It’s the Vibe: Recognising the benefits of Employee Engagement

The 1997 classic Australian film “The Castle”, one of the most famous lines used to ever describe a court case on film; “it’s the vibe”. The film’s hero, Dale Kerrigan is represented in court by a local solicitor in regards to matters of the constitution, though he has no grounds to which to argue his point. Instead, his only justification is that the company that wishes to purchase Mr Kerrigan’s home is going against “the vibe” of the constitution.
Have you ever gone in to a company for a job interview and thought, “I don’t like this place” or “something about this place doesn’t sit right with me”, or on a more positive note “I really like this place”, “this place is where I belong” or even “I am proud to work here”. The reason you feel this way can be quantified in one simple phrase; the vibe.

What is a vibe?

A vibe is simply anything that creates an emotional reaction to the aura felt to belong to a person, place or thing. In real terms, all it really means is something that can be felt to generate an emotional response.
We as humans can gage any number of variable emotions from limited information. For us as humans, it’s a survival instinct. We need to be able to walk into a place and feel a sense that something is up, and have the correct emotional response to match that anticipated feeling.

How does your vibe relate to workplace?

We all spend the vast majority of our time at work. While at work, we all have moments of enjoyment, as well as moments that are not so great, but they all collectively form our experience at work. Added to this, we often see the same people on a day-to-day basis, and also generally sit in the same building on a day-to-day basis. All these factors form the “vibe”.
To put it into an easy to use analogy:

Vibe = People + Place + Culture X Value of Everyday Action

What does Vibe have to do with Employee Engagement?

Now, here is the real kicker. 

Employee Engagement, or the relationship that employees have with their respective organisation, is all about the vibe of the organisation. Employees don’t seem to engage with their place of work if the vibe seems to be off, and if the vibe is not-right they are much more likely to leave.

While talking about a “vibe” in one sense can sound like hippie jargon, it does go a long way in terms of company culture and company values, as having a positive vibe is one of the best ways to retain employees.

Consider your organisational vibe to be the apex of a very large pyramid of company culture, whose individual blocks are made up of everyday actions, people, place and culture.


How an organisation says “hello” says everything you need to know

The word “hello” might be the most well understood, yet misunderstood words in the English language (or for any language for that matter).
The word itself doesn’t actually matter, but it is the way you say it that will dictate not only how it will be received, but the entire perception that a person may have of us. If we know this is the case in a personal setting, why don’t companies offer the same approach with their initial interactions with people.
Having a “strategy for greeting” seems a bit far-fetched to some, but realistically it isn’t too far off what we do on a day to day basis. Every person at a networking event goes in knowing their personality, and by extension, knowing how they usually go about greeting people. Consequently it would make sense for companies to adopt a similar attitude when viewing their interactions with clients, prospective hires and so on.

Hello, World – A greeting or a mantra?

We’ve heard the term “hello, world” used in computer programming for many years. Though the statement might seem like something that a computer would say, it seems to have a deeper meaning when applied to organisations.
When a computer says “hello, world”, it is making a first impression. This first impression is so important to the overall perception that we first had of computers in the 1980s, when most people were afraid of the “robots taking over”. That small phrase, combined with some clever marketing campaigns from the likes of Apple and Microsoft formed the widespread adoption of computer technology. This probably wouldn’t have happened if computer programming used a more sinister phrasing, like “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US”.
The “hello, world” phrase is friendly, and puts a clear line in the sand to suggest that the computer was there to serve us as humans, and to be a “bicycle for the mind”. Consider the same greeting when we see certain companies in operation. For instance, Best Buy in the USA or Australia’s own JB Hi-Fi, every single person that walks in to the store must be greeted with a greeting as part of their company policy. This is designed to create intention to connect, which is very powerful in both sales and marketing.

Hello engagement

A greeting is a means of connection between companies and people. Greeting, isn’t really a greeting at all. For companies, a greeting is an initial contact from which everything else stems from. By having a policy on attempting to connect, you can make customers, clients, new hires, and even current staff feel considered. Building a greeting and welcoming culture has implications across the board.

The ultimate goal of all this is building engagement. By having a strategy on making initial contact, and how best to do it, you are almost certainly guaranteed a better chance at creating a sense of engagement and connection with whoever your audience may be.


There seems to be a lot of advice on ways to do employee recognition nowadays, but very few of them are fun. Sure, it’s nice to tell your employees that they are being recognised for their good work, but it’s very difficult to build employee engagement without a degree of fun.
Fun is a word that gets used a lot when describing things outside of work, so it’s no wonder that it rarely gets a mention in work due to the connotations that it has with relaxation. At WooBoard, we like the word fun because it has a lot of positive connotations, and when paired with work, can make anything instantly better.

How to create a sense of fun in an employee recognition program

One of the best ways to build an employee recognition program is to centre it around something fun, and find ways to incorporate fun into employee recognition. It’s not an easy feat to do, and can be very difficult if you find it doesn’t fit with your company culture. When done well though, the results can be extraordinary.
Nevertheless, here are 3 fun ways to do an employee recognition program.

