with dozens of HR leaders in the past month, and would love to connect with you if you need any feedback or even want to share ideas of how you’re all handling the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m here for you on LinkedIn - just pop me a message! 

Get in touch with me »

Author

Robert Hicks

Robert Hicks
Reward Gateway

Robert is the Group HR Director at Reward Gateway. In his spare time he goes to gigs, watches football and cricket and enjoys the odd ski weekend.

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