Structured Meetings, but Many Rewards

Daily nine-minute staff meetings are the norm for all employees at Toronto-based I Love Rewards.

The incentive marketing company — with the tag line “Reward, redeem, receive” — says its formal meetings are aimed at preventing turnover, since they would rather deal with smoke than fire.

In addition, each week the senior leadership team holds a separate meeting, with part of the agenda focused on “employees at risk” to identify problems early on.

The company says this helps employees get the attention of the right people, including their direct manager, to address any concerns of the employee.

It’s no surprise that the company would keep such a close watch on how employees are performing, given that the company’s mission is all about helping other companies reward workers.

It works with large corporations, such as Sony and Microsoft, to institute ways to reward and recognize peers. The company’s various incentive programs cover everything from increasing sales and motivating staff to simplifying fundraising and building loyalty.

Fortune 1000 clients use the Web-based points program to set their own business goals, with I Love Rewards managing points earned and the delivery of prizes (i.e., plasma televisions, spa packages, small gadgets).

The Rewards Company Rewards Within

The company also hosts a monthly recognition lunch, geared toward acknowledging colleagues who are contributing to the company’s success.

The monthly recognition program, for example, features a component entitled “Saving I Love Rewards $” that asks every employee to submit a ballot for money they have saved the company.

An employee might have caught an invoicing error, or perhaps delivered something personally as opposed to using a courier, the company explains.

The winning ballot ticket can win their savings up to a maximum of $500 in cash. In addition, for savings of more than $10,000, there are also 3,000 points that are awarded.

Other kudos at the monthly luncheon include awarding 5,000 points to those who go above and beyond to ensure that I Love Rewards runs smoothly. The company explains that the team members are ranked each month, with the top performer receiving 2,000 points.

In addition to the rewards that employees can earn, along with the recognition, the company also offers impressive vacation benefits. It increased its starting vacation from two weeks to four weeks for new employees. Current employees received an additional two weeks’ vacation, giving some employees six weeks’ paid vacation. The company also offers five days off annually to volunteer in the community.

While I Love Rewards says it has a pervasive culture and low turnover, none of these successes can be attributed to a traditional HR department, explains Rob Catalano, the company’s marketing manager.

Catalano says there is nothing wrong with “HR” but it is just not a term used in their offices because it sounds like a “corporate” word.

“At the end of the day, the HR department is about improving the employee experience, so why not get away from the mantra that ‘HR’ instills and be known as Employee Experience?”

The Daily 9-Minute Breakdown

“The whole intention of our daily meetings is to increase communication in the office. We have 40 people and are still able to manage the culture,” he says.

These structured meetings also include, via video conferencing, the four New York-based employees.

So how much can be accomplished in nine minutes? According to the company, the meetings start and end the same way each day.

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The first two minutes are devoted to “Headlines,” which are a one-line department-related or personal statement. The next 30 seconds are spent on “Key Stats,” such as number of orders redeemed or orders shipped.

The longest component of the meeting is for the next 2.5 minutes, in the “Expanded News” segment. This is a rotating department spotlight, with each of the 10 departments giving a two-week update on what their department is doing.

“For example, the Employee Experience department spoke today and will speak again in two weeks. Then we go into must-dos for two minutes, where everyone identifies one tangible must-do. It gives insight into what everyone else is doing in the office,” says Catalano.

The eighth minute of the meeting, he says, is devoted to “red flags” that allows staff to express concern over work matters affecting three or more people.

The final component of the meeting is a one-minute update from one of five committees, such as PR, celebrating success, and social responsibility. In fact, all employees have the opportunity to spend 20% of their time on the “vision committee” of their choice.

“We have goals and objectives for each committee. One of the five committees rotate through the week,” he says.

But with just nine minutes to spare, don’t even think about showing up late. Employees who wander in late must fork over a $1 penalty, with funds going to a local children’s hospital.

“We also have a $10 penalty to the leader of a department if they are not prepared for their spotlight every two weeks,” says Catalano.

While that might sound rough or micro-managed to some, Catalano says the meetings are now “ingrained in our culture” and help fellow employees “raise the bar on how to communicate their information.”

But the company doesn’t rely solely on the nine-minute meetings as the final method for communicating throughout the day.

“Emails also go back and forth, and a lot of walking and talking happens as well. Plus, we have no offices, really. The CEO sits in an open desk right next to the person who does shipping,” says Catalano.

He also doesn’t see much hesitation among new hires who might be skeptical of a daily meeting requirement.

“Our recruiting practice is pretty long and intense. We see candidates four to six times before they’re on board,” he says.

“They see what we are, and we’re very protective of our culture,” he adds.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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