  1. Create an award around fun personalities:
    One of the best and most fun ways to build a employee recognition program is to create an award based on the personality of a person, rather than performance. For instance, if an employee brightens people’s day with their smile, or has a great laugh, why not call that out? If someone makes work more enjoyable, have an award for that.
  2. Blend in a sense of humour into your recognition.
    Perhaps someone has a great, but embarrassing story that they tell well, or a great nickname. Creating a humorous award shows employees that as a management team you actually listen. One of the best awards we’ve ever seen was referred to as the “David Boon Moustache Award for Inappropriate Moustaches”. Though this award is meaningless, it shows that the company has a sense of humour. That matters.
  3. Make a fun day, to recognise your employees in a fun way
    It goes without saying that employee recognition is a very important thing to do. While there are many different ways to recognise employees for doing good work, one of the best ways is to create a fun day to recognise that good work. Whether it is something small like going out to a bowling alley, or a day of hiking, taking employees outside of the office helps create a sense that they are more than just employees of a company, but part of one tribe.



The Dunning-Kruger effect represents one of the most comprehensive models as to why people who have a tendency to have little to no idea about what they’re doing, have supreme confidence in their abilities. In the workplace, this often translates to “over-promise, under-deliver”.

Probably the most classic example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action is in reference to Donald Trump. While is probably not the most correct example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action, as ultimately Trump was able to win the election (to the surprise of many), it represents the inverse correlation between confidence and competence. In the workplace this can have significant impacts on both team dynamics and productivity.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect in Action

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes the psychological phenomenon of those with little ability in an area, grossly overestimating their competence. Conversely, it also describes the underestimation of an experts view of their mastery of a given topic, commonly referred to as “imposter syndrome”. It seems we as humans are very poor at rating our own performance and ability. This goes even further, with the lowest performing of us overrating by the most, leading to resistance when given feedback reflecting this poor performance.

Dunning-Kruger Effect in the workplace

Evolutionarily, the Dunning-Kruger effect makes sense. The brain seeks to make sense of the complex and dynamic world around it, and does so by seeking patterns which provide shortcuts to understanding called heuristics. These allow quick decisions to be made, but sometimes they can lead to mistakes, as they give the impression that the practitioner has greater knowledge than they actually possess through the recognition of the pattern.

This pattern of behaviour feeds into workplace culture. As individuals can believe in their competence due to their quick decision making, or through general confidence believe they are more competent in their role, direct credit to themselves leading to quick promotion.

This leads to both resentment felt by their colleagues, and sometimes the best and brightest being left behind in the same positions. Furthermore, having those who cannot see their lack of competence on your team can be frustrating for management.

Strategies to deal with the Dunning-Kruger Effect

So what can be done about this?

Firstly, ensure monitoring of performance is done in concrete and quantifiable measures. Setting performance targets based around team play instead of individual effect on the team can mitigate this.

Another strategy is to encourage a mentoring culture. Though we as humans are generally poor at giving self-feedback and self analysis, feedback that comes from a more senior employee from a place of assistance with learning is often received more favourably. If this can be a frequent part of professional development for employees, individual team members can over time become better at appreciating their own performance with reference to others. Mentoring culture is a very powerful asset in building an effective, productive work environment, with employees at their best.

Ultimately, employees who fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect are not bad people and not even necessarily bad workers. Through mentoring and through honest, concrete feedback, employees can appraise their performa


It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers in HR

When it comes to HR, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers.

We’re constantly surrounded by metrics. In an era where dashboards are dominating almost every board meeting, and HRIS is the only source of truth, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to escape the ivory tower that is HR.

So, how do we put the human back into Human Resources?

If the value of HR is in the metrics, how do we take those metrics and ensure that they don’t dictate what we do, but reflect what we do. Human resources isn’t just about policy management, it’s about people management first and foremost. Once we move past the numbers, we can see that what we are dealing with is much bigger. Just try not to get lost in the numbers.

The real goal of HR

The real goal of HR is in the process, not the progress. Certainly, data is valuable to collect because it shows progress, but ultimately the goal is process. Valuable metrics such as lead time to hire of new employees, retention rates, and sick days are all significant pieces of data that can help you in the pursuit of more effective human resources management, but in order to move forward as a company, you’ll need to address the cause.

It’s easy to forget about the real goal of HR: finding and keeping the right people, making the business more effective and efficient, and ensuring adherence to process. These should all be difficult things to quantify, so when we do, we often think that we have the answer. The numbers only tell us half the story though. In a way, the only focusing on the numbers is akin to possessing a map of your company culture, but having no idea of where you want to go on the map. It’s better to start with what you believe to be true, and finding the numbers to back that up.

