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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

Can You Automate Thoughtful Recognition?

Two smiling men talking about employee recognition on a podcast
Jeff Jackel (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss how you can automate thoughtful recognition.

It almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Automating thoughtfulness in order to recognise someone. That deeply personal and genuine act of connecting, seeing and thanking someone for something. How on earth can you automate that without taking that human touch out of it? Well that's the question I asked, Jeff Jackel, from Client Giant, a pioneer in the world of using automation to recognise employees at scale, in the latest episode of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast.

During the episode we discussed how the power of genuine and personalised recognition, the challenges of maintaining personal connections in a hybrid work environment, and the benefits of automating employee recognition can meet to help businesses enhance the attempts they make to create a bond between employee and the company.

In a world where employee retention is becoming more and more in focus, the ability to consistently and personally recognise your people for who they are, their loyalty and dedication, as well as the things they do, can set you apart from your competition, and keep hold of more of your talent.

If you want to unlock the secrets of how to genuinely recognise your workforce, and which acts have the most impact on engagement, retention, productivity and loyalty, then you can listen to the full episode via the player below, or read the full transcript that follows.

Podcast Introduction

00:00:10 - Andy Goram

Hello and welcome to Sticky from the Inside, the employee engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organizations from the inside out. I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them, and create tons more success for everyone. This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode, we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work, and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it. So if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

The Importance of Employee Recognition

OK, we are jumping straight into a topic that's at the heart of every successful workplace, or at least in my view, it should be. That is employee recognition. The famous management consultant and author Rosabeth Moss Kanter once said,

"Recognition is so easy to do and inexpensive to distribute that there is simply no excuse for not doing it."

Yet it's clear from recent statistics that we're still not great at it, and the lack of recognition remains one of the top reasons people leave a job today. 66% of employees would leave a job if they didn't feel appreciated. And a study by the Harvard Business Review said, 82% of senior leaders feel they don't receive enough recognition. So we've got work to do, all levels.

But we're not just talking about any kind of recognition. We're talking about the kind that's genuine, the kind that leaves a lasting impression, and the kind that can be truly transformative. But I warn you, today's conversation comes with a twist. In a world where automation is becoming increasingly prevalent, it might seem counterintuitive to link genuine recognition with AI and automation. But our guest today is here to prove that's not only possible, but it's absolutely essential.

Think about this for a sec. What if you could automate thoughtfulness? What if you could reach each and every employee in your organization, no matter how large, and make them feel personally valued and appreciated? What if you could do it at scale, but without losing that essential human touch. How? Well, that's what we're here to discover. So joining us today is Jeff Jackel, a pioneer in this field. He runs a company called Client Giant, and they specialize in using technology to enable employee gifting and recognition on a whole new level. Their mission is to automate thoughtfulness. And today, Jeff will share his experiences, insights and success stories about how genuine recognition can not only boost morale, but also significantly impact talent retention.

So if you've ever wondered how to deliver a truly genuine, human approach to recognition on a grand scale, or if you're just curious about the intersection of AI, automation, and the most personal aspect of business; caring for your people, then you're in the right place. We're about to go on an interesting journey, I think, through the art and science of genuine employee recognition, and I don't think you want to miss that.

00:03:49 - Jeff Jackel

So welcome to the show, Jeff. Thanks so much, Andy. That's probably the best intro I have ever received in an interview. Really hands down.

Introduction to Jeff Jackel

00:03:58 - Andy Goram

Oh, bless you. Well, that's lovely. Do you know what? This is going to be an interesting conversation. Employee recognition, still potentially one of the easiest things you think to do in business, is still a hurdle for loads and loads of people. And then, well, we're going to get into your stuff, but the whole take about what you do and how you use the technology to take something that is so personal, but to be able to do it on a bigger scale I think is fascinating. But before I get carried away with myself. Jeff, do me a favour, my friend. Just explain to the listeners who you are, what you do and what you're up to right now.

00:04:38 - Jeff Jackel

Yeah, absolutely. So I'll give you a real quick background on Client Giant, how it came to be. I'm a co founder, so I've got a partner, Jay O’Brien. He was actually, we started with client care only, and he was a residential real estate agent in Orange County, California, where we are. And essentially he checked out his business at a certain point, said, “How am I doing?” And, you know, people are giving me great reviews for doing the things that are prerequisite, which, by the way, this tails right into what most businesses are doing. But I'm not doing anything that's ultimately defensible. That's basically future proofing my business, which is all around relationships. So he essentially pulled a 180 and said, I'm going to focus entirely on relationships. And he implemented this into his residential real estate business, and he became top 30, under 30 in the country. He started to speak all over the world, telling people, here's what you do, here's how I take care of clients. Solely focusing on taking care of clients. I ended up being one of those clients. My wife and I were looking for a home. I have no background in his space. I'm a technologist. Right. Like I had been running tech companies at that time for almost a decade. now it's been 15 something years. I'm aging myself. When I first founded my first tech company, I was like this Wunderkind, like the young guy, and everyone's older than me, and now I'm like the old man in our office. So I had been involved in technologies specifically, mostly mobile, but connecting people right, at locations and around shared commonalities, and then a lot of times, consulting as well, for a lot of businesses, generally around relationships, and then again, connecting people. And so, very simply with client giant, I said to Jay, hey, we can use technology to automate this and to allow people all over the world who have client based businesses. Remember, it started out client, to deliver the level of care and attention that they wish they could if they had the time and energy to do so, using automation. And that's the impetus for the entire thing. To give you the journey through employee happiness. So my backstory is multiple tech companies. I had had an apparel company. Basically, I've been an entrepreneur since I finished college. I actually went to school for film. I went to USC film school.

