2 Gamification Hacks for Employee Onboarding Awesomeness

Time and time again, HR professionals struggle with employee onboarding. Programs designed to maximize employee performance and retention, no matter how carefully constructed, very often fall short of the mark. The real reason is not lack of motivation from the employee or lack of willingness from the employer. Instead, it is this flaw of our consciousness: the human brain’s tendency to forget. This blog will shed light upon how to improve employee onboarding using gamification.

Employee Onboarding Hacks

Whether or not we realize it, human beings are forgetting all the time. Suppose that you hold a new hire orientation to onboard new employees. Statistics show that after the seminar ends, “Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information.” (Kohn, 2014) With new hire orientation spend racking up quite the bill, it’s clear that just as the memories do, the dollars are vanishing into thin air.

The good news is that for the solution, employers have to look no further than their mobile phone. The digital workforce transformation brings new technologies such as big data and gamification that will make onboarding fun. These techniques are especially relevant when onboarding millennial employees who are the first generation raised entirely in the digital age.

There are several simple, low cost ways you can integrate gamification to improve forgetfulness during employee onboarding. The first six months of employment are full of administrative tasks. Why not create a contest in which you reward employees for each small accomplishment, for example, completing the W9 paperwork on time. You’re encouraging accomplishment by gift giving and adding an element of excitement, especially if you incorporate healthy competition by establishing a leaderboard and publishing it on social media. Instead of watching training videos or reading a manual about how to perform a job task, put the new hire on a “mystery quest” to figure it out by asking other employees. This improves interaction with the team and activates problem solving. In transitioning from spectator to player, gamification makes new hires active participants in their new company.

With over 17 years of experience supporting HR teams across the world, Retensa is the resource that companies trust to make techniques such as gamification effective. For assistance in designing a gamification program for your company, contact requests@retensa.com.


Kohn, Art. (2014, March 13) Brain Science: The Forgetting Curve–the Dirty Secret of Corporate Training. Learning Solutions Magazine. Retrieved on January 26, 2017 from https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1379/brain-science-the-forgetting-curvethe-dirty-secret-of-corporate-training


Posted: 2/13/2017


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Five Questions to Ask Before Terminating a Poor Performer

Its 2 AM, you are up, you cannot sleep.  Your mind is swirling with thoughts of your company’s performance and that one person who is not carrying his weight.
What should you do?

Begin by taking time to reflect on the following – Is there still value in this work relationship?  Five questions to consider when formulating the answer:

  1. Do I think this person can improve their performance?  If not… do I have a quantifiable and objective reason for terminating them?  Unless behavior warrants immediate dismissal, an appropriate course of action should be followed.  Common practice consists of a verbal warning, followed by at least one written warning, and a final written warning.  When giving any kind of warning, desired performance and future assessment periods should be clearly defined, as well as the possible outcomes should no improvement be made.  After setting new performance goals, keep assessment periods to 30 days or less so that you can limit company losses. This extra review period also provides the company time to find a good replacement.  However, if you give a final warning, consider limiting the review period to 5 days.
  2. Have I done everything I can to help this person perform well?  If you have not given prior feedback to the individual, now is the time.  Feedback should be specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant.  When you do give feedback, be prepared to monitor and follow-up consistently.  To assess whether this person can improve quickly, a noticeable change should occur in 5-10 days.  In addition: have you given this person the kind of work they are good at?  Giving people tasks that they will never excel in does not support anyone’s long-term goals.  Are they working to their strengths?
  3. Can I afford to give this person time to improve?  Employee turnover has many hidden costs. Rectifying an employee’s performance may cost you less in the end.  Turnover not only affects productivity but also has an impact on recruiting, interviewing, training, and time to gain the knowledge and expertise for peak performance.
  4. Will keeping this person deter other people from performing well?  It is a fact, keeping a poor performer  negatively affects high-level performers.  Often, a poor performer receives more time and attention from management.  If you think your poor performer is affecting the team, set a short performance improvement goal.
  5. Will the company be open to liabilities if I terminate?   Terminations should be handled with the utmost care.  Before you take action, be sure your company is prepared to handle the legalities mandated by your state and the federal government about terminations.  If you feel that it is best to let this person go now, be sure you have clear documentation to support your actions.  Terminations should be a conversation about not meeting goals and objectives.  It should not be a personal attack.  Of course, it is always advisable to review terminations with legal counsel if  available. The following compliance section on the US Dept of Labor website is a helpful resource: http://www.dol.gov/compliance
    If your answers suggest that you give your poor performer time to improve, you should still take immediate action.  Set realistic and measurable goals for this person.  Be clear about the outcomes if performance does not improve and set a timeline for meetings to review where things stand.  Make sure you provide all the necessary tools for the person to be successful.  If there is no improvement, the next step is much easier to take because you have been clear from the beginning.

    If you feel that it is best to let this person go now, be sure you have clear documentation to support your actions.  Terminations should be a conversation about not meeting goals and objectives, not a personal attack.  Of course, it is always advisable to review terminations with legal counsel if possible.

    Whatever you choose, keep an eye on the business goals and weigh the course of action in relation to the implications.  Poor performers can be addressed to avoid extra time and costs to your company. But, more importantly, you can move forward to ensure your team is comprised of excellent people, in the right jobs, poised to succeed.

The Impact of Employees’ Health on The Employer

How can employers create a wellness program that improves employees’ health?