Here are some of the most common examples of HR getting caught up in the numbers:

Engagement surveys are for opinions, not data

I’ve recently heard from a number of colleagues that the jury is out on engagement surveys, with some having decided that they are no longer working. In fact, some of my friends in HR have recently declared them obsolete, or at least in dire need of reassessing. This is due to the fact that most of the questions are skewed to obtaining metrics, instead of finding answers. Use engagement surveys to find answers to your most pressing questions, instead of just finding data and metrics to present to the board.

Digital performance management tools need to be insights driven

Though it is easy to performance manage when numbers are the focus, performance management tools need to be insights driven instead of KPI driven. In using metric analysis, be sure to remember the context of the data and similarly, as digital performance management tools are not designed to be KPI centric, but instead provide you with insights into where you can improve.

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers in HR. Try not to get caught up!


Leadership style: what works best for employee engagement

If you’re a leader in your workplace, you’ll generally give a lot of directions. Whether by email or by direct verbal instruction, you may say things like “I want that report on my desk by Friday”.

Even worse is the so-called “micromanager”  who not only explains what they want done but how to do it in minute detail. In fact, these very direction heavy leadership styles are very common in many industries.

The military, for example, is based on a culture of direction following to the finest detail. Even in the cult television classic M*A*S*H was comprised of the medical stereotype of “scalpel nurse, scalpel doctor” for the series.

But is this the most effective leadership style for a cohesive work environment?

The term micromanager probably calls to mind the worst boss you ever had and makes you cringe involuntarily. These are probably not the most engaged memories you have of your time at work, so how can we as leaders engage our employees more effectively?


Leadership by intent

Intent-based leadership was developed by former naval Captain David Marquet, who developed this leadership style in the extremely regimented environment of the navy. The fact that it’s survived and proliferated so far is a testament to how effective it is.
He recognised that as a Captain trained to give orders, and his soldiers trained to follow them unequivocally, he could potentially lead his soldiers into a disastrous situation due to him giving the wrong order.

If everyone followed him off a cliff, are they soldiers or lemmings? Marquet vowed to stop giving orders and instead allowed his officers to tell him what their intent was, having been given the environment or the overarching goals that the team was to achieve. The effect was to change the psychological ownership of an action from himself to that of his subordinates, both giving them a sense of meaning at work and allowing for a reduction in delay time between orders given and actions achieved.


Giving control

It is important in any company to ensure the technical competence of your staff and that staff actions are in line with the overarching goals of the company. By providing clarity of goals that your company wishes to achieve, actions that employees undertake will be done to as high a degree as possible.

If the execution of the action to achieve these goals aren’t exactly the same what was done in the past,  they’re likely to be better, as the authority rests where the information does, i.e. those who make the decisions have the most understanding.

This makes sense in industries where the goals are straightforward, such as in healthcare where care of patients is the common goal. Contrary to the stereotype discussed earlier, army doctors often formulate plans to present to their supervisors, who then provide approval. In this instance, the knowledge and understanding of the situation is ensured between both parties.

Ultimately, you can achieve this leadership style in your workplace by having a strong sense of company values, then shifting the locus of control to your employees, keeping them engaged and giving them a sense of meaning.


Adopting an attitude of gratitude

Everyone loves a good slogan.

That’s why phrases like “Live. Laugh. Love” are plastered across houses over the world. We love to distill messages into phrases that can be pushed out into the world. One of the ones that we use here at WooBoard is the “attitude of gratitude”.

The attitude of gratitude is a simple but effective way for us to build our culture. We don’t need to use corporate jargon to show gratitude, as it is simply our attitude that breeds this positive mentality. It shows each of our team members that we care for each other, and helps bring about a culture that rewards people for being thankful. Adopting an attitude of gratitude helps the company at every layer, influencing our team decisions and overall team culture every step of the journey. But why does it work so well?

Why gratitude works

Gratitude works because it helps us bring context into everything we do, at a company and team level.

On a day-to-day basis, gratitude is simply the practice of saying thank you. This can be to an individual person, environment, or even a situation that presents itself. It’s very difficult to practice on day in and day out, but once we started to do it we noticed a general lift in company morale.

How to adopt gratitude in the workplace:

Start with specifics:

Gratitude starts with seeing what to be grateful for. For that, you’re going to need to understand and be observant of your surroundings. It isn’t easy by any stretch, but it is well worth it.

Follow with why:

The next part to consider when adopting gratitude in the workplace is to consider why you should be grateful. Gratefulness needs context. Understand why it’s good to be grateful. Is it because your colleagues get benefit from it? Is it for your own personal reasons? Find your why.

Understand the how:

Gratefulness needs some kind of guidelines to function effectively. Without guidelines, it won’t be effective. Some companies have their own internal language to describe different methods of saying “thank you”, like an assist.

Take down the walls:

Finally, the best way to practice gratefulness at work is to remove the barriers between employees to be able to say thank you. Freedom of expression is hard in an environment that does not have open lines of communication. Allowing for this will help build a culture of gratitude.

Having an attitude of gratitude is so important, for both personal and professional reasons. Here at WooBoard we pride ourselves on being able to say thank you, we even built an app for that!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.