00:06:50 – Andy Goram

Wow, cool.

00:06:51 – Jeff Jackel

Everybody always asks me, like, are your parents so upset that you don’t use your film production degree? No. What movie making taught me. What that whole idea taught me is, you’re creating something from nothing. Right. And your job? I was a producer. Right. So your job is to galvanize a whole group of people around your vision for creating something out of thin air, really energize them, to put the effort and energy it is to birth this thing and then put it out into the world and see how it can affect people’s lives. It’s literally an analogy for entrepreneurship.

00:07:25 – Andy Goram

Absolutely right.

00:07:26 – Jeff Jackel

That’s entrepreneurship. So I've been doing that ever since we had launched about five and a half, six years ago. And then the pandemic hit. And by that point, we were in all 50 states, in Canada within six months. By this point, when the pandemic hit, we probably had thousands of members already. And people started to hit us up and said, hey, you do such a great job helping us take care of clients. Can you help us take care of our employees? People are now at home. We're disenfranchised. We're losing their closeness. What can you do? And since then, we've been wildly focused on employee happiness and automating thoughtfulness for companies, for their employees.

Loving Your Employees Before Your Customers

00:08:04 - Andy Goram

They're almost throwaway terms for you now. And I just love the fact that employee happiness and automating thoughtfulness, two great connections of words there. That's now the core of your business, that's now the core of your focus. I mean, fascinating stuff you have said, I think you have said. So if I quote you, and it's not correct, you chastise me, Jeff, Right. I would never, I think you've sort of said at one point in your career that you want businesses to love their employees more than they love their clients. Is that attributed to you? And if so, do you double down on that? Do you really mean that? What are you trying to get at?

00:08:48 - Jeff Jackel

So I read a lot of Richard Branson early, and we know that he sort of advocates for caring from the inside. That's how I would think of it. So it's not to say loving your people more than, but I would say it's before. Right. So it has to start culturally from the inside out. And the reason is obvious, if anybody has read any of sort of what he preaches, I believe that wholeheartedly. If you have the ethos as a business owner operator, as a management team, as an executive team where caring is core, and I don't say that in a cliche way, I hate that a lot of what we do, a lot of people will hear and feel like sounds fluffy and they'll sort of dismiss it. What I mean is, if you stop to think what puts food on your table, what puts your kids through school when you're a business owner, you're operating that way. It's all of these people that are doing this job, that are kind of like living and breathing and bleeding your core ethos as a company, which if you operate that way. Right. If you operate from a place of meaning, it has to start with employees, because as soon as you're larger than five people in a company, like it or not, there's other people that are out in the world representing you and representing your company. So when I say before, I just mean if you have instilled this in your own people, this level of care, this reason for doing things, they will innately share that feeling with every client that comes in as you grow large enough to not be the one meeting each client yourself first.

00:10:35 - Andy Goram

Yeah, I think that's so important. And I think your point about that growth cycle and as an entrepreneur and a startup guy, you know it well. One day you're sitting around the table making decisions in a heartbeat, with people that you're almost got ESP between you. You know what? We're all coming from the same page, stuff's happening, and then you're hiring and you're desperately hiring people that are like you, but then you're getting people to do stuff for you through other people, and all of a sudden it feels, hey, if we're not careful, we lose some of that soul of where the business started. And I think this is where this connection between really understanding what that anchor point for the business, I use the word soul, and how that manifests in how you treat and talk and lead your people is absolutely attributed to what the customer sees on the other end of it. Absolutely. And that's what I wanted to ask you, because the transition from client focus to then going employee focus, too, did you find that a very natural change? Did you find it jarring? I mean, explain that to me.

00:11:40 - Jeff Jackel

It was wildly natural for us. I think we were about two year, two and a half years into the company at that time. But it actually affords us the employee care side of things, affords us so much more opportunity to be personal. So if you think about it with a client, and granted, we help companies of all shapes and sizes, so, of course, we still help folks in real estate. On the client side, we still help folks. Financial advisory is one of the fastest growing segments for us, and advisory. So these are kind of what I would call solopreneurships or small businesses that have a lot of clients with sort of minimal touch points, or they're sort of like a high volume of clients and maybe lower revenue.

