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Each day at work, your computer is monitoring your every move. When your activities contribute to the company’s bottom line, you earn points that can be redeemed for a reward of your choice-and you get immediate kudos from your boss.

Sound enticing, or a bit Orwellian? It’s the theory behind CultureWorx, a web-based behavior management system that assesses employees and gives them incentives.

The software takes a page from well-established behavioral science: if you encourage preferred behavior rather than reprimand negative behavior, people will naturally continue acting in a way that rewards them.

“If you want to shape a behavior, you have to have consequences,” says Bruce Moeller, president and CEO of the CultureWorx company. “The more immediate and certain those consequences are, the more it will shape a behavior, and it’s the behavior of employees that creates a [corporate] culture.”

Like Pavlov’s dogs, people can be conditioned to expect a specific consequence to specific actions. If fulfilling a task in five minutes means a greater reward than doing it in 10 minutes, chances are they’ll complete it in five minutes. This relationship is not lost on U.S. employers, who spend approximately $26.8 billion annually on incentives, according to Incentive Magazine’s 2001 survey.

Earning Points

With CultureWorx, the consequences associated with preferred behavior are points that can be redeemed for prizes of the employee’s choice. (Employees are not docked for undesirable behavior.)

“A person may want to use the points for something tangible or intangible-recognition, extra time off, stock options, whatever it takes you to be motivated,” says Moeller. CultureWorx does not profit from point redemption, he adds.

CultureWorx connects with existing systems, like an automated call distribution system, to monitor associated activities. Each employee accesses their information via an individual web page that shows their tasks, how well they fulfilled them and a tally of their points. When information on an individual’s page changes, they’re notified via email. When points are earned or a summary report added by a “mystery observer” or supervisor, the employee receives immediate feedback.

Working the Phones

Quill, a direct marketer of office supplies and products, has been using CultureWorx for the past 10 months. Quill currently has 1,200 employees and has gone through several employee reward and recognition programs, says Kim Kelly, marketing and recognition administrator for customer relations.

At Quill, CultureWorx can award points to employees who offer incremental sale items to phone customers, Kelly says, and the points don’t depend on whether the customer actually makes a purchase. Results are tracked each week.

The program seems to pay off, Kelly says. “Incremental sales have increased over the last six months and we closed our 2000 fiscal year with almost a $2.5 million increase from the previous year. I believe a significant portion of this can be attributed to CultureWorx.”

Employees at Quill balked at the idea at first because it was Internet-based and very different from the traditional review process, Kelly said. In addition, employees might wonder about issues of privacy or feel uncomfortable about being monitored so closely and constantly.

The behavior CultureWorx tracks is no different than what a regular employer would track on paper, Moeller responds. Data is stored on servers maintained by Exodus Communications, an Internet hosting company that provides tight data security, he adds.

CultureWorx costs between $10,000 and $50,000 to install, plus about $10 per employee per month. Other CultureWorx customers include Delta Airlines, Wells Fargo and Federal Express.

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Tagged: Communications

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