name tags

The phrase “corporate culture” might send you into a flashback of Tony Robbins-style motivational speeches and wacky retreats where you have to catch your colleagues jumping backwards off a platform.

Thankfully there are other options. A number of companies have turned to internal rewards programs and other software-centric approaches to solve the never-ending dilemma of how to help managers better connect with their employees’ sense of self-worth.

What's Your Favorite Candy?

Chad Langford of Stepframe
One of those companies is Richland, Wash.-based Stepframe. The goal is to allow employees to have more a voice about what it is they want to be recognized for. 

It does this through collaboration software that allows employees to set specific preferences, like if they enjoy particular types of candy or place a really high premium on being recognized for their birthday. Founder Chad Langford says that positive experiences in the office can lead to the same type of feeling among a company’s customers.

“There’s been a huge push for the past six to eight years, where companies are realizing that if you don’t have happy employees, you’re not going to have happy customers,” he said. “There’s a lot more emphasis placed on employees and other endeavors because of the ripple effect across the entire company.”

It can work in another direction, as well: if some don’t like grandiose gestures or don’t celebrate certain holidays they can specify that as well. That approach, according to Langford, ensures that employees aren’t getting a well-meaning bit of appreciation that turns out to be counterproductive.

Personalizing Corporate Culture

This emphasis is driven by how corporate culture can be a real drag. It’s typically named as one of the top areas needed for improvement, according to a recent Deloitte survey of executives. In fact, it was identified as an “urgent” objective in this particular survey.

According to the report, the current economic climate means a tight competition for talent, which makes the need for a positive culture even more important. For example, Amazon is still trying to reverse its rather negative reputation from a recent New York Times expose of oppressive employment practices.

Should the approach by Stepframe and others catch on, it could nudge some to find new ways to take employee contributions into consideration. The effort is not just about merit, as birthday and other recognitions have a high degree of influence on how employees value their company, according to the Deloitte research.

Title image by Ryan McGuire