Spending time with The1stMovement, a digital agency with locations in Denver and Pasadena, is fun, easy, and pretty darn cool. When I met them last year, we immediately connected on topics of culture, hiring the right people (think cultural fit over aptitude), and how they effortlessly make work more than just….work. I checked in with The1stMovement a few months after their launch of our YouEarnedIt employee recognition program to see how it was going for them and to see if it truly jived with the their culture the way I had hoped. Here is a snippet from my conversation with Jenn DePauw, Snr. Director of Operations for The1stMovement. Please note: these responses are paraphrased and are not exact quotes from Jenn.

First of all, I want to talk about the fun stuff. What is the craziest reward you offer in your catalog?

A life-sized mid-evil knight statue has to take the cake! Before we launched, we chose to take the opportunity to get to know the team and what motivates them. Dangling money in front of people to motivate them doesn’t work, so we wanted to create rewards that were meaningful to everyone across our company. We launched an informal survey to figure out what they liked, where they spent their time and what they would do with money if given the choice (and you can’t pay bills!). We learned a lot about our people and what drives them. And, we were able to build a reward catalog with about 80 items that appeal to everyone in one way or another.

I love it! We have a Ducati in our catalog. Not as cool as a knight statue but it’s interesting. Next, what was the reaction from your employees about the YouEarnedIt program? How do they like it (or not)?

We have people in the tool all the time, giving recognition, commenting on recognition someone sent to a team member, or redeeming for a reward. That’s been the most surprising thing to me; the engagement we have from every group and every person in our company. The feedback is great – they love it.

Tell me about your Core Values challenge. You launched YouEarnedIt to drive a competition across your company. How’d that work?

This is one of the reasons we have so much engagement in the tool. We launched it to drive home our Core Values and see how engaged the team really was behind these values. Each week, we would pick a Core Value and come up with some initiative to complete by the end of the week that embodied that value. We allocated points for certain activities that aligned with these values. For example, if you came up with the initiative for the week, you got a certain amount of points; if you participated in the activity or initiative, you got a certain amount of points. The gist was to get everyone involved on some level or another. It encouraged some fun, healthy competition, reinforced our core values, and let people rack up some points in a short period of time.

Our clients always come up with great ways to use the program and platform to meet their unique needs. What were some indirect or surprising benefits that came from the launch of YouEarnedIt?

The best part has been learning so much about our employees and what really makes them happy and engaged. Before the program, it was like a never-ending stream of emails and pats-on-the-back to give recognition, but that vehicle wasn’t effective for us.

Another surprising benefit was our ability to drive engagement around important work initiatives. A couple of weeks ago, one of our senior leaders sent an email asking for an innovative idea for a client. He said that the first person to respond with a solid idea would get some YouEarnedIt points. We had a flood of great responses for the client, and people were excited to get the points for something like that. It was motivating and it created a better idea for our client.

Thanks to Jenn and the team at The1stMovement for teaching us a great way to use our tool.