But then there's agencies and there's big businesses that have huge corporate clients that are on annual retainer. In those cases, a client relationship is still one. I don't want to say it's at arm's length, but we didn't historically ask those people questions and get to know those clients in order to really highly personalize gifting for them. And I know we haven't yet got down to the path of what exactly do we do? But when you have employees, when a company says, hey, I want to take care of my employees at this level, I'm going to commit to this, you can actually bring the employees into it. So, like, in our system, for example, those employees might get questionnaires that start to ask them, what will your bucket list concert be? If you could see any concert before you die, who would it be? Right? Or we find out whether you have children, whether you love to ski, whether you love to travel, and you can just do so much more to personalize these things.

Because I talk about this all the time in terms of a pandemic and people kind of moving more remote. And I'm sure we'll get into that. But for, I don't know, centuries, I guess, relationships have been built in boardrooms and break rooms, and suddenly we hadn't either, right? So what happens in those things? And I don't mean boardrooms where you're making the decisions and break rooms. Those are the times where people are talking about what you did this weekend. “I went to my kids soccer game. Here's what I did with my wife or my husband”. So there's just so much more richness to be able to make an impact because then I know we'll get into it.

The truest or most impactful way to recognize and care for people is to care for them as the human and not the producer within your organization

, right? And that person, like it or not, even if they bleed your company and what you're trying to do, if they were asked point blank, they're a father first, they're a husband first, they're maybe even a footballer first. That's their passion. So knowing those things allowed so much more opportunity for us to make impact and also for our technology to get information back and constantly improve.

The Importance of Caring in a Hybrid Environment

00:14:41 - Andy Goram

I think that is the agenda for today, right? I mean, that's what we're here to talk about. And look, you've mentioned a couple of things. Let's face into some of them. I'm talking to a gifting guy, right? A guy who helps recognition by sending gifts on an automated basis. And we had this conversation before. For me, when I'm thinking about the podcast, I'm going, what am I doing talking to the gifting guy? But the more we talk and the more we understand what it is you're doing and the science behind it and the drive behind it, I think it's fascinating. I think it's bang on. And some of the phrases that you've used already to describe, I guess, the marketplace and how employees are feeling. And I'm interested to dig into that a little bit. And from your perspective, get a real understanding of the importance of recognition and caring. When you talk to clients now who are asking you to look after their or help them look after their employees, we've got this hybrid environment that's exacerbating the issue right now. We've got detachment, disenfranchisement, we've got disconnection, all these dis-words that keep coming up with regard to employees. So when you're talking to your clients now, what are the issues that they are really looking for help on when it comes to recognition and care?

00:16:06 - Jeff Jackel

It's a great question. Because there are so many. Like you said, the environment has changed so much in the last several years, and even while right now it's mainly hybrid, depending on what industry you're speaking with and what area of the world you're talking to, I think people understand that it's just harder now. Right. The true connection, the true relationship. I'm going to forget who this is I was just reading it about. There's a business owner or operator that talks about bump ins or bumping into somebody in an office.(Like Collisions?) Yeah. Right. And those don't happen when people are hybrid, at least for the people who are remote. So you lose those opportunities.

So I think there's two parts of this, and I guess it is literally a hybrid not to be… where for folks who are out of the office and folks who are completely remote operator, business operators and owners are having a challenge with that level of closeness, where they feel comfortable, not just that this person isn't going to leave or they're not looking elsewhere, but where they feel completely bought in on a personal level. It's like every company kind of knows that feeling where if you're remote or even if you've got people at satellite offices all over the country, all over the world, and then you have this event where everyone comes together once a year, once every few years, everybody knows the feeling of walking away from that. And you just have a different view of your coworkers, even if you are, let's say, not remote, right, and you decide that you're going to take everybody to the pub and everyone's going to have a few hours of just let loose and be people. Right. Don't be your role. Be people for these 3 hours. Everyone knows that you leave thinking like a little bit differently about your… you feel different about your relationship with Karen and Tom and Jim. So the construct now is just less and less of all of those things.

So, you know, the folks that we talk to that kind of say, hey, help me. It runs the gamut. It could be, and obviously the labour market is different internationally, but the labour market has changed a bit. Let's say a year ago it was, I'm losing people, right? We have this grand exit. I want to retain these folks now. It's not so much that exactly where people may have options to go places now, and I want to retain this person because they're not choosing to kind of quit and take a little sabbatical, but they're choosing to potentially go elsewhere. So I think everyone's looking for opportunities to bond with these people. And kind of get a little bit of that feeling back for folks that are hybrid.

