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u s O Kd Ideas and Information for The Recognition Experience ®

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AutoOne Inspires Millennial Success Recognition and the Next Generation of Workers

The call center at AutoOne Insurance’s headquarters in Mellville, New York, is a busy place. As you would expect, phones are ringing, service agents are assisting customers and business is booming. Another look reveals that nearly everyone in this place is in their early- to mid-twenties and seems eager to make a difference. Their cubicles are covered with thank you notes from managers and coworkers and many are working in teams to solve problems and develop new processes. There is an unmistakable energy here — the type of energy that says this company is growing. And grow it has. In its short five-year history, AutoOne, an Assigned Risk and voluntary auto insurance provider, has grown from just four employees to nearly 600 and expanded services from one to 22 states. Such rapid growth has challenged the company to actively cultivate corporate culture and establish its brand at an accelerated pace. All the while paying close attention to the developing demographics, wants and needs of its emerging work force. And at the heart of it all are AutoOne’s “Millennial” employees. If you’re not familiar with the term Millennial you will be — and soon. Millennials are 28 years old and younger and represent today’s newest worker. And as they join the workforce in droves, employers are scrambling to find out what makes them tick. Different from their coworkers — Veterans, Baby Boomers and Gen X — Millennials are establishing themselves as a powerful talent pool with new workplace expectations.

Know Your Workforce For a company that has been hiring en masse (sometimes upwards of 200300 employees a year), devising a retention strategy was as important as figuring out what questions to ask during interviews, explains AutoOne President and CEO Carey Benson. “It was a big challenge for us to grow AutoOne from just four people and build an organization around that,” says Benson. “We had to find the right kind of skill sets and the right technical people. Once you do that, it’s very important that you keep those people.” Assistant Vice President of Human Resources, Lisa King, works hard to stay focused on what matters most to employees. “We have hired literally hundreds of people each year,” says King. “It’s immense growth. But recognition has always been a top priority due to its impact on employee satisfaction, engagement and retention.” In order to help establish a corporate identity, company leaders made creating a strategic recognition program a first priority and have used those programs to help establish clear expectations and encourage engagement. Benson explains, “The management team that came together here had a foundation for seeing recognition programs work. As we started gaining momentum we talked about how recognition could help us accomplish (continued on next page)



How important is it that you spell out your respect for employees?

Critical. Employees who do not feel respected are more than three times as likely to leave their jobs within two years than those who feel they are treated with respect. Only of employees today feel respected in the workplace. Of those employees who do not feel respected, plan to leave within two years.



Source: Sirota Survey Intelligence survey of 370,378 employees

AutoOne President and CEO, Carey Benson

INSIDE this issue:  Managing Millennials  Office Gift Giving Ideas for the Holidays



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AutoOne (continued from page 1) our goals and we put recognition programs in place to support those goals.” Beginning with its “Drive for Performance” program, the company recognizes employees who go above and beyond and demonstrate one of the organization’s five core competencies — Analytically Minded, Unique Initiative, Teamwork, Outstanding Leadership and a corporate principle known as “The One.” Employees can be recognized with everything from an email or certificate to a selection of valuable awards on the company’s recognition Website. And, as AutoOne soon discovered, that is exactly what the company’s young workforce wants. “When we realized the majority of our workforce was from the Millennial generation we knew there were new attitudes and expectations we needed to be aware of,” says King. “More than anything it seems this generation of workers wants constant feedback, opportunity and acknowledgement.” As a result, AutoOne structures its recognition programs, performance reviews and management objectives around meeting those needs, making the most of its workforce’s sincere desire to succeed and be recognized for it. Brian Posner, a claims specialist and special project manager, says this type of recognition along with meaningful awards makes all the difference. “I’ve seen good [employees] put in a lot of hours and a lot of work. I see when they get their awards and they get recognition for what they’re doing. It definitely boosts morale and they’re willing to put the time in again,” says Posner. “You don’t hear as much grumbling about another Saturday or extra hours when it’s recognized. People have a good attitude when they know that the company recognizes what they’re doing and it’s appreciated. That makes it worth it to put in the extra effort.” AutoOne takes recognition one step further by honoring employees with “Bravo” awards for making suggestions for company improvement. The program focuses on their Millennial population’s desire to contribute, be heard and continually improve the company. “Bravo awards encourage employees to get involved outside their particular area of expertise,” explains COO, Paul DiFrancesco. “When employees offer suggestions, they show they are willing to step up and say, ‘I think I can make a difference.’ That is of great benefit to the company because some of the best ideas come from people who aren’t so close to the problem.” DiFrancesco and his team of operating officers personally review each Bravo suggestion in a weekly meeting and decide which suggestions to investigate further. “The program is an opportunity to reward people who are making