“Americans don’t leave their increasing waistlines at home; they bring them to work.  And those extra pounds are having serious ramifications relating to health care costs, productivity and morale.” – Robert J. Grossman, HR Magazine, March 2004

The number of people in the American workforce may be shrinking but the size of the average American certainly is not.  According to a 2005 study by Trust in America’s Health, almost 65% – or 119 million Americans – are either overweight or obese.  This startling statistic, combined with the exponential increase in medical costs, means employers must find ways to address their employees’ health issues – or face some expensive consequences.

The Real Costs of Obesity

In the past, helping an overweight worker slim down was probably not an employer’s top-priority.  However, recent research is beginning to change that mindset by showing the economic impact that obesity has on employee performance.  The healthcare costs for obese employees, which includes medical insurance, hospitalization costs and physician visits are about 36% higher on average than those for their average-weight counterparts.  For medication, costs are 77% higher.

Employers are all too aware of the escalating direct costs of healthcare.  Yet, it’s the indirect costs that quietly but pervasively decrease company profit.  Reduced productivity and increased absenteeism are not represented on the company balance sheet but financially impact revenue.  In 2004, HR Magazine reported that obese individuals are twice as likely to be absent 14 or more times a year.  When obese workers are not absent, they are not working to their full potential.  Researchers estimate about 25% of obese employees under-perform due to obesity-related infirmities or conditions.

The good news is that employers are taking note of this phenomenon and consequently, taking action.  About 80% of workplaces with over 50 employees provide some type of health-related initiatives and many are starting to address the issue of obesity.  In addition, about 40-50% of large employers offer weight control assistance, often through a “Weight Watchers at Work”-type program.  Some companies even offer to pay for gastric bypass surgery, for those employees who are at least 100 pounds overweight. Overall the approach is to improve employee loyalty by increasing overall quality of life for the workforce.

Unfortunately, most employee’s health programs are well-meaning but poorly planned and executed.  According to a June 2006 report from the University of Minnesota, the results of these programs have not been as positive as studies documenting their impact suggest they should be.  Perhaps the main reason for this is that employers do not market their health initiatives to the people who could benefit the most from them.  For example, about 27% of employers offer discounted membership to local health clubs.  This would be immensely valuable but is historically used most by employees who already exercise regularly.

Additionally, organizations continually make the mistake of incorporating initiatives that only address one specific health risk, such as high blood pressure.  Providing free blood pressure screenings to employees may enhance their awareness of a possible problem.  However, the risk assessment should be one small part of a comprehensive plan to reduce the employee’s health risks.  Even a comprehensive plan will be unsuccessful if it is only implemented for a short-term period.

Below we have highlighted some Best Practices for designing and executing a successful employee’s health program.

Boosting Employees’ Health with Company Wellness Programs

  1. Make Workers’ Health a Priority: Many employers establish employee’s health programs without really considering what it can mean for their workers and half-hearted initiatives send the wrong message to employees.  Buy-in from management is crucial to planning a program that can produce tangible, meaningful results.  Making health a priority includes providing your employees with the most comprehensive, long-term plan possible and creating a health-conscious company culture at all levels.
  2. Provide Incentives: In order to make an employee’s health program work, the right incentives must be awarded for the right behaviors.  For example, high-risk employees can receive a reduction in co-payments by participating in the company wellness program.  Low-risk employees would automatically receive the discounted rate in order to ensure fairness.  As healthcare costs continue to rise, reduced medical payments are likely to remain a powerful motivator to employees.Incentives related to medical costs also increase the likelihood that the target populations will participate – and that equals significant savings on healthcare for employers.  A study of 23,500 General Motors employees showed that just encouraging obese employees to engage in physical activity as little as little as once or twice a week reduced health care by an average of $400 to $500 per year per employee.  How much money could your company save by successfully targeting these populations?
  3. Concentrate on Many Aspects of Employee’s Health: Weight management classes and nutritional consultations are certainly beneficial but they constitute only a part of an employee’s health and overall well-being.  For optimal employee performance, a plan should attend to stress and mental health barriers as well.  Stanford’s Health Improvement Program (HIP), one of the oldest employer-sponsored health programs in the programs, is an excellent example of a well-rounded initiative.  In addition to physical fitness classes, Stanford offers smoking cessation programs, “wisdom therapy” for managing stress, behavior modification support groups and even a class for cancer patients.
  4. Determine What You Can Afford: Small to mid-size companies may shy away from employer-funded wellness programs, usually because they don’t think they can spend money on programs with somewhat inconclusive success rates.  In reality, though, companies are already unnecessarily spending money in the form of higher absenteeism, increased employee turnover, and skyrocketing healthcare costs.Experts suggest that employers contact their health plans for possible collaboration.  Even if your business is low on funds, consider implementing useful low or no-cost programs, such as providing nutritional information for cafeteria foods or establishing a smoke-free workplace.
  5. Offer Web-Based Options: Obviously, surfing the Internet is no substitute for running at the gym.  However, companies can likely increase employee participation by offering services like nutritional counseling, healthy recipes, workout schedules and risk assessments online.  Web-based options also allow employees to easily track both their personal progress and their incentives.  Workers are more apt to get involved in a program that has as many private and simple options as possible.

Wellness programs that promote employee’s health are a critical part of talent retention. For more information about how to improving your workforce wellness and employee productivity, email requests@retensa.com.