Episode 20: Meaningful Employee Recognition with Wishlist Rewards CEO, Daniel Kasper

On today’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, Jenn DeWall interviews Daniel Kasper, the CEO of wishlist rewards. During the episode, Dan shares how Wishlist Rewards is changing the way organizations recognize and reward employees to offer more meaningful and experiential rewards to valued employees.

Daniel Kasper, CEO of Wishlist Rewards

Jenn DeWall:   Hi everyone. On today’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, we are talking to the CEO of Wishlist Rewards. Daniel Kasper. Dan, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

Daniel Kasper:   Thanks, Jenn. It’s been a pleasure and been looking forward to this podcast for quite some time. Crestcom is definitely known as a thought leader within the talent space and the leadership space. So it’s fun to be able to come and talk to someone who is equally as passionate about people in teams as me.

Jenn DeWall:   Yes. I love that we’re going to talk about this. I mean, for those that don’t know you, can you just briefly introduce yourself and tell us what Wishlist Rewards does?

Daniel Kasper:   Of course. Yeah. So my professional career actually started in special operations with the Navy, so I was molded in a place where teams were everything. They’re actually the difference between life and death. And that’s something that I’ve kind of taken with me, even though I’m not working that environment anymore. So in special operations, your people are your weapons system. So I’m not in the cockpit of an F35 strike fighter. You know, I’m not at the helm of a destroyer. What I have as a team and that team needs to come to pull together to be able to solve problems and very dynamic environments. And that’s something that I’m really taken with and by value. So after the Navy, I was working at Airbnb on the trust and safety team. So we helped to make the platform safer for users. We had like a proactive team that would work with analytics and work with machine learning to flag certain behaviors that were good and let those through.

Daniel Kasper:   They would work with certain behaviors that were malicious and flag those out. And then we would send the, all the ambers team or people to kind of review those. And then we had a reactive side. So if anything did happen, we worked to solve that. And now, of course, at Wishlist Rewards. So I’ve been at Wishlist now for about three years. We’re in people software, and we are an HR technology company specifically within the rewards and recognition space. And we created a platform to help organizations accelerate performance, increase engagement, and really improve retention. And we’re really passionate about people. So excited to kind of chat through some of those themes and trends that we’re seeing in the market today.

Rewards and Recognition to Improve Employee Retention

Jenn DeWall:   Absolutely. I mean, every company, if you really want to retain your top talent, you have to have a rewards and recognition strategy. That’s the only way you’re going to retain them. And I, you know, that’s a strong appeal or attraction for anyone to join an organization. So I love the mission of what you are, what you do. So specifically, what does Wishlist Rewards do? How do you help organizations, you know, or improve engagement or reduce turnover?

Daniel Kasper:   Yeah, absolutely. So, our mission and mantra comes from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you remember in like fifth grade when you learn that? You have the bottom tier, which is, Hey, am I breathing? Next tier up is, do I feel safe? That third tier is our mantra, and that’s where we come in. And that’s love and belonging. And so what we help organizations do is help connect to their people. It’s about feeling like they are part of a tribe, feel like they belong somewhere. And that they’re a part of something greater than themselves. So they’re able to move up that ladder to reach that self-actualization. Rewards and, and kind of the gift-giving process and also feeling a part of a tribe is something that’s been core to the human condition for millennia. Right? If I were to give you this water that was sitting in front of me. I would feel something giving you that, and you would feel something. So what we’re doing is digitizing that for a modern era with modern workforces that are working remotely or have multiple offices. We’re helping teams to feel connected in a meaningful way and doing so with some core concepts in psychology that’s been around for thousands of years.

Love is Just Damn Good Business

Jenn DeWall:   That’s a lot. I mean, when you really break it down and think about it, you are helping people connect, and we spend over a third of our lives in our jobs, and I know as my background in coaching that what people really want is to be seen. And you know, that’s something that we all value. We all strive for, and we want that feedback. We want if there’s opportunities to improve. And that’s where rewards and recognition are so important because it is based on one of our human needs. I love that’s something that you focus on. But you’ve said the word love. Uh oh, right? Some people are still afraid of that word. Why do you think people are afraid of that word?

Daniel Kasper:   I think it’s weird for people to bring love or a sense of love into the office. Traditionally, I feel like they are two different things. You keep your personal life, and that’s the love- traditionally- the love component, and then you keep your work professional space. But intertwining the two, I mean we’re all humans, right? We have this human element and being and disconnecting that I think actually removes a piece of compassion and passion from your work. So, the love I think, does actually fit as crazy as that sounds to some people still in today’s workspace, in the work environment. Because it’s that passion, and I want people that are passionate on my team because that’s how we fuel high performing teams.

