Author Archive for Kristen Parker

16
Sep
14

Fun and games for associations

Chase-Bank-Gamification-Example-CaseStudy-IGamifyJust about everyone I know is addicted to Candy Crush. (Not me. I tried and was terrible.) And I have quite a few friends who thrive on becoming king of a location on FourSquare.

Me? I get excited when I get a new badge on my hotels reward program and can share it on Facebook.

Ah, Facebook. Its gamification genius has taken social media by storm. In fact, it seems companies of all sizes are joining the gamification bandwagon.

But what is it?

According to Clickipedia, “Gamification is used by brands to motivate employees, create healthy competition among teams, generate buzz or social proof and encourage customer loyalty, among other benefits. With a variety of techniques – some easy to implement, some requiring advanced planning, coding, or technical expertise – any business can use gamification to get better results, no matter what your goals.”

And this means associations.

For example, if your association operates a blog, consider ranking users – and commenters – to reward those who contribute the most to your blog. Create badge levels and then allow commenters to share the badge on Facebook. You can also do this on your website. Create reward programs for the materials your customers buy, the articles they read and the events they attend.

Or, if you’re unveiling a new education module, consider making the demo a game.

For more ideas, check out Clickpedia’s 25 Best Examples of Gamification.

According to EventMobi, there are five basics of gamification:

  • collect points
  • achieve new levels
  • earn achievements such as badges and prizes
  • participate in challenges
  • compare progress with others via leader boards.

g1But where to start? In June, Incentive Research Foundation released a whitepaper on gamification, listing some important dos and don’ts.

It suggests thinking of those you’re trying to entice as “gamers.” These gamers could be employees, customers, community members or meeting attendees. An app might be the best way to do it. For instance, if you’re hosting a conference, create an app. Think about doing a mobile scavenger hunt with the app to foster networking and creativity. Or, reward conference attendees with badges for taking short quizzes at the end of a session.

Gamification is mostly about psychology, not technology, the authors wrote. So it’s important to identify the behaviors you’re trying to engage.

But be careful. Games can be addicting and they can alienate a potential customer base. So make sure that your efforts are valuable.

“Gamification is hyped and often touted as a kind of magic bullet for getting consumers or employees to do what you want,” IRF said. “Yes, gamification can change human behavior, and it is effective, but your players aren’t stupid. Regardless of the experience you are gamifying, it must eventually generate some real value. Otherwise, your players will eventually realize that you’ve wasted a lot of their time playing, but provide no value what so ever. This leads to gamification backlash, where your players start to resist your future attempts at gamification.”

Has your association entered the gamification world? If so, tell us about it.

09
Sep
14

Hack attacks: Headed your way?

bigstock-Hacker-Typing-On-A-Laptop-44548564Home Depot. Apple Inc. (celebrity nude photos). Target (last Christmas). JP Morgan Chase.

The list goes on and on. It seems every day we hear about another cyber security attack.

While the attacks have targeted big businesses and corporations, associations, small businesses and nonprofits aren’t immune to security breaches, association experts have said.

So what if someone hacked into your system and stole your members’ credit card numbers?

In a June 1 Associations Now story, industry professionals linked data breach mistakes to employee error. For example, employees are lax with confidential information, and should change passwords every three months. But most don’t.

Malware attacks and phishing attempts are two of the biggest culprits, according to an Inc. Magazine story.

It’s scary just how quickly your business’ weak spots can become portals to your most protected information. But there’s help.

In October, the Department of Homeland Security will sponsor “National Cyber Security Awareness Month,” offering educational workshops, events and resources to combat cyber attacks. It may be wise to have your IT department check it out.

