Opinion

From poker chips to fish & chips: Why employers must step up and keep the workforce motivated

6 min read

11 February 2016

When surveying the landscape of the modern HR industry, it’s hard to avoid stumbling across the issue of employee engagement. Yet, for one of the most talked about topics in today’s business world, it’s shocking to see how many companies have failed to grasp its true meaning and potential.

Image: Shutterstock

Today’s employees are fundamentally different to those of the past; fuelled by a desire for meaning, these individuals actively seek work that builds self-worth and provides a clear path for progression.

Attracting, maximising and retaining talent

As CEO and founder of digital marketing agency Ph.Creative, I knew I had to instil a sense of purpose and value into my employees’ work if I was to achieve three core objectives: attract, retain and maximise talent.

Business is a two-way street; not only do I want the most from my employees, but I want them to enjoy their work and feel as if their contribution is meaningful and appreciated.

Some of today’s “experts” propose lengthy engagement strategies that lose their meaning in wordy and convoluted rhetoric. I find simplicity and clarity serve as the two best tools in delivering an effective and inspiring employee engagement strategy.

Teaching brand values

After much deliberation, I arrived at the idea of a “poker chip scheme”. The premise is simple and effective: at the start of each month, five assorted poker chips are handed out to each member of our team. Each poker chip represents a corresponding Ph.Creative brand value and, when an employee sees another team member exemplifying one of the five brand values, he or she rewards them with a chip.

At the end of each month, the employee with the highest number of poker chips is rewarded with an exclusive prize, from a dinner date for two to a weekend away. The scheme puts the power of rewarding others directly into the hands of our employees, through a physical and tactile process that reinforces our team-spirit and brand principles.

The value of giving carries a breadth of positive benefits. Firstly, by performing the initiative, each team member begins to recognise and remember exactly what our brand values are.

The engagement goes a step further with the act of rewarding others, which reinforces the physical recognition of these values in action. All too often I see companies purporting to stand for something, while failing to actually instil these values into every day culture.

The poker chip scheme not only ensures that all our employees are aware of what we stand for, but gives real, authentic control to the team who can decide for themselves who deserves rewarding.

This facet of the scheme strengthens our healthy culture and ensures that it’s in line with our overarching vision. Simply put, it’s a streamlined means of accelerating change and nurturing positive behaviour that has the added benefit of tying into our greater strategic plan.

Read more on company culture:

A more engaged world

The effects on employee engagement have been seismic, with the scheme driving greater confidence, interpersonal relationships and improved work.

On an individual level, employees are more conscious of their actions and have begun to live and breathe our brand values subconsciously, without struggling to put abstract concepts and theory into practice. It was great to see that we had buy-in from the very start, and as we’ve progressed the scheme has only grown in its scope and popularity.

Recently, we’ve paired our scheme with an incredible little piece of software called “Tiny Pulse,” which helps gauge the happiness of our employees on a weekly basis.

It encourages anonymous feedback and idea submission, which adds to employee empowerment. We find that giving our staff a voice shows the workforce that we listen to and act upon their input and opinions.

Overall, it offers a unique opportunity for our company to work as a collective unit, by valuing and championing people and ideas – all the way from the CEO to the recent graduate.

A shift of power from employer to employee

Companies need to put the value of their employees at the forefront of their plans so that, as a culture, we can protect, nurture and grow talent at the same rate we want to grow our businesses.

Times have changed; the power has shifted from employer to employee. It’s no longer enough for brands to simply to give off the perception of attractiveness. Brands must demonstrate that they are an enticing, value driven employer that appreciates and rewards good work.

Whether it’s poker chips or fish and chips, the way forward is clear: companies must find a means, however quirky, to champion a winning culture and encourage their employees to succeed.

When it comes to business meetings, I also like to think outside of the box. In fact, I now avoid the stiff handshake in favour of a compassionate, embracive, six-second hug – I dare you to try it the next time you meet up with clients…

Bryan Adams is the CEO and founder of full-service digital marketing agency Ph.Creative

Image: Shutterstock