Jenn DeWall:   I love that! Love and passion. And we had an author on our podcast that wrote a book, Steve Farber, he wrote a book called Love is Just Damn Good Business, but really like love is a great way for us to do it. And rewards and recognition are a great way to actually show that you love and value your employees. So how have you seen rewards and recognition strategies evolve over the last five years?

Daniel Kasper:   Yeah, I would say in the past five years they’ve changed quite dramatically. First and foremost, through becoming a lot more popular in various industries outside of technology or startups. You know, traditionally you think, Hey, the Executive Chef, the cool rewards and perks that are only in the high funded startup companies, that’s not the case anymore. We see that really across the spectrum, in numerous industries. And, and it’s cool to see this catch on and more than just kind of one segment. The digitized environment. So a lot of times in the past, even in the past five years, you would have rewards and recognition done in like a catalog. So now, we’re seeing the trends really evolve to this space of being digital and global. Going to your, to your tablets, are also your mobile environments as well.

Connecting With Your Team Through Meaningful Experiences

Daniel Kasper:   So being able to build that in as part of your daily life because it is that important, it’s about connecting to your people and being able to do that simply. I think the power of choice is really becoming important and more important. We’ve seen trends kind of moving towards over the past five years, a blanket strategy of handing out pens to everyone in the office isn’t working anymore because people are so different. And diversity is so important to your team’s overall success. So being able to have a power of choice where what is meaningful for one person may not be to the next. So kind of having that and building that into your solution has really been important. Automation I see as really changing over the past few years. These strategies take a lot of time if you want to do them well. And so being able to leverage the power of technology and build that into a people software I’ve seen as a really predominant kind of unfold itself over the past few years. And it’s less, I also feel around things that sit on your shelf- plaques or trophies- and more about experiences. That’s something that we’re also passionate about, about telling stories. And so that’s something that’s the rewards and recognition space is coming off shelves and more into the world around them.

Jenn DeWall:   Going back to thinking about the power of choice and that rewards and recognition, the maybe older philosophies around that where we’re going to give you this pen, or we’ll give you a crystal watch or a crystal plaque. I mean, I definitely had received some of those things that when I left the company, they never came with me. Why? Because what am I going to do with them? And they don’t mean anything outside of the company. And so I love that you’re creating an opportunity for an organization to be meaningful by giving people the opportunity to choose their reward. Is that right? They get to have that opportunity to say, and this is actually what I want to work for.

Daniel Kasper:   Exactly. And that’s one of the cool things about using technology and some of the solutions out there is you get a choice, right? Your employer can say, here, here’s a reward. Or here’s a recognition here. A reward is tied to that, and now you can go out and choose what’s meaningful for you. So it’s, it’s good from the employer’s perspective is, Hey, you know, it was a meaningful recognition. It showed, you know, kind of what they accomplished, the impact on the business, and then also they’re able to select from, you know, any of these experiences, whether that be from skydiving or a bucket trip to Thailand or a spa day, something that’s meaningful to them.

Jenn DeWall:   I want to go to Thailand!

Daniel Kasper:   Let’s go.

Jenn DeWall:   I mean, I really want to go there. You know, the big talk around the generations, especially recently, there was a hashtag OK boomer, that came up, right? We know that we’re still talking about diversity in the workforce in terms of generations, but what impact has the millennial and gen Z generations had on recognition and strategies? Because we know that they’re starting to maybe push the needle on a lot of things within an organization. So how have you seen them impact?

Daniel Kasper:   Yeah, what we’ve seen is what has been successful in the past isn’t anymore. So its really the need to adapt and evolve your recognition strategy is what is being successful now. Some of the things that those generations are are kind of pushing the boundaries on, and I think in a healthy way is they’re looking for intentional recognition. They want to see how their work is connected to the mission and vision of the organization. Not just a blanket, thank you, but what impact do I have on the organization? So that’s something that’s really challenging the boundaries of, Hey, how do we do this better and how can our recognition be more meaningful? I think from my perspective and from being in this space for several years, we’re learning to see that it’s less about like a points-based system or currencies. And more about this meaningful recognition.