suggestions that aren’t necessarily in their areas of expertise and the program tells them their ideas are of value. There’s nothing holding them back,” says DiFrancesco. “Our program is a way for AutoOne to engage people and communicate to employees that they are expected to contribute and they can be recognized if they contribute beyond what they are being asked to do everyday. The program encourages people to look beyond their desk, beyond their department.” And it’s those types of opportunities to contribute that keep Millennials engaged. “We have studied, surveyed and discovered our Millennial employees are used to immediate gratification, thanks and feedback,” says King. “This generation was raised by parents who gave them constant encouragement. They grew up setting

“More than anything it seems this generation of workers wants constant feedback, opportunity and acknowledgement.” Lisa King, Assistant Vice President, Human Resources

goals and objectives and getting feedback as they moved to meet those goals. And when managers walk right by them, it’s a problem. Through training and use of the recognition program, managers now understand recognition is a tool they should use everyday. We are making a conscious effort to thank people for their hard work.” And for Posner and employees like him, that can mean the difference between staying and contributing at AutoOne or looking for work elsewhere. “Companies are losing people left and right and sometimes it’s salary, but a lot of times it’s just that people aren’t happy,” says Posner. “They’re doing their work and they feel like nobody cares so they figure they’ll go to the next place and work for an extra $5,000 and nobody will care there either. At least at AutoOne you feel recognized and you feel like people appreciate what you’re doing; that makes people more apt to stay around.”

Communicating Expectations Staying around is one thing, but inspiring people to thrive while they’re there is another. For that, AutoOne turns to training and uses its recognition program as a vehicle to motivate and elevate the level of communication within the company. DiFrancesco explains, “For managers who are new to supervising people, recognition programs help them learn and manage the softer side of saying, ‘thanks’ once in a while and, ‘job well done.’ Those things can be forgotten under the pressure of having to meet a target or a goal.” King agrees. “With so much on our managers’ plates, we have to remind them that recognition is there to help them accomplish their goals, not to get in the way. And once they use the programs, they understand that. It’s amazing to watch managers use recognition and turn into leaders for their employees.” “Recognition has also helped our employee relation issues,” continues King. “It has been a type of catalyst for us to train managers on their new roles, how to treat each other, communicate to each other, handle conflict, and how to raise issues with staff. It’s an important part of our efforts to continue to train and grow our managers.” Beyond helping AutoOne’s managers, recognition also gives employees concrete examples of excellence and communicates what actions are valued by the company. “Recognition gives us a way to show employees where the bar is,” says Myra Rakosky, vice president of underwriting for AutoOne. “The program has provided a lot of flexibility in recognition because we can use it in a lot of ways. We can use it as an incentive for better customer service, to enhance productivity, or to send a thank you for help provided or advice given.” The program’s ability to communicate what’s important by rewarding those actions that most benefit the organization helps employees know what is expected and how to best achieve those expectations. “Sometimes watching others receive recognition draws a map for you,” says Posner. “You realize, ‘Hey what is this employee doing that makes others recognize him?’ I had better take a look at what he’s doing because obviously it’s something that makes others notice. Recognition can inspire you to do more that way.”

