In this eBook, learn how to define your employee recognition strategy for the long-term, and gain tips for increasing engagement and usage across the organization.
For 107 years, industry-leading aging services organization Otterbein SeniorLife has been on a mission to enhance the quality of life and holistic growth of its 7,000 older persons across 19 locations in Ohio and Indiana. Its 1,800 employees, or what the organization calls “partners,” are what make Otterbein stand out from other organizations and its goal is to better engage them so they can better serve residents.
Aging Services (nonprofit)
Number of employees:
Number of Locations:
Employee recognition, employee surveys
The team at Otterbein had built a strong cultural foundation, but felt that the company values weren’t as ingrained as they could be. The team also had goals in mind to enhance the “spirit of Otterbein.” But they needed a strategic partner to help benchmark against them and navigate this new journey, while continually enhancing the employee recognition and reward experience and improving manager participation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted healthcare and aging services providers across the country. In particular, recruitment and retention have been challenging, and as a result one of Otterbein’s key areas of focus became standing out as a top employer and improving employee engagement for its frontline employees.
Lois Mills, Vice-President and Chief People Officer at Otterbein SeniorLife, looks after bringing a strategic HR focus to the ministry, along with the tactics that support it. Her vision for HR is to develop processes and systems to attract, select, develop and retain the talent that’s needed to meet the ministry’s goals.
Prior to working with Reward Gateway, Lois worked with the rest of the Executive Team to establish core metrics for the organization. They refer to this as the “ROAR” initiative, which stands for Recruitment, Orientation, Onboarding and Retention. But Lois and the team knew that in order to truly enhance the organization’s culture, it needed a strategic partner to help them along the way.
In 2016, Otterbein partnered with Reward Gateway to launch its employee engagement platform, “The Otterbein Experience.” Before rolling out the platform to partners, Lois wanted to ensure that it would be a true reflection of their culture.
The team held focus groups of 50 partners across different levels, shifts, locations and departments, or what the organization calls “ministries,” which led to the creation of five values and 21 behaviors to support them. After identifying these values and behaviors, Lois worked with Reward Gateway to bring them to life digitally on The Otterbein Experience with an identifiable brand identity as well as to train their people.
For example, one of these values is “Partnering in Our Success,” and there are four behaviors that support this, including:
In addition to its ROAR initiative, Otterbein also has “SOAR goals” – 100 metrics related to four key areas – partner engagement, elder & family satisfaction, quality and financials – that the team tracks quarterly. The Executive Team, which includes CEO Jill Wilson, the CFO and Operations VP, meets with the leader of each location to talk about metrics and an improvement plan. They choose a behavior to track each year, measure it, then train stakeholders on instilling their values within the health and services ministry.
“Buy-in has to start at the top,” Lois says. “When we launched our new values and behaviors, we trained everyone in the organization starting with the Leadership Team. Everyone from housekeeping to managers to the CEO can and should do these behaviors on a daily basis. We start introducing people to The Otterbein Experience from day one – each new hire gets a copy of our values and behaviors at orientation so we can set them up for success in knowing how we work together to reach our goals.”
Now when partners log onto the platform, they’re greeted with a colorful, branded experience that showcases Otterbein’s values and behaviors, a note from Jill Wilson and a place to see top recognitions or, “Spotlight Recognition,” which all help to bring them closer to one another and to the organization. Alongside this, employees can send one another recognition and rewards, including greetings-based eCards like “A Virtual High Five,” and values-based nominations such as “Delivering a Personalized Experience.”
The team at Otterbein brings the digital recognition to life. For example, Jill Wilson kicks off each meeting with an “Otterbein Minute,” which is an opportunity to share top recognitions with the entire team to get people talking.
Jill is a firm believer in the power of public recognition. “As the CEO of Otterbein, it’s my job to ensure our mission and values are lived out in the work we do and received by those we serve,” Jill says. “The best way we can do this is by recognizing those who live our values and behaviors with The Otterbein Experience platform. It’s unleashed our passion to care for one another through recognition and is an effective tool in helping guide our culture to produce an experience that is consistent with our mission and values. The platform makes people feel appreciated, knowing that their work has purpose and meaning and it increases the visibility of who sees it, which is especially important as we continue navigating the pandemic,” she adds.
One of the mottos at Otterbein is “no margin, no mission.” The organization is metric-driven and this is especially true when it comes to looking at how The Otterbein Experience platform supports its ROAR and SOAR goals. As a member of the executive team, Lois works closely with leadership, but specifically partners with Jill Wilson to ensure they’re moving the needle on employee engagement.
Using Reward Gateway’s employee survey tools, Otterbein gains invaluable feedback from its partners. Lois and the team host bi-annual surveys and work with their dedicated Reward Gateway Client Success Manager to better explain the data to their partners. The team can track how they’re doing, what they can celebrate and what they can work on. The survey looks into:
All of these segments are then broken down by location and managers for a deeper look into the data to understand how the different ministries work together and recognize one another.
In Otterbein’s February 2020 partner engagement survey, the team gained key insights about how they were improving their culture and engagement, including:
The reward and recognition tools have also been a big factor in building a culture of appreciation and retaining their partners. The training sessions, paired with the new recognition initiatives, has resulted in a 70% increase of managers recognizing non-managers. And in the last 12 months, 99% of partners have received recognition through the platform. What’s more, there’s been a total of 13,566 recognitions sent in the last 12 months and this number continues to increase.
Otterbein’s employee engagement journey is entering its next phase, as the organization has recently merged with a new organization. The team will be bringing them up to speed with training and will be using The Otterbein Experience platform as a way to align them with their values straight from onboarding.
Remaining a top employer with a strong values-based culture is a high priority, as the organization continues to attract and retain employees during a healthcare worker shortage.
Lois adds, “Reward Gateway has made it possible to use data to enhance our company culture. We can uncover what motivates our people in an industry that’s been hit hard by the pandemic – retention and improving our engagement scores remains our top priority. The values-based reward and recognition capabilities paired with the insightful analytics has helped us build upon our foundation and bring our culture to the next level, so we’re prepared for whatever the next wave of change brings.”
of all partners have received recognition in the last 12 months
of all partners qualify as highly or moderately engaged