In the meantime, below are some other resources to explore:

  • In April, Zurich released a report on cyber security, which lists recommendations for organizations of all sizes. One of the recommendations: Organizations should employ the same cyber strategies as government agencies. Education is a must. And so is awareness. “Unfortunately, cybersecurity professionals often assume that the risk posed to the system as a whole is merely the sum of all the point risks,” the authors wrote. “They analyze cyber vulnerabilities looking at one technology, one organization or one nation at a time, paying little attention to how risk might emerge from the interaction of those organizations or technologies. Just as sound, internally-focused risk management failed to protect companies from the collapse of the financial system, strong internal computer security controls won’t shield even the best-protected companies from a ‘cyber sub-prime’ failure.”

Perhaps one day there will be a professional association dedicated to cyber security professionals. A new report by Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University advocates for such an organization, arguing a lack of skills and information is undermining efforts to improve cyber security.

Has your association fallen victim to hacking? If so, I’d like to hear about it – and how you resolved the situation. Email me at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

Until then, stay safe. Be smart.

02
Sep
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – September edition

Aaron Wolowiec, president, Event Garde LLC

Aaron Wolowiec, president, Event Garde LLC

Q & A with Aaron Wolowiec, president of Event Garde, LLC

Q: If you could sit on a bench in a beautiful wooded area, next to whom would you likely be sitting on the bench, and why?
A: My partner, Selma, particularly if there was no WiFi or cell service. With our busy schedules, I appreciate the opportunity from time to time to just disconnect and enjoy one another’s company.

Q: If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be?
A: I’d borrow a page from the “Rent” manuscript: “No day but today.”

Q: Let’s say you had an imaginary friend. Describe him or her, and what makes you two click.
A: My imaginary friend would be an introverted homebody. While I’m often “on” at events and with clients, I derive my greatest energy from recharging in the comfort of my own home.

Q: It’s a gray, rainy, autumn day. What would we find you doing?
A: That’s easy! I love the rain. You’d find me curled up inside with a warm blanket, a cup of hot chocolate and my dog, Lillie, at my feet. I’d either be reading a good book or watching some marathon on TV. 

Q: If you were a sea creature, what would you be, and why?
A: I’d be a starfish. Much like the old man in “The Starfish Story,” I’d like to think I make a difference in the lives of others, one at a time.

 

19
Aug
14

Take advantage of the benefits gap

health-care-benefitsA friend of mine was lamenting the other day that soon she’ll have fewer health care benefits. Looking to cut costs, her employer switched health care plans and decided to eliminate some “frills.” But the kicker: She’ll be paying more.

Unfortunately, as businesses continue to recover from the recent economic downturn, and now with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, this scenario will probably become more common.

As much as businesses would love to provide full coverage for all their employees and their families, some just can’t. In addition, many employers are no longer offering optional benefits, such as life and accident insurance.

And that’s where your association should step in, according to a new whitepaper by Genius Ave.

Associations can easily grow their memberships by offering voluntary benefits, which are traditionally benefits that employers offer as all-employee-paid options. In fact, offering such benefits may be the most effective method for increasing non-dues revenue.

“The impact of offering voluntary benefits to your members is two-fold,” the authors wrote. “First, providing members with access to valuable benefits and savings opportunities can greatly improve the perceived value of their membership, help increase their engagement and boost retention rates. Second, it can drive non-dues revenue for your organization through commissions or revenue sharing with benefit providers. And obviously, the more benefits you provide, the greater the opportunity for engagement and revenue.”

Experts argue the voluntary benefit market will continue to grow, so now is the time to jump on board, Genius Ave. said.

Examples of voluntary benefits include critical illness, identity theft protection, accident coverage, preventive care/wellness screenings, supplemental medical coverage, legal assistance and, yes, pet health.

Perhaps one of the most popular options is discount programs. According to the report, only 24 percent of associations provide discount programs for their members. But who doesn’t love a discount? Good discount programs include gym memberships, prescription drugs, office supplies and pet products.

So how does an association decide what to provide? Ask your members. Conduct a survey and collect data about what members truly want. It’s important, Genius Ave. says, to offer diversity. Make sure you offer a range of options to meet the social and economic demographics of your membership.

