Taylor Smith is the co-founder and CEO of Blueboard, the world’s leading experiential rewards and recognition platform that helps companies celebrate their employees. The company was founded in 2014 and they currently have 150 employees around the world.
Employee experience and recognition has been at the forefront of conversations in the business world for a while now, but it’s never been more important than this past year and a half. And one company that is helping leaders around the world find better ways to recognize, celebrate, and reward employees is Blueboard.
A different way to recognize and reward employees
For many companies the way that they show appreciation to employees is through company-wide awards, swag like mugs and shirts, and gift cards. And while all of these things are good, it may not be what employees most want or need.
As Taylor shares, “People show up to work every day and what do they do? They’re spending all their time and their energy, and they’re giving it to their company, right. And a lot of us, you know, we’ll work on long projects, we’ll throw our lives into our work, because we’re proud of it. But that often isn’t reciprocated from our company.”
Taylor and the Blueboard co-founder, Kevin, actually came up with the idea because of something that happened to Taylor while working for Accenture. At one point while working for the company Taylor was given a high visibility role working with the CFO of a large company. And during this project he really drove himself into the ground–he was working 80-90 hours a week, flying to Dallas every week for three months, he ate all his meals at the company cafeteria, and he wasn’t sleeping much. He put everything he had into that project.
And at the end of the project Taylor’s manager called Taylor into his office and told him he had done an amazing job on the project and he wanted to recognize the work he put in and he handed Taylor a $500 gift card. It was a very well-intentioned gift and it was not a trivial amount of money, but in the moment it didn’t feel good to Taylor. Just considering all of the time and effort he put into the work and all of the time he spent away from home and his girlfriend, analytically thinking about it, it kind of made it feel that his time was worth $1.12 an hour to his employer.
Talking the whole situation over with Kevin when it happened Kevin asked Taylor what would have made him feel rewarded, what would have made him feel appreciated. After thinking about it Taylor said it would have been nice had his manager said, you have been spending a lot of time away from home and away from your girlfriend, here are some vouchers for you both to go for a couples massage this weekend to relax and recharge. And that is when the idea for Blueboard was born.
They realized that it made sense to use actual experiences and gifts of time to reward employees, but that in order to do that a leader would have to spend a lot of time figuring out the best thing to give, and then searching for local businesses who provide that service, and then purchase it, etc..And most leaders don’t have extra time to do all of that. So they wanted to provide a service to leaders so that the process would be easy for them and rewarding for employees.
The biggest trend Taylor is paying attention to
One of the biggest things that Taylor and his team have noticed over the past year and a half is something that was already getting attention, but it increased during the pandemic and that is employee wellbeing. With most people working virtually, we have more people bringing their whole selves to work than ever before. We used to have a clear separation between work and personal life, that is no longer possible.
Companies are wrestling with how to support their people’s well-being not just at work, but outside of work because they are so connected. We have to see all of the different facets of our people–they are not just employees, they are parents, spouses, significant others, and family members. They have hobbies and interests, they have hopes and dreams. It dramatically changes your people programs when you start looking at your people as individuals who want and need different things.
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Will we go back to the office?
There has been a lot of discussion over the last several months about whether or not people will return to work in the office, or if most companies will continue to work remotely. Taylor is very interested to see how long it takes people to go back to work and what the whole transition period will look like. He believes that most companies will go with a hybrid form of work–some in-person and some remote–instead of going with one extreme or the other.
And while working remotely comes with convenience and flexibility, there is also value in connecting face to face with coworkers. “We could and should be more connected people than ever, but we feel more alone and isolated than ever. And to me going to a fully remote workforce is going to lead us further down that path, and I just don’t think people realize that right now.”
At Blueboard, even before the pandemic they had four day work days in the office and work from home Wednesdays. Employees were able to go to appointments or run errands or do housework on Wednesdays to break up their work day and accomplish things they wouldn’t be able to in the office.
Why rewarding employees with experiences is so meaningful
Blueboard has a lot of options for employees to choose from when they are rewarded by a leader–some are big, kind of crazy ideas like sandboarding in Morocco or chasing the northern lights in Iceland and some are small, but impactful like taking a course in a language you want to learn or training to become a yoga teacher or a one-hour surfing class.
There are so many things in life that a person might be interested in, but they just don’t have the time or the resources to take the first step. So being able to start that journey because you are being recognized for your hard work is powerful.
“We see hundreds of people a week doing things that represent one step towards something they’ve always wanted to do, whether that’s taking a cooking class because they’ve always wanted to learn how to make pasta or they’re taking a boxing class because that’s the first step towards them getting in shape. Blueboard can represent just a small nudge and step in someone’s life, that is then taking a big step in terms of who they are as a person. And at the end of the day, their company is the one that made that happen, how powerful and awesome is that? So that’s why I love what we’re doing.”
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