Employees Want to Feel Seen and Valued

Daniel Kasper:   So it’s about saying thank you. These generations aren’t really caring about a point that’s going to sit in the ether system for a couple of years. They just want their team to see the work that they’re doing and feel valued. So that’s some of the more recent trends. Actually, even in 2019, we’re seeing a significant shift. They’re more team-centric, and these generations are looking to pay it forward. So let’s say, Hey Jenn, you did a great job for this podcast. Here’s a, here’s recognition. Well, there was a bunch of other people like Christian sitting in the room, too, that also helped you out. So they want to be able to build into a platform and pay it forward and say, Hey, this was thanks. But Christian helped me out. So there are some of those concepts I think are very interesting to see. And then they want it to be shareable on social media and that ties into the experiences. Or that meaningful recognition that they got from their boss. They want to add it to their personal brand. And this can also be beneficial for employers because it’s going to be tagged to their company and who doesn’t want to work for a company that allows, you know, Sarah to go skydiving on the weekend.

Jenn DeWall:   Right? Well, and you see a lot of lot more companies doing hashtag life at let’s say Crestcom or life at Wishlist Rewards. There is so much of a branding opportunity for employers to show people how they treat their people. No, it’s not necessarily, I would say off-putting to give people that opportunity to advertise for you. It’s a great way to show that you care about your people, right? It’s not just fake press. You’re actually putting your money where your mouth is, and you’re giving people these opportunities to grow and have those experiences. And I do love that. You know, millennials really do. They want those experiences, and they want the team. And I love that you call that crushing because maybe to now is a perfect time to say that in every podcast there is a man named Christian sitting in the room with me and he does do a lot, right?

Jenn DeWall:   And it is easy to always acknowledge either the loudest voice or the person that you see. But really there are always people behind the scenes that there’s no way the quality of something could be even as good as it could ever be without that individual. And it’s important for us to recognize that we have to see the people that are behind the scenes, whether or not in Christian’s case they want to be seen. So for our listeners, we have Christian in the room, feeling really uncomfortable right now, which is totally fine for me. But not fine for him. No, but I mean, I do like that. I think that millennials and Gen Z have also said that, you know, what does $100 mean to me today? Because I would rather have you give me an opportunity to have that experience of spending that $100 instead of just giving me $100, and it’s, you know, it’s, it’s the impact.

Why Do Companies Need a Rewards and Recognition Strategy?

Jenn DeWall:   Like wow, look what they did for me. How did you know it’s a great thing, and it does bond you with your company because you do feel seen by them. I love what you guys are doing. I think it’s so important to the success, the mental wellbeing of people in the workplace because mental health is important, and rewards and recognitions are great ways to overcome that and help people know that you really do produce value. And I like the way that you’re talking about how, you know, they want to know, or millennials want to be able to connect and have more meaning. Well, they just want to know the big picture, and that’s something in the rewards and recognition space that I think companies can do better at. You can do better at being more transparent and giving, even though it might seem like it takes a little bit of time, explaining more to help people buy into your mission and truly understand why they’re a value to your organization. So I’m going to go on to my next question. What are the benefits of investing in a rewards and recognition strategy? Like what are the benefits to an organization? Why do it? Because weirdly, there are still some that don’t do it. So why, what would you say to those people? Why should you have a rewards and recognition strategy?

Daniel Kasper:   To me and to really all successful companies, you should be thinking that people are your biggest asset period. And that goes across the board. You could have the best business idea in the entire world, but I promise you, you will not find longterm success if you don’t value your people. And that is super important, and I’m so excited that the business world is starting to catch onto this and it. And so it’s fun to see that people and as people software is really catching on and actually people investing in that. Before, it was kind of this really nice to have. But now especially with the unemployment rate being low as has been in quite some time under 4% if you look at locally in Colorado, it’s 2.8% super low, right? So you want to attract and retain those excellent people because, again, your team is what is going to build your company. So these types of strategies, some kind of recognition reward strategy is, is essentially table stakes for me at this point, it’s a need to have. However, not all strategies and all solutions are created equal. In this case, I would be looking for solutions that are not offered that automation, which we talked about earlier. There’s so much technology out there and make sure your HR software does that too.

Jenn DeWall:   Yeah. How can you make it easier? That is one of the challenges is you might know that you’ve accrued points, but if you don’t know how to use them or they don’t even have the right offerings, why does it matter? I mean, am I getting this right? Am I saying this right?

Automate Your Recognition Program

Daniel Kasper:   So there’s, there are multiple ways that you can automate this. One of which is just integrating into your HR software, which is something that is super important. You have all this data that’s already kept up in your HR software. You should be looking for solutions that plug into those. And it can automatically trigger events on the rewards side for let’s say work anniversaries or birthdays or some kind of major reoccurring event. And then also you need the performance side too because you have those automated events you want to trigger for whether it be the company, you know, turning 20 years old, but there was the performance side too. So having kind of a both in tandem I think is super important to the automation part.