Creating More Opportunities To Bond

So the way I look at it is, like you said, people generally look at it as less opportunities. I try to look at it as what has this change given us in terms of more opportunities. So I think I said this the first time that we talked, but I tell our people now that this culture has moved to Zoom. Right. So when you're going to do a phone call with somebody that is, it could be your coworker, it could be an employer, it could be a client or someone you're working with, a partner. Four years ago, it was just a phone call. It wasn't personal in any way. I didn't feel like I know somebody. For me, I'm such a visual person. I'm 99% visual. It helps me feel like I know you exponentially more that we've seen each other and had this kind of as close to face to face as we're going to get across the pond. That's a blessing. And so I say to somebody, if a dog barks in the background when you're speaking with an employee and you didn't know that they had a dog, well, ask them about their dog. Right. The way that you would speak to a friend that you hadn't talked to in a couple of years, and suddenly they've got a dog. When'd you get a dog? Right. I do this naturally because it's just who I am. But I think people need to look for those opportunities. So, like I asked you the first time we talked, what's with the ballet figurines that are on the side? Who's a dancer? Right? Yeah. I'm going to learn something about you and I'm going to put it away in my brain and then let's say I have the opportunity to gift you or… all of those things, I think people need to be more inquisitive, more perceptive, and remember that they're going to actually try harder to develop and strengthen those relationships because we don't have as many trips down to the pub with our people anymore and we don't have as many break rooms. And it's not going to go away anytime soon.

00:20:44 - Andy Goram

No. I think this is why I love this topic and get frustrated by this topic, because stuff like talking about recognition, gifting, caring can be seen by lots of people, and I don't use the term lots inadvisably because I see it in response to posts and stuff on LinkedIn and social media all over the place. Some of this stuff is still seen as soft and kind of nice to have fluffy stuff, which winds me up an absolute treat. I mean, let me just run through the problems associated with not really doubling down on this stuff. Right?

00:21:24 - Jeff Jackel


The Dangers of Not Recognising Employees

00:21:25 - Andy Goram

At the very, very basic level, poor morale, someone's not recognized for what they do, don't feel good about it. It spreads. We're all after engagement and productivity. Well, they don't happen. Low engagement, poor productivity. Thing is, the hard stuff comes through in a higher turnover. You've talked about people leaving behind a great resignation, but now there's so little stigma to quitting. If things aren't matching up, I'm gone right now. That cost of that decision, that cost of not recognizing someone, I mean, don't get me started on the sort of, like, retention calculator, because that's a huge amount of money. There's nothing soft about that amount of money. But even if you bury your head in the sound like an ostrich and think, well, people are still coming to work, yeah. Two thirds of them are present, they're not doing anything. They're turning up, taking a check and going home. There's more absenteeism. There's a lack of innovation going on. It's tougher for you to attract talent because your reputation is down the toilet. Just the simple act. And I'm not saying everything has all to do with recognition, but it can pay such dividends and can increase so many of those metrics if you just take it seriously.

00:22:38 - Jeff Jackel

Yeah, I mean, you appreciate the choir. It's interesting. A lot of times, it depends who our conversations start with. So if myself or one of our sales associates is speaking with somebody inside an organization, people inside of an organization have different motivation. Right. I'm talking to the director of people and culture, or to CHRO. And their real reason is exactly what you just said. Their real reason is, look, I believe this. I know that people need to be cared for, people need to be recognized, people need to be supported. I know what this does to morale. I know that this is a downstream activity and focus. And doesn't just mean one thing I do for a person, it actually means I'm building a culture of this type of care, right? And then you get to a CFO, or you get up to the C suite in different areas, and the conversation is entirely different of what they actually need to see.

So I always say to people, I don't really care why you get started doing this with us. Meaning your motivation could be what I just said, right? It could be these people put food on the table of my family, and I need to care for them. I just want to show them how thankful I am for them to be spending this time of their career with us. Right. It could be I'm worried about people's productivity, and I know that recognition and that caring for these folks is going to up productivity. And I want to see… Or it could honestly be,

It costs me 70% of somebody's annual salary to find a new person and replace them above this managerial or director level people. I just want an ROI. If you're telling me that I can reduce my employee churn by X percent, I'm doing this because I'm literally saving me money. I look like a nice guy in the meantime

, right? And I always say to people, I don't care what your motivation is, because that person who's doing this, fiscally motivated six months later when they are part of an executive team that is receiving consistent thank yous and oh, my gosh, referrals to other employees, other people at other companies that say, I work at the best place, these people are so amazing. They take care of me, they take care of my family. Even if it's a selfish thing that CFO feels good about something that they're doing to take care of those people.

And then on the other side, the folks who are motivated for what you want to think of as the right reasons, they're getting a pat on the back from the C suite because they're saying, you know what? You're also helping me to attract new people, because these guys are going home and telling their roommates and telling their friends and telling their… And you're helping minimize my costs to replace people. So I love it when we stumble into a company that they just believe what we believe. They share the ethos, and they know how important this is. And then it's just a matter of figuring out what's exactly right, the correct experience for their people and the relationship they have with them that we deliver. But it's sure fun to start with somebody that's sceptical and six months later be able to show them all the proof points.

