Employee engagement, YEI style

Oct 24, 2016

The annual employee evaluation is outdated and might just do more harm than good. Try something new. Try something better.

A few years ago I read an article about how employees hate evaluations and supervisors hate having to do them. It went on to claim that not only do we procrastinate, but when we do get around to doing them, 90 percent do more harm than good.

Throughout more than 20 years as CFO at Crafton Tull (Best Firm Multi Discipline #43 for 2015), I have seen changes in the market, technological advancements, unprecedented growth, economic downturns, etc. The one mainstay is our dedicated, talented employees. Let’s face it, our industry, by and large, is resistant to change. However, the incoming new, younger workforce communicates differently than those that have been around for 20 or more years. With this in mind, one of my first actions upon assuming the role of leading human resources was to Google ideas on new and effective ways to promote employee recruitment and retention. Through this search I found a software service called YouEarnedIt! and requested a demo. I was hooked.

When we completed our strategic planning in May of 2015, I approached our board to ask for a fairly radical change. I wanted to eliminate annual evaluations and the Employee of the Quarter program, which one of our smaller offices referred to as the, “But it was John’s turn to get it this quarter” program. My idea was to replace them with YEI. Fortunately, they shared my enthusiasm and we rolled out YEI on July 1, 2015.

The employees loved it. Here’s how it works: YEI creates a website specific to Crafton Tull. Each employee creates a profile with a photo and information about themselves, sharing as little or as much as they like. Once the profiles are listed, everyone gets 2,500 points each quarter. The purpose is to award points to fellow employees they feel go above and beyond. Each point is worth a penny. As points are given and accumulated, they can be spent in the rewards store. While there are 200 different prizes ranging from Amazon gift cards to lunch with the boss, the first 90 days more than 60 percent of the redemptions were for donations to the Crafton Tull Foundation. Keeping with the charitable sentiment, the recent flooding in Louisiana brought a request from an employee to set up a donation in YEI prize “Buck$ for the Bayou.” Donations reached more than $200 within the first hour of posting.

We have learned people are more interested in co-workers’ feelings about their job performance than supervisors or some higher up sitting in another state. People are generous. Posts can be tagged with a Crafton Tull Core Value and made visible to the entire company. One Monday morning a company executive noted on a post that, “I would never had known we had a full office of people working this weekend if it were not for YEI.”

Since the July 1, 2015 launch, there have been 8,100 total recognitions sent and more than 2.6 million points. That is about 10 percent of our company sending kudos to their colleagues on a daily basis. And the back-office data is more meaningful than any we got from the dreaded evaluations. Employees can download a “brag report” to review with their supervisor to show how valuable they are to their team. However you choose to do it, encourage your employees to send fellow employees recognition for a job well done.

Jim Tull is CFO at Crafton Tull. He can be reached at jim.tull@craftontull.com.

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