Recognition that Makes Sense

Paul DiFrancesco, Senior Vice President and Chief Operation Officer

Volume 10 Number 2

Putting structure to the idea of strategic recognition was a challenge for AutoOne early on. How do you maintain consistency in the program, clearly communicate program




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criteria, generate an engaging recognition experience and make it all hassle free? AutoOne called on O.C. Tanner recognition consultant and regional manager Kim Purcell for help. “The volume of work we are asking of our people and our time constraints were our biggest concerns when implementing the program,” says King. “But the recognition program respects that and Kim helped us design a system that allows for recognition to be a part of people’s work flow.” Built into the company’s Intranet, AutoOne’s Drive for Performance recognition program is as automated as they come. Nominations are submitted online and automatically elevated to the appropriate manager and to HR for approval. Then an award notification is generated — all within a matter of minutes. From there, managers add a personal touch by presenting the award in front of peers and the employee is recognized in an immediate and tangible way for demonstrating actions that benefit the company. AutoOne takes messaging one step further by branding its program to speak to the company’s young workforce. “The whole brand behind our recognition programs speaks to a younger audience,” explains Human Resources Manager, Kristen Hildebrant. “All of the messaging and imagery of the program communicates to employees that they can excel here; that we invite and encourage them to do much more. The programs are a real incentive and it’s something that is always available to them to earn. People love it.” And the results the Myra Rakosky, Vice President of Underwriting, uses recognition to inspire team performance. Rakosky Group from left to right: program provides make AutoOne’s senior leaders Dianne Anderson, Myra Rakosky, Anna Garefalis, Veronica love it too. Rosado, Greg Stillman and Bill Dunn “The tool that O.C. Tanner brought to us has enabled us to gather information, track it and evaluate it on an ongoing basis,” says Benson. “Now recognition happens consistently across

the organization despite our rapid growth. And although we’ve always understood [recognition’s] importance, now we have a tool that helps manage the mechanics of it and that makes all the difference in its success.”

“Managing change and evolution is what drives us and that’s what makes recognition so essential. Recognition helps us move initiatives, get buy in and see results.”

Realizing Results

So how does AutoOne know the program is effective? “We are very data driven here,” explains Hildebrant. “We look at how often the system is being utilized by managers and peers. We’ve seen increased productivity in certain areas and employee satisfaction scores tell us employees are feeling more valued than they were two years ago. We are very pleased with that.” But for Benson and his team, evaluating the real results and Carey Benson, President and CEO impact of the program comes not only in the program’s impressive numbers, but also in hearing stories of employees going above and beyond for their customers. “We recently had a hiccup where some checks were improperly generated at five o’clock on a Friday afternoon,” says Benson. “We had three people from our IT team jump in and fix it. Then people stayed late in the mail center to see that the claim checks went out to customers who were waiting to get their vehicles repaired. When these employees were done, thank you notes were sent acknowledging them for staying late and making a difference. It was an easy thing to do, but it made a lasting impact on those employees who tell me, ‘Wow. No one has ever done that; I didn’t think anyone even knew I was there.’ What do you think will happen if that situation comes up again? Recognition has cemented our relationship with those employees and hopefully we’ll have opportunities to do it again and again.” And chances are, with such a young workforce, they will.


Understanding Millennial Characteristics

“Managing Millennials can be challenging, but once you discover what moves them, you can move your organization,” says Adrian Gostick, best selling author of The Invisible Employee. “Recognition addresses Millennials’ sense of immediacy and need for continual feedback. Once you address those issues, recognition can accelerate your results by focusing employees on what matters most.” CEO Carey Benson agrees, “The speed at which we move is our biggest challenge. Managing change and evolution is what drives us and that’s what makes recognition so essential. Recognition helps us move initiatives, get buy-in and see results.” For AVP of HR Lisa King, managing Millennials comes down to consciously and consistently acknowledging a job well done. Kristen “This generation wants to know someone notices. That’s more important than anything. It’s not just about the money; Hildebrant, Human it’s more about the one-on-one everyday. They need a lot of interaction, a lot of coaching and they thrive on that. And Resources the recognition system is a tool to give them what they need and realize some impressive business results in the process.”


Millennials are considered: Confident. Raised by parents who believe in the importance of self-esteem, they characteristically consider themselves ready to overcome challenges and leap tall buildings. Patented disbelief in the need to “pay your dues.”