And we ask people to measure everything. That’s one of our things, is we say, we sort of insist that you measure that. It's also built right into our software. We have what we call the happiness quotient, right? We have all the employees that they take a questionnaire in the beginning. We figure out a level of happiness that's specifically not around things like their salary, because we can't affect that. But it's mostly things that, how satisfied are you with this sort of feeling of recognition and of connection? And then it's consistently retested so that we can go back to our, we call them members, right, and say, look what's happening over here. But to your point, anybody that doesn't believe that there's a true cause and effect here is just ostriching. I mean, there's studies that I'm sure you know, all the way up to as high as increased employee care drives up the stock price eventually, right. It's a downstream effect of you're creating a culture, and that culture will result in higher productivity, engagement, and savings all over the place in terms of employment.

How To Automate Thoughtfulness

00:26:43 - Andy Goram

100%, my friend, and triggers that key fundamental of successful people-based businesses, trust. But you started to talk about it, and so now I want to know more about it. So, automating thoughtfulness, how do you do it, Jeff? How does it happen?

00:27:00 - Jeff Jackel

I'll start by saying why? There are plenty. Let's say it was just gifting. We consider ourselves a hospitality company. We don't even call ourselves gifting. We're basically a software company that the net result or some of the net results of what you do for people results in things that show up at their doorstep, or an organized dinner for two with round trip transportation, or concierge experiences and whatnot. But there are obviously loads of options right there. If you wanted to go, holidays are coming up right now. Tons of people will get a bottle of wine, or a little gift basket, or whatever. If you want to go and do that and have to remember to do it every single time, millions of options for you out there. The reason that we exist and the reason that automation is so vital, is that consistency and all of the aspects of taking care of folks in this way are hard. They are arduous, right? Everyone has done this.

I have no idea what you're planning, but let's say that you are planning to send all the 2023 podcast guests a little something at the end of the year, whatever it is. That's a pain in the butt. Like you literally would have to figure out, well, what do I send them? What's the message going to say? How do I get everybody's address? Should I send this to this person? Should I send different things to this person? You think he would like that? All of this is like a procrastinator's nightmare because there's a million different things in front of you and hurdles to jump that a lot of people, a lot of companies end up either doing nothing or doing something that's wildly stale.

I will end up, well, I'll give the holidays as an example. We don't specialize in holidays, but we help our members do it. I will end up with 20 bottles of wine on my desk or in my office. And the truth is, once the card comes or somebody reads it, I'll have no idea who they came from. Yeah. So automating is important inside of organizations for two reasons. One, it's the same as any software that somebody uses. Like everyone will tell you a CRM or a project planning software inside of an organization is only as good as how much it gets used, and it is only used as much as it is easy to use. Right. People are paying all sorts of money for software that doesn't get used because it's just hard to do. And the other reason is scale. It's pretty easy to take care of somebody on your people when you've got ten people, 20 people, 30 people. If you're in an organization of 50, 100, a 1000, 20,000 people, good luck trying to take care of everybody without automation.

So the point of that is even the most well-intentioned business who believes what we believe, you and I, right? And believes that people need to be taken care of at this level and knows the result that that has on the internal culture, morale, et cetera, and their productivity and their bottom line. It doesn't mean that they're prepared to do all the work, or even have the means to do all the work to actually do it. So we exist... I always tell people we exist for two reasons. Number one is obvious. Make you look like a million bucks. Make your people as happy as possible, make them more productive, make them stay longer, make them tell their friends. Number two is almost why nobody is initially on the phone with us, but I would argue it's more important. It's just to make life easy.

So our software that runs all this essentially puts every employee on autopilot. Let's say you have 500 folks that are employees in your business. You sign up with us, right? We work with you, and we figure out. So it's a mix of human beings here, as well as technology and data driven information that tells us what to be giving to these people, when to be giving it, what the messaging should say, who it should come from within your organization. And so we work with you to figure out those relationships. And whenever a company is above, say, 300 people in it, they don't do any out of the box solution with us, right. We work with them almost on a consultative basis to figure out what the ethos of the company are. Are you clean and green and environmentalist? Are you about health and wellness? What does your company kind of stand for?

Because another weird thing about client giant and our employee offering is we're a ghost. Nobody knows that we exist. They think you're actually doing all of it, which is really important. So nothing ever says our name. Nothing ever says… But also the things that go out have to feel like you would naturally do them as an organization. So we work with you to figure out what that would look like and feel, and we'll customize this plan around people. But then it's as simple as our system hooks into your HRIS software, which allows me to know the birthday of every person in the organization. It allows me to know the hire date of every person in the organization, which means I know their work anniversary. I know when it's been one year, five years, ten years. And then our system delivers thoughtful touches at moments that matter.

