user

Apptension, February 15th, 2016

Power to the People: a Company Crowdfunding Platform (case study)

Power to the People: a Company Crowdfunding Platform (case study)

We created this case study to show how an HR experiment – introducing a company crowdfunding platform, helped us increase employee engagement.

There is every reason to think that companies will do almost anything to keep their employees engaged and satisfied.

The latest Deloitte’s report shows these issues are on companies’ minds more so than ever before.

87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50 percent call the problem “very important.”
Global Human Capital Trends 2015, Deloitte

Living in a glassdoor era, people that apply for a job can get a clear overview of company’s perks and learn about its culture (which may turn out to be completely different from what is shown on the “work for us” page).

They can make a relatively conscious career choice based on the projected engagement factor. Once they accept the job – this is the time for the company to prove its ways.

No wonder then, that firms try to employ different employer branding techniques with staff engagement in mind. Be that a team retreat, buying a shiny video game console or sending people to conferences overseas, every company wants to make sure the employees are happy, especially in the IT sector, where highly-qualified team members are worth their weight in gold.

This is a story of how we tried out an experimental tool to increase staff engagement and, generally speaking, make them (even) happier.

 

How do you make people happy? You answer their needs.

In a perfect world, all team events or equipment purchases are bookended with detailed surveys and evaluation questionnaires telling you how many people really needed them and enjoyed them.

In reality, planning a team retreat is often a little bit of a guesswork; accompanied by past experiences and feedback, but a guesswork nonetheless.

Yet another issue is that employees clearly prefer to have the perks suited to their individual needs:

80% of employees would value benefits customized to individual circumstances and age.
MetLife

What if the decisions regarding their own happiness were made by the employees themselves? It makes perfect sense on paper, so we decided to run an experimental company crowdfunding platform and see if it makes people more engaged (spoiler alert: it does).

This article presents our approach, lists the good things that our Wishlist app brought to the company and, hopefully, inspires you to follow through with more out-of-the-box ideas for increasing employee engagement.

 

How does a company crowdfunding platform work?

I imagine that the very name “crowdfunding platform” elicits different associations and bears questions, so below you can see an outline of the app.

Wishlist is essentially a list of ideas that our staff came up with.

People have direct access to the app so they can upload the ideas without any assistance. Each of the initiatives has a predetermined cost that needs to be covered for this idea to become reality. Every person in the team has a vote (all votes have the same financial value) and each month the vote is renewed.

Basically, once a month you can cast your vote for one of the ideas listed in the app or add your idea and vote for it.

As for the actual value of a single vote, we recommend small increments ($10-15). This way it’s easier to validate the idea (one needs more votes to make it happen, so we see if it’s really popular) and there’s less responsibility associated with a vote – it’s easier for people to decide what to vote for.

Once enough votes have been cast, the idea is implemented. The author handles decisions like choosing the venue for the party or selecting the best 3D printer to purchase. Usually, the creators of the ideas are extremely engaged in the process of bringing their project into being. Of course, we’re able to help with the logistics.

The ideas that didn’t get enough support over time are deleted from the wishlist (bye bye, doner grill!).

A technical tidbit: at Apptension we use Podio for project & task management. It was a natural choice to customise an app within Podio for our company crowdfunding platform. This way our team members use it in their natural environment with no extra effort.

 

In what ways is the Wishlist effective?

Since the introduction of this experimental tool we’ve seen 90% interest rate among our staff. When it comes to the initiatives, there were 4 major trends:

  • team retreats (e.g. volleyball tournament, Star Wars marathon)
  • office equipment (e.g. 3D printer, video game console + TV)
  • self-development (e.g. ISTQB® certification, technical library)
  • charity (e.g. kennels for the dog shelter, supporting homeless people)

Company crowdfunding platform stats

After 10 months of having the company crowdfunding platform, we see quite a few upsides of this tool.

First and foremost – it helps us answer the needs of the staff. Ideas that came into being were not only needed by their authors but also actively supported with votes by other team members.

We can’t stress enough the value our app brought to the team integration aspect. People collaborate on the conception stages of the projects, they campaign for the votes, work together to make the ideas happen and finally enjoy the actual event or interact with the new equipment. Not only does it increase the employees’ engagement but also multiplies the opportunities for fostering team spirit.

The very number of projects up for the votes allows people to integrate in different groups across departments, age or genders. In previous months we haven’t noticed a potentially dangerous phenomenon of the same groups proposing the same retreats just for them to enjoy. Actually, the democratic value of the company crowdfunding platform diminishes the risk of such self-rewarding activities, since multiple people have to support the idea.

Additionally, we’re able to prove that the IT sector is not just a group of nerds with plaid shirts and poor social skills. What we witness thanks to the Wishlist app, is a wide range of talents among our staff members – campaigning for and organising the initiatives happens with a more creative flair that one could expect from a group of brilliant yet plaid-clad programmers.

The fact that our employees are able to suggest different improvements for the office allows them to create a perfect working space. There is evidence pointing to people performing better when they have more autonomy and the ability of customizing their office space.

One interesting thing we’ve noticed is the equipment or software we end up purchasing is not something that was earlier used within the company. People are eager to learn and try out new technologies which benefits us as a company – we’re able to widen our expertise.

Finally, the company crowdfunding platform helped us save time and money we spent when organising various retreats.

Obviously, we didn’t giveup on some company staples like the Holiday party or our Legenedary 3-day Trip we embark on each August. What is more, the apps allows us to plan the spendings better, as we know what is coming next based on the votes distribution.

 

More than a perk?

“More than a perk” seems like a bold statement.

You might see our little app as an extra benefit for employees who get to come up with and vote for activities they prefer and gadgets they want to have in the office. In that sense, yes, it’s a perk and we’re proudly telling our job prospects about it.

What we’ve noticed, however, is a shift of attitude of people who are in charge of the ideas and the people who voted for them.

The sense of the initiative ownership affects their behavior, increasing their engagement in this particular activity, but also in the company life in general (it works for the supporters as well).

We’ve always been dedicated to mark our company culture with fellowship – it is easy to do when you have just a handful of people, the company crowdfunding platform helped us to make it happen with 40 people on board. Strong sense of involvement is also promising in terms of future hires:

Highly engaged employees are more than five times as likely to recommend that a friend or relative apply for a job at their company.
Temkin Group

We’re looking forward to see how this HR tool will work for our evergrowing team. Stay tuned for updates and let us know what you think about our experiment so far.

 

Oh, and if you feel our internal crowdfunding is your kind of thing, do drop us a line, we’d love to vote for your ideas next month.

P B