Health Benefits-315*304And it’s best to partner with one company that can provide a multitude of options, rather than scoping the industry for multiple providers. Once all that has been established, communication and marketing are musts.

“Overall, individuals feel that the most important attributes of voluntary benefits are ‘cost’ and the fact that these benefits are ‘guaranteed issue’ – or available without underwriting,” the authors wrote. “Members will also value that you have carefully vetted offerings for value and reliability and that they are able to leverage your organization’s buying power for affordable rates. Your communications should carefully reinforce these attributes while promoting the specific emotional benefits of each product in terms of an individual’s key interests and desires: convenience, security, exclusivity, good health and peace of mind.”

When communicating with your members, it’s best to use multiple channels, especially to reach younger audiences. So try social media, email and text messages.

It seems like a lot, so start small. Perhaps start by providing life insurance. Or maybe solicit your community to form partnerships with local businesses. (Cross advertising works incredibly well.)

I’d like to learn more about voluntary benefits so I can help spread the world. So tell me: What does your association offer? What seems to be the most popular?

05
Aug
14

When your gut speaks, listen

vp_gut_feeling_signAs a mom, I’ve learned to recognize that feeling. You know, that feeling in your gut that something isn’t quite right. The kids are too quiet. Maybe a sleepover when my kid seems sluggish (and later gets sick) isn’t a good idea. After 12 years of practice, I’ve finally learned to listen to my gut.

So why is that so hard to do in the workplace? Because as a parent, I’m not faced with mounds of data, mission statements and internal politics.

I’ve written before about the importance of data. They can be powerful decision-making tools. Business executives love data, and expect their managers to analyze it to make sound business decisions – but not all the time, according to a new survey.

In June, Fortune Knowledge Group, which publishes Fortune, conducted a survey of business leaders to learn more about their decision-making habits, measuring the influence of cultural, emotional and situational factors in business decisions.

“Business decision-makers want to feel something positive,” said Christoph Becker, CEO and COO of gyro, a global advertising agency that partnered with Fortune Knowledge Group for the study. “After all, the choices made at work are the choices made in life; there is no separation. Work risks are personal risks. While hard facts inform our decisions, we are ultimately influenced by emotion and won over through our hearts, not data.”

More than 720 U.S.-based senior executives participated in the survey, all of whom directly influence business operations. About 80 percent of the companies represented in the survey have annual revenues of $500 million or more, while 41 percent reported revenues of $10 billion or more.

In short: A majority of the executives said they trust their guts when making decisions, and human emotion should trump data. Specifically, they indicated positive emotions – ambition, motivation and admiration – are stronger than negative ones.

When choosing business partners, executives said they value corporate culture and reputation above data. They suggested companies can make themselves more attractive by establishing a reputation for strong and open management practices, especially respect for employees, management credibility among employees and employee pride in association with the company.

In addition, 71 percent of executives reported they’re willing to make short-term financial sacrifices to build long-term relationships. Those relationships, executives said, should be based on trust. Interestingly, 42 percent said they’d rather do business with a company whose employees have “good interpersonal skills and emotional insight rather than analytical intelligence.”

201401-omag-instincts-1-600x411“Despite having more information than ever upon which to make decisions, executives still rely heavily on human factors when making most business decisions,” the researchers wrote. “Business decision-makers are, of course, using data to their benefit. However, especially when selecting business partners, executives are ultimately less analytical and more emotional.”

Later this summer, gyro will release complete results of the study. But for now, the take-home for associations should be that sometimes, your inner voice should speak louder than sales figures.

So when you’re building vendor relationships, investigate the company a bit. Are employees happy? What’s the company culture?

Don’t underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence.

31
Jul
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – August edition

Jenny Hill

Jenny Hill, database coordinator

Q & A with Jenny Hill, Database Coordinator

Q: What keeps you busy when you’re not working for Event Garde?
A: In addition to working for Event Garde, I also work full time as an overnight customer service manager, so the rest of my time is spent sleeping!