So moments that matter to each person. Because mine are different than yours, my birthday is different than yours, my work anniversary is different than yours. And then sort of out of the box, we know based on data, the times of year that require the most uplift, and I'll get to individual recognition things as well. But the most uplift that is required is in the beginning of the year. Everybody knows what it feels like when you're between Christmas and New Year's, you have no idea what day of the week it is. And then you're asked to go back to work, and it takes you a while to kind of get back into the swing of things. So lifting people up at that point is really important. And then the second half of summer, sort of when people have done their traveling and they got to get back into the slog of second half of the year, maybe their kids went back to school. That needs to be supported. And then our system uses an algorithm, basically find the largest gap in care for each person because it's different. All of our dates are different, and it hits you then.

So what all of this is kind of speaking to is, which I'm sure it's a question you're about to ask me. It's not what people think of when they think of the word recognition. Generally, if you talk to somebody and the first words out of your mouth, they're talking about employee recognition. The owner, operator, manager, et cetera, instinctively only thinks of recognizing the actions of someone in their organization, meaning you did something good. I'm going to recognize you for it.

00:33:09 - Andy Goram

We hope that happens, Jeff. We hope that happens.

The Impact of Recognition

00:33:11 - Jeff Jackel

We hope that that happens. And we have in our system all sorts of things that you can send at a moment where somebody does something. Sure. But what we have proven out with data is recognizing the actions that somebody takes or does that have a positive impact on your company is vital, as I'm sure you speak about it every week. Right. But

taking care of the person for being a person and being dedicated to your company is what really makes an impact.

So we've recently got our trademark back for this phrase, within human resources, we help you treat people more like humans and less like resources. Right? And what that is to say is, like it or not, somebody brings in a big deal. Right? Somebody brings in money to the organization, you give them something that feels great to the person that did it. But they're no dummy. They just made you money and you gave them a trinket or a dinner or whatever it is. So that's important. It's vital. We help people do that all the time. But just ongoing recognition for the fact that they are dedicating a portion of their career, time away from their family, their kids, et cetera, to your goal as a business is what makes the biggest impact. And it will do, especially with. We could get in this whole talk about the actual demographic and the age range of folks who are in the workplace right now. But folks between, let's say, 22 and close to 50, they'll actually care more about how they're treated than they do about a dollar. Right. So you can do more in terms of impacting their care and their passion for what you're doing and their appreciation with a small fraction of what you would do with, let's say, a straight cash bonus.

Intention Is The Most Important Aspect

00:35:03 - Andy Goram

Yeah, I think this is what's really important because I don't think anywhere along the line you're saying this is replacing all those little personal touches, those one to one chats, the kind of arm on the shoulder to say, well done, take someone out for a coffee to have a chat and see how they're doing. It's not replacing any of that. This is about kind of strengthening the system and being able to do it at scale, but in a meaningful way. Because I can hear people listening to this going,

Well, automating recognition is completely anti-caring for your people. It's abdicating responsibility.”

But I don't think you're saying any of that. I think you're trying to support the organization to actually be able to spend more time, more personal time, doing those things than running around sorting out a gift programme, right?

00:35:55 - Jeff Jackel

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. So the truth of it is, and I know what you mean when somebody says, well, you're putting some automation into this so that you make sure they happen to think otherwise, is to sort of ignore the reality of the world in which we currently live, right? So I say this to folks all the time. On a birthday, for example, we have a birthday plan, and a birthday is included in every single thing that is in employee happiness that we offer. Here's the reality, Andy. If I send you a text message on your birthday at about noon, let's say, and I just say, “Hey, happy birthday, yada, yada, yada.” Facebook has been around for 16 years, or, I don't know, you will automatically, this is psychology, right? We've done this research search. You will automatically think, “Ah, Jeff was reminded by LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever that today's my birthday.” And then a few hours later, right, like I say this to people all the time and they giggle because they're like “100%. That's what I do.”

So, for example, on all of our birthday plans, you'd receive something from your employer or whatever three or four days ahead of time that just says, “Hey, we wanted to be the first one to wish you a happy birthday. Here's a few things that will help you celebrate on the big day”, right? So this is just a way to illustrate that what we do, while the end result of it is a physical thing that shows up at your doorstep, or like an experience, like I said, it's all baked in data of understanding what impacts people. And so for somebody to kind of say, “Well, it feels, let's say, contrived or something, because you're automating this”, it's the same way that putting somebody's birthday in your phone, in your calendar, right? And then remembering to do that, is that contrived, or are you just the kind of person who wants to make sure that you're not going to forget that birthday so you've done something to ensure that this person gets treated the way that the intention is what matters, your intention is, I want to take care of these people now at levels when it gets into organizations that we help them, these things become wildly personalized.

So in some cases, sure, they might get the same things as one another on a birthday or whatever it is, but it goes so deep in us now with millions of data points of people receiving things and then us getting feedback in the system and through our actual members of what works,

we know that over 80% of the impact of most gifts is a result of the message. Of the why.