Hopeful. They’re described as optimistic yet practical. They believe in the future and their role in it. They’ve read about businesses with basketball courts and companies that pay your way through school. They expect a workplace that is challenging, collaborative, creative, fun, and financially rewarding. Goal-and achievement-oriented. Just a day after she won a totally unexpected Olympic gold medal, skater Sara Hughes was talking about her next goal — scoring a perfect 1600 on her SATs. Many Millennials arrive at their first day of work with personal goals on paper.

Civic-minded. They were taught to think in terms of the greater good. They have a high rate of volunteerism. They expect companies to contribute to their communities — and to operate in ways that create a sustainable environment.

Inclusive. Millennials are used to being organized in teams — and to making certain no one is left behind. They expect to earn a living in a workplace that is fair to all, where diversity is the norm — and they’ll use their collective power if they feel someone is treated unfairly. From Connecting Generations: The Sourcebook by Claire Raines

Brian Posner, Claims Specialist and Special Project Manager



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four O.C. A W A R D




Most Millennials are looking

Holiday Happiness The only thing better than receiving the perfect holiday gift is knowing that you’re about to give one.

There are few things in life trickier than office gift giving. You need gifts that are classy, professional and appropriate, but you want to give gifts that are impressive, memorable and fun. This year, find the perfect gift for honoring the year-round dedication of all those in your office with the help of thanks™. May we recommend:

Star Plates: Send your team of achievers home with this festive set of three star canapé plates. This memorable gift will become the centerpiece of celebrations for years to come. Sand cast aluminum alloy is food safe and tarnish free. Amaryllis Bulb: A blooming gift of holiday gratitude. This festive, potted red lion amaryllis bulb will burst into bloom within weeks of watering.

Harvest Food Box: Let the feasting begin! Bursting with enough gourmet goodies to show you’re serious about celebrating, this thanks is one they’re sure to eat up. Stuffed full of delights from the salty to the sweet, even the most discerning snackers will smile at this selection of award-winning indulgences.

Vintage Games and Treats: Bring holiday fun back. Let them relive their youth with this collection of vintage tin games. This colorful set features nostalgic favorites including marbles, dominoes and jacks. Gamers can also nibble on a generous assortment of gourmet nuts including hand-roasted pistachios, jumbo cashews, honey-roasted peanuts and salted mixed nuts.

Nut Tray: Tasty treats have a way of making the holidays even brighter. This hammered metal tray is heaping with cinnamon sugar almonds, jumbo cashews, gourmet dried fruit, California pistachios, lounge mix and milk chocolate bridge mix. Yum. Order and see more at: ON THE COVER: Suunto Computer Watch, Ladies Diamond Chronograph Watch, North Face Mountain Biker Lumbar Pack


for strong relationships with their boss and co-workers, a good income and rapid job advancement, challenging work that they can excel at, and recognition of a job well done. Most Millennials were raised by active parents who protected and supervised them. In fact, unlike latchkey kids of Gen X, this generation was the center of their parents’ lives. As a result they grew up with a need to feel noticed and appreciated. And they expect constant feedback from you, their manager. Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton Authors of the New York Times best seller “The Invisible Employee.” To learn more about employee motivation go to

Kudos Special Edition Publisher

O. C. Tanner Recognition Co. Editor Adrian Gostick Managing Editor Mindi Cox Contributing Writers B.J. Beckman Amy Skylling Design/Layout Janice Takagi Graphic Supervisor Shauna Raso Award Photographer: Rick Hayward KUDOS is published by O.C. Tanner Recognition Company, 1930 S. State St., Salt Lake City, UT 84115. Copyright 2006 by O.C. Tanner. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission is prohibited. Not responsible for unsolicited materials. Second-class US postage paid at Salt Lake City, UT 84101 and additional offices. Postmaster send address changes to above address.



1930 South State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115 4200 Fairview Street Burlington, Ontario L7L4Y8

Salt Lake City. UT


O.C. Tanner Europe Unit 6A, Imprimo Park Lenthall Road Loughton Essex 1G10 3UF UK

Volume 10 Number 2