Webcast Q&A – Building a Culture of Connection: Citizens’ Story

October 2, 2020 Aaron Kinne

7-minute read

Derek DeSousa and Derek Irvine

How can you maintain – and even strengthen – a culture of connection and collaboration during these challenging times? To find out, HR and business leaders joined us for the first in our new “Time to Thrive” webinar series: Building a Culture of Connection: Citizens’ Story.

Watch webcast recording >

Sponsored by Workhuman®, the SHRM webcast featured Derek DeSousa from Citizens and Workhuman’s own Derek Irvine as they discussed how Citizens transformed and modernized its employee recognition program. With a people-first mindset, Citizens has successfully used strategic Social Recognition® to maintain a culture of connection and collaboration during these unprecedented times. Here are some of the compelling themes they discussed during the program:

  • Manual, paper-based programs don’t cut it – They rely on one-off, physical gift cards; recognition moments become delayed, the tracking of activities is limited, and there is no mobile capability.
  • Gaining buy-in is key – Partnering with Workhuman, Citizens delivered roadshows that showcased live demos and supporting data – fostering early socialization with key audiences.
  • The new program has driven measurable improvement in key metrics –   Citizens has seen greater connection, higher engagement, lower turnover, and improved employee experience.
  • The data says it all – The recognition platform has unlocked a wealth of insights for Citizens, revealing how work gets done, identifying high performers, and demonstrating the impact recognition has had across different business units.
  • There’s a strong business case for strategic recognition – The decision to implement a recognition program shouldn’t be made solely from an expense perspective. In the end, data reveals the bottom-line benefits a strategic social recognition program can have on an organization. 

Watch webcast recording >

And now, on to your questions

Following the presentation, the panelists answered questions the audience had submitted during the event. We’ve included some below, but because the volume of question was so great, we’ll be doing a follow-up Q&A post in the next couple of weeks to share more of your questions – and the panelists’ answers. Watch for it.

Q: How do you keep employees engaged with a program like this? And at the same time, how do you reach new people to keep the program from growing stale?

Derek D.: It’s about continuing to reinvent yourself. A tactic that may work for one business unit may not work for others. We had a very well thought out, robust communications and engagement plan that really differentiated this program. 

We continue to look at the data to see which users aren't using the program – or aren't using it enough. And we look at how those people are getting their work done. We also ask them. I'll often take a group of colleagues and have a virtual discussion: ‘Hey, tell me about the Credo Awards program. What do you think of it? What can I do to make it easier? Did you know...? ’That's how I've continued to refine and help with reach.

But again, when you first launch, your tactics and messaging has to continue to change.

Derek I.: I get this question quite often. Sometimes I think it refers to the traditional recognition program – the one-letter-a-year type program – where the desire is to think, ‘Well, what would that [recognition] letter say this year? What color paper should it be on? What brand might we use?’ Everything is riding on that very limited amount of recognition.

The contrast with a socially oriented recognition program – one that has a really high frequency of recognition like you built at Citizens – is in the stories themselves that constantly keep it fresh. When you're on the newsfeed, you're constantly seeing fresh and interesting things that are happening across the organization. That keeps it from going stale.

Q: How would you describe the recognition experience for remote colleagues?

Derek D.: This [recognition] platform has been made it a better experience for remote colleagues because you no longer have to physically mail them something. It's not an email that's getting lost. It's a true award.

If they have the mobile app, they're receiving the award on their phone. And even if they aren't using the mobile app, they're getting an email. And their manager is also getting it.

You're connecting that remote colleague to other colleagues because they're now congratulating and liking and commenting on that award. So it's connecting them to the broader organization, which we couldn't do before because everything was done by email or snail mail.

We're actually seeing a lift in our remote colleagues getting recognized. But we've also seen a lift in them giving because what I often say is ‘recognition is contagious.’

When you receive a Credo Award, you tend to think, ‘Oh, that felt great. Who should I recognize today? Since I'm in the platform anyway, let me recognize a few people.’

So we're seeing an increase in the number of awards coming from remote colleagues – as well as a number of awards going to remote colleagues.

Derek I.: Even more so during COVID-19, it’s vitally important that we take those moments to connect with each other.

When I look at our client base, for about 90% of our customers, there's been a doubling down on recognition – where they’ve been even more focused upon making sure they're having these genuine human moments of connection. Times are more difficult and they need that extra connection, they need more resilience, they need more touch points. 

It becomes contagious. But it's a good contagious – remembering to reach out to each other and create human moments.

Q: Do you see any insights from the recognition program in terms of your talent across the company? For example, people who are influencers, hidden talents, and so forth.

Derek D.: Yes. We're now able to show managers, HR leaders, and HR business partners the people being recognized in their organization. But sometimes it's across business units. Who are the collaborators? Who are the people receiving lots of awards from their leadership team, or from their peers? [We see] where those people are being elevated and really being recognized across the organization. 

Who is getting things done? Sometimes they're six or seven layers deep within the organization. We’re now able to see that through a report. As a manager, you can see where that recognition – for each person on your team – is coming from.

It’s also helpful for me as a leader to be able to see who my team is recognizing. Who are my allies? Who is helping my team get the work done?

We're now able to acknowledge that person to say, ‘Hey, thank you for helping my team.’ We haven't been able to do that before.

Derek I.: Do you have an example of a personal moment that has touched you as a result of Credo? Or an example from a close colleague?

Derek D.: One of the moments that surprised me was when I gave a presentation and an HR colleague – someone I've known for many years –reached out to me through the platform and recognized me for what I shared. 

It was the fact that she shared with me how much she learned from that presentation – and this is someone who I've gone to throughout my career for advice and for data and is totally up with industry trends. But she came to me! So I would say it was this moment when I realized, ‘Oh, wow, she thought of me in that space.’

Derek I.: Thank you once again, Derek, for your openness and your authenticity in sharing with us the Citizens' story. We all could do with seeing more initiatives and stories like this across our work world. If we all focus upon creating human moments that matter by talking, thanking, celebrating, we're going to create a better workplace.

Watch webcast recording >

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About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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