So I don't care what a knickknack is, right? But the messaging and the why and how you deliver it is what makes the impact. So, for example, our software, now inside of an organization, would learn about me. I've got a four year old son and a six year old daughter. They're the world to me, right. And my wife. If you do something for me to take care of my kids or to give them ten minutes of happiness, to me, it is more impactful than almost anything you could actually give to me or do for me, or any dollar amount that you could give because you thought to make some moment for my family. Right. Which we do all the time. So it's almost saying, and this, I guess, itself aggrandizes what we do here, but it's almost saying to automate is, I want to make sure that I really do this and that things don't fall through the cracks and that people are cared for at a level that I can feel good about in my organization, and I want it done in a way that is smart. Right? Meaning, like, literally using technology and using information we have about them to give better gifts and better messaging than any organization could possibly do if they were spending all the time in the world to try to do it. They'd have to build a multimillion dollar piece of software, and they'd have to have dozens of people who were spending every moment trying to create the perfect gift for each person.

Blending Automation & Personalisation

00:39:35 - Andy Goram

Yeah, and I've seen and experienced pretty awful gifting by individuals who think they're spending really trying to focus, and they're not. It's your turn to get the gonk this month.

00:39:49 - Jeff Jackel

We haven't talked about Swag yet, so I don't know if we're going in that direction. But you don't want to hear my take on Swag as an employee.

00:39:57 - Andy Goram

No. I think what I find really interesting is if we think about the core needs of individuals within an organization, it is to be seen, heard, and valued for being that individual, for the contributions that they make. And I think this is where I try and take a glass half full world of AI and automation, all this sort of stuff. If you can use this stuff and have a greater, more positive impact on someone, because the system helps you get to know that person better than you might have done on your own. Brilliant. How good is that? Right? How fantastic could that be?

00:40:40 - Jeff Jackel

Do you want me to give you a real world example of that?

00:40:42 - Andy Goram

Yeah, please. I was just about to say I'd love to hear some stories of the impact that you've had.

00:40:47 - Jeff Jackel

Yeah. So a real world example, like I was saying before, if you could take every individual inside of your company and get them to be the kind of person who, on a call with a client or with an employee or with the folks who report to them, would look at that ballerina figurines on the side of you and ask a question and get that information and then write it down, put it in a place that would constantly be referenced. And then remember at whatever point that they need to give something to Andy, or they want to give something to Andy, find a moment that comes up, remember your birthday, whatever it is. And then all these things are active, right? They're all these things that you're requiring a person to be that kind of person. Do that on every single phone call, do that in every know. And then would know what to then play off, right. With this. That's going to actually make an impact on you. What's actually going to be meaningful to Andy, and then remember to order it and write the perfect message. If you could get every person in organization to do that, which I think is impossible, do it. More power to you, right?

00:41:51 - Andy Goram

Yeah. Crack on!

00:41:52 - Jeff Jackel

Here's an example. The thing that I said earlier where somebody works with us and the interaction that we have, by the way, with people's employees is done through a sister site we have called Happier People. So let's say all the employees get an email from Happier People that says, hey, or a company says, hey, we're working with Happier People, they're going to send you a questionnaire or some information via email. Answer whatever you want. Don't answer what you don't want. Want to get to know you a little bit better so we can take great care of you, right? If you went through that first thing and it asked you what your bucket list concert was, and you say, it's Coldplay or whatever it is, right now I've got an organization of 30,000. What would it be? By the way, what is your bucket list concert?

00:42:34 - Andy Goram

Me? Bucket list concert?

00:42:35 - Jeff Jackel


00:42:35 - Andy Goram

I mean, I've just seen ABBA Voyage. And that was a bucket list thing, right, of seeing ABBA.

00:42:39 - Jeff Jackel

You already saw it.

00:42:40 - Andy Goram

It was crazy. I don't know.

00:42:42 - Jeff Jackel

Where are you going to go from there?

00:42:43 - Andy Goram

I would have gone Guns N' Roses, but on reports of recent festivals, maybe not. I don't know.

00:42:48 - Jeff Jackel

Okay, so let's say it's Coldplay. I like that. Okay, so our system, let's say that it's a huge company with 40,000 employees. Our system will know then that there are seven executive level people who are on an executive-level plan with us being taken care of at a certain level with whatever that budget or investment is. And then 18 months, two years from now, Coldplay happens to, there's seven people in the San Francisco office who all have Coldplay at their bucket list, and they're at the executive level. And Coldplay comes through to play a show over there, they automatically have tickets. Now that's all done through automation, but the person's never going to remember that they answered this question two years ago. No, they just think that their boss, or whoever the person is who's gifting them through our system, is paying attention. Right?