Q: What’s your biggest vice?
A: I enjoy watching TV. I have nearly 30 shows from this year on my DVR.

Q: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
A: I would love to go to Egypt and see the pyramids. I think it would be awesome to see.

Q: What book, fiction or non-fiction, do you think best represents your life, and why?
A: I love reading the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich. I enjoy that everything goes wrong in a comical way but in the end it all works out. I’d like to hope that is how my life will go.

Q: If you were a food, which food would you be, and why?
A: Fettuccine Alfredo. It’s a twist off of classic spaghetti – just a little bit different but people still love it.

29
Jul
14

Happy employees, big dollars

EmployEngagementI remember the first time a boss took me out to lunch for a job well done.

It was my first job out of college, and the editorial staff had just launched our newly designed magazine. As editor, I wrote and scrutinized thousands of words. I’m pretty sure the designer and I spent weeks staring at a computer screen and proofs.

I’m fairly certain the lunch wasn’t that amazing. But the conversation was. As a new college graduate, the praise tasted far better than the food. It wasn’t much, but at the end of the day, we felt appreciated and engaged in the success of the association.

The morale of the story: Engaged employees work harder and smarter. Happy, loyal employees are the backbone of a successful organization, or so it seems, according to a recent study by Gallup.

It found that companies with an average of 9.2 engaged employees compared to every one disengaged employee experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share than their competition. In addition, companies in the top 25 percent of Gallup’s database have significantly higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings and less turnover and absenteeism.

And it flows from the top down. The Gallup report found that managers are almost solely responsible for building employee engagement.

The problem: Only 22 percent of employees in the study indicated they felt engaged, with service employees feeling the least engaged.

So what’s the trick? According to Gallup: Measure the correct forms of engagement (emotional); hire the right managers, who should be expected to cultivate engagement among their employees; design day-to-day engagement opportunities, rather than build lofty goals; and find ways to connect with each employee.

It sounds easy, right? But it’s not. Managers need to be coached and encouraged to participate in professional development. Mentoring programs work well, according to those surveyed.

But what about associations?

Generally equipped with smaller staffs, it seems employee engagement should be easier to foster. That’s not always the case, as employees often juggle multiple responsibilities and wear several hats. Associations operate with less to do more, and sometimes, finding the time to foster engagement is tough.

thank-you“When it comes to recognition, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” wrote Tara Ericson, group vice president for Naylor, LLC, in the July 22 edition of Association Adviser. “I find the most success when I tailor the way I acknowledge employee achievement to how they want to be appreciated. Knowing your employees on an individual basis is the only way to know how to manage and recognize their accomplishments effectively.”

For example, Ericson creates a list of her employees’ favorite things – hobbies, restaurants and leisure activities – and refers to it when it’s time for recognition.

Also, she celebrates milestones – birthdays, marriages and births – and budgets for appropriate items.

“Sometimes, a reward isn’t justified, but your staff still deserves feedback,” Ericson said. “My rule of thumb is to say what’s on your mind. If a team member is performing well or not meeting expectations, I tell them immediately. Being direct and honest lets your team always know where they stand with you. It encourages better productivity and a more secure job culture by combating rumors and unjustified fears, and creates a constructive environment where coaching and open feedback are the norm.”

Ericson offers some other free or low-cost reward ideas:

  • Flex hours and telecommuting
  • Casual dress day
  • Public recognition
  • Reserved parking spots
  • Time off (leaving early, extended lunches, days off)
  • Happy Hours
  • Gift cards

At the end of the day, whether you have a large staff or a small staff, it’s important to remember that “an army of one” is a fallacy. Your association needs members, and your employees work to recruit and keep them.

As a manager or executive, remember that small gestures go a long way. So next time you’re craving a long lunch, or a lunch meeting at the golf course, ask your employees to join. You’ll do more than just foot the bill.




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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