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The world we live in is in a constant state of flux. There’s never time to put your feet up and coast on what you’ve accomplished because there’s always more to do. I know that’s a bit dreary, but it’s become the way of life. The pandemic was a monumental shakeup to the way organisations do business – and the way employees perform their work. The Great Resignation, the Great Adjustment, skyrocketing interest rates and economic instability – and now also a bit of a ‘boomerang’ phenomenon (where workers who’ve left their employers are returning to them) – have all presented unique challenges for HR.

We spoke with a handful of HR heroes at Reward Gateway Live 2023 this June and revealed strategies and insights guiding their people programmes. As the host of the one-day event, I was keen to hear from our HR leaders themselves around top trends in the areas of employee engagement, HR strategy and more. 

Here are our top six most valuable employee engagement takeaways for 2023:

1. The cost of doing nothing
2. The value (and necessity) of Agile
3. The power of creativity and persistence
4. Why a ‘No’ is only a stepping stone to a ‘Yes’
5. The balance between benefit impact and usage
6. The strength of community

1. The cost of doing nothing

Fiona Buchanan, Chief People Officer, Verifile

HR initiatives take money – that’s not a secret, just a challenge every HR department faces in concert. 

During the session Building a Business Case to Transform Employee Experience, Chief People Officer Fiona Buchanan at Verifile made a point about the cost of doing nothing. She said that when presenting a business case to your senior leadership team to get new investment for your people programmes, the first thing they often want to hear is the bottom-line cost – followed by a forecasted return on that investment. She argues that a really important way to get them on your side is to calculate the cost of your organisation doing nothing.

For example, determine your organisation’s rate of turnover and calculate what that attrition is costing the business. This data is great support for your comparison to the budget for this new programme. It’s very easy to get too focussed on finding a cost-effective solution and ignore how much money is pouring down the drain under the status quo.

Use our calculator to discover how much employee turnover is costing your  business. Learn more

2. The value (and necessity) of Agile methodology in HR

While originating in the technology field, ‘agile’ simply refers to a method of problem solving and process management that increases the speed and frequency of development projects. In HR, this agility translates into the ability to dissect large, long-term goals into short-term, smaller projects that can be shuffled or pivoted to accommodate changing business priorities – but all lead in the direction of that larger strategy.

Nebel Crowhurst, Chief People Officer, Reward GatewayWhen Reward Gateway Chief People Officer Nebel Crowhust, during her session Staying Agile as an HR Leader to Respond Quickly to Change, asked the audience about meeting inefficiencies, we resonated with the lack of productivity. How many times have you sat in an hour-long meeting, to only have 5 minutes to talk about what’s relevant to you, while the rest of the meeting is just listening to updates from others?

Her explanation of using sprints – those above-described shorter cycles with more frequent feedback loops – showed the audience that they can be much more progressive in their work. They can adapt faster and have more chance of success by getting feedback more often to apply it to the next sprint. The translation of Agile into HR allows exponential growth through incremental feedback. And when HR teams do adopt this methodology, they can demonstrate themselves as a truly progressive department of the business.

3. The power of creativity and persistence

We were blown away by some of the numbers Leanne Carroll, Human Resources Director from Copart UK, shared during her fireside chat, How to Use Reward and Recognition as Your Hidden Superpower

To achieve a 95% active user rate among their employee population is absolutely amazing, but how did the business get there? Especially with a largely offline workforce?

Leann Carroll, Human Resources Director, Copart UKCopart UK demonstrated the power of creativity in rolling out its benefits and R&R platform with their Benefits Roadshow. The HR team are in the process of travelling around the UK, visiting their 22 sites in order to show and demonstrate what’s on offer and how to use the platform.

They also get into the employee experience super early, welcoming all new starters with an eCard so that from the get-go they are using the platform.

The message?

You’ve got to make your rollout work for your unique employee demographics and keep going - it’s not a ‘once and done’ thing.

4. Why a ‘No’ is a stepping stone to a ‘Yes’

We really respected the honesty and vulnerability of our panellists to share the times when something didn’t go so well. Like when, during Building a Business Case to Transform Employee Experience, People Director Charley O’Toole from Chestnut Group shared how the first time she presented her business case to the board, it was a quick no. Being a previous user of Reward Gateway at another company, she had assumed that a positive testimonial from personal experience would be enough. Adam Williams, Employee Engagement Consultant, Reward Gateway; and Charley O’Toole, People Director, Chestnut Group

What she learned was that each member of the board wanted information presented in a different way – where her CEO required hard numbers, her founder wanted simplicity. Finding out what made each board member tick enabled her to create different versions of the pitch to suit each member. And she got the magic yes the second time.

The takeaway from this experience:

It’s okay to fail. Challenge is good – it means your board is interested and they care about the outcomes.

5. The balance between benefit impact and usage

Reward Gateway Live 2023When building an EVP that works for a diverse, multigenerational workforce, take a hard look at what benefits will make your employees feel valued, supported and understood. 

There is a balance between ‘impact’ and ‘usage’ when it comes to the benefits we offer employees. Some benefits are highly meaningful to a demographic in your organisation, but it may not be heavily used. Sometimes, having these benefits is more valuable to employees than a mediocre benefit that tries to apply to everyone. For example, RGers are able to expense a taxi or rideshare expense if they are ever someplace they feel unsafe and need a ride home – it may not have high usage (thankfully!), but it’s an important offering for those who have needed it.

I particularly loved the example from BigHand, which offers floating holiday benefits – allowing people the flexibility to work on a national bank holiday and take the day off at another time that is more significant to the employee. This means a lot for employees who don’t celebrate Christmas, for example, but have another significant holiday at another time of the year.

6. The strength of community

As mentioned above, the theme of Reward Gateway Live 2023 was navigating the state of flux to attract, retain and support your people. But we know it’s really hard to be in HR sometimes. We loved the final piece of advice shared by Leanne Carroll in the Q&A at the end of the day, when asked for the biggest piece of advice to help HR leaders navigate the state of flux. 

connect with your communitySimply: Connect with the HR community. Listen to what other people are doing, come to events and feel part of a community of people all going through the same (or similar) things.


We’re excited at Reward Gateway to continually bring thought leadership, research and best practice to our wider community. If you’re interested in sharing or learning from others, please drop me a note on LinkedIn, or subscribe to our blog for more insights.

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Joe Benton

As an Employee Engagement Consultant, Joe loves problem solving, creating impactful solutions and building connections. When he's not doing that, he’s cycling around the Essex countryside or trying his hand at a new recipe in the kitchen.

Employee Engagement Consultant

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