So in order to actually do that, that's what I mean by automation and a system knowing those things. In order to actually do that, you would have had to have the boss or whoever the person is gifting of every one of those seven individuals find out, ask. No, listen, care. Write down Coldplay this. Then remember. Then take note of the fact that Coldplay is coming into town. Then go get ticket. It's never going to happen. You need to put some sort of. And those kind of things. To answer your question, those kinds of things happen here all the time. We'll find out that we learned through whatever the information is that somebody's asking that so and so has a kid that's graduating from high school. Would a company know that? Would you normally know that? No. Right? And again, we know that taking care of people and supporting their families creates sort of an X factor. It's a coefficient of care.

Going Above & Beyond For Employees

Kids' birthdays. We have companies that work with us where they take care of the kids birthdays from the company. You do that for my kids, you got me forever. Yeah. I'll give you an example of stuff that we do here internally at our organization, because I can say this with pretty good confidence. We're probably the best example you'd find of eating of our own dog food, right? Of taking care of our own people, of our own clients, of our own employees. Everything we offer to people for new hire experience, which don't get me started on that. I believe that the way that people are hired today into companies is an absolute joke. You get an email from the company that says, we'd love to have you join, here's a link to sign a docusign. That's all the pomp and circumstance to say, please join our families. Join us.

00:45:12 - Andy Goram

That's a whole other episode, my friend. I'm sure we can have a good rant about that.

00:45:16 - Jeff Jackel

Oh, man. I will come back and talk about that and swag. So here, I'll give you an example. On Mother's Day, everybody who's in our organization, on Mother's Day, all the mothers, of course, they get something to their doorstep, right? That goes there. Now, the men that work here, who have wives, who have kids, right, those people got something from us also five days early with a box in there and a blank card that says, hey, I'm sure you're awesome, and you've already done something for your wife for Mother's Day. But if by chance, you've been a little busy, we're here to save the day. Feel free to sign this card and hand it over. Right. You do something like that. This is what I mean by the messaging and the reasoning and why you do this has much more impact than even the item itself. You just helped that person out, saved their day, made them look like the hero. Making somebody look like a hero will always make a massive impact.

Summary on Sticky Notes

00:46:10 - Andy Goram

Well, I love it. And look, unbelievably to me, as always, time has kind of, like, run away with us because there's so much more we can go. But I cannot let you go, Jeff, without kind of, like, trying to summarize this thing about the importance of trying to deliver recognition. Make it count, make it matter, do it at scale. So I have this area of the show called Sticky Notes, where I challenge you to summarize your best bits of wisdom on three sticky notes, my friend.

00:46:40 - Jeff Jackel

I'm a listener, so I knew this was coming, that I still. Okay, first one, I'm going to probably repeat things I've already said, because I think you did a good job of pulling out what the important things are. The first one, I would say, is recognize the person, and not solely their actions. The fact that they're there, they're committing this part of their life to your organization is something to be recognized and something to be celebrated. Anything less is taking your people for granted.

My second sticky note would be, when you do something for your people, ask yourself if this action or whatever I'm doing is truly selfless. If you're ever doing things for them that are truly selfless and don't have some ulterior motive for the corporation, or you're not trying to push more actions like this. Right? So I guess those two are kind of run in parallel.

And then the third, I think would be employee care and client care, they have to be viewed downstream. So meaning recognize that everything you do now, while it might be one touch for one person, for their kids graduation. That's a human connection with that person. But recognize that everybody in your organization is watching. When you're doing enough of these things to all of these people, the downstream effect is changing your culture. It's creating a culture, and everybody sees it. So to harken back all the way to your very initial question, I think that's all internal. But every client, every company that you work with outside of that, once that culture is created by this whole downstream effect of running an operation this way, this will bleed out into your customers will see it and feel it. Clients that you have will see it and feel it. It completely changes an organization once this just becomes your way of doing things.

Podcast Conclusion

00:48:44 - Andy Goram

Fantastic. Three great sticky notes there, my friend. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to you and I am so glad we got to talk about recognition and this thing about AI and automation and scale and mattering and all this great stuff. I'll put a bunch of links in the show notes so people can find you. But just for those people who never go into the show notes, where can people find out a bit more about you?

00:49:09 - Jeff Jackel

Jeff yeah, just go to Also, if you have any questions when you get there. Again, eating our own dog food, we have the best possible customer service team in the entire world who answers in 25 seconds and gets back to people very quickly. So yeah, head to and love to talk to everybody.

00:49:30 - Andy Goram

Brilliant! Jeff, thanks very much for coming on, my friend. It's been great to talk to you.

00:49:33 - Jeff Jackel

Thanks so much, Andy, this was awesome.

00:49:35 - Andy Goram

Brilliant. Okay, everyone, that was Jeff Jackel, and if you'd like to find out a bit more about him or any of the topics that we've talked about today, go ahead and check out the show notes.

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting, and heard something maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forward. If you have, please like comment and subscribe. It really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky from the Inside podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

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