Jenn DeWall:   Yes. I wanted to ask this going back to the experiences, but I think we might get through that. No, we won’t. What, can you tell me a little bit more about the experiences that Wishlist Rewards has? Because the Thailand trip sounds really appealing to me, and I think other people would want to hear the type of rewards and recognition that you offer if a company should choose to, you know, inquire and have Wishlist Rewards.

Reward Employees with “Bucket List” Options

Daniel Kasper:   Yeah. So on the rewards side of the house, we have about 3,500 different local experiences. So for that, think your brewery tours, your skydiving trips, think renting a Ferrari and driving that around the track. We also have access to about 10 million different live events. So that’s your sporting events, that’s your theater, that’s your concerts. We have access to about 150,000 global hotels, so it can help you with the staycation, or if you’re going to, you’re on a trip. And then we also have like a travel program, and this is actually our fastest-growing product line. Companies we’re seeing want to invest more for milestone anniversaries, that five-year, that tenure, they’re getting away from the luggage and now getting to trips. So it’s something we facilitate and how we have an in house concierge team that helps book these, some of these bucket list trips. So we’ve had people go to Thailand, we’ve had people climb Kilimanjaro we’ve had people go to Iceland, and you know, climb a volcano. So it’s just a, it’s kind of a gambit of, of things that you can do and check off your bucket list because of your company.

Jenn DeWall:   Wow. All because of your company. So I could be there for five years, and if my company had it, then I could maybe go to Thailand. I wanted to take a sabbatical and go to Thailand. I mean, who doesn’t? I definitely have friends that, whose organizations have offered a sabbatical, but I feel like that is still something that’s few and far between. That’s a luxury if you work for a company that does that, but so nice that you’re able to make that accessible to more people because we know, and I know from working a lot with millennials, those experiences are what matters most, right? We know, and as a millennial myself, we know that there are different economic triggers that came in. There are different events throughout history that have made us really focus on what we’re grateful for and living and getting the most out of our lives while we’re young, while we can. And I think that you know, employers are kind of being, let’s say, nudged to start to accommodate that desire because again, that plaque on the wall is just not going to do it. And yes, they’re proud of their tenure there, but the plaque isn’t necessarily meaningful to them in the same way that a trip would be in the memories and how much that deepens and strengthen, strengthens your relationship with your organization.

Creating Your Brand Story Through Employee Recognition

Daniel Kasper:   Yeah, you’re exactly right. And that’s some of the cool things too from the employer standpoint is yes, you’re investing in this trip, but it’s a story. You’re creating a story. And we talked about things that have been had been core to the human condition is storytelling, right? So if you’re going on these trips, you’re going to be taking on social, it’s going to be a part of who you are and being able to bring that back and then you’re telling the story. Like, I was able to do something on my bucket list because, you know, working for this company. Now that is just something we’re sharing. And so you’re able to build a brand around the storytelling, and it’s something that people want to do. I mean, what I, what I really appreciate these new generations is their value on time. To me, it’s the most valuable resource in the entire world because you have a set amount of time. And so they’re like, yeah, I can have $100, or I could go do X, Y, Z. And so these solutions now that are coming to market, that are centered around creating those stories and how to share that together and creating a community of these shared stories are, it’s fun to see the traction of getting

Different Rewards Work for Different People

Jenn DeWall:   Yes, I love that it’s a bucket list, right? I mean, maybe if I earned skydiving, then I would try it, but I think someone would need to drag me up to a plane and actually be, have the courage to be able to do it. But how do people, in your opinion, like to be recognized?

Daniel Kasper:   I’m going to give you a lawyer’s answer, and it depends.

Jenn DeWall:   Oh, that was really helpful.

Daniel Kasper:   Yeah. Please write that one down to everyone. Now, I mean, there’s a couple of things I think are important, but there are, of course, things that need to be catered to individuals. I think the important components to this are, are that our recognition is timely. So it’s not something that’s done two weeks later. It’s Hey, if you did a good job today, get that out today. Take the 30 seconds. And saying that, take that 30 seconds. It should also be simple. So whatever system or platform that you’re using to be able to send out recognition and needs to be part of the culture, and it needs to be simple. So even though you’re doing all these things in your daily life, you can take that 30 seconds to have a timely recognition. And I think what is also very important to successful organizations and how they’re doing recognition is showing the impact. So it’s not just thank you, it’s thank you for doing X, it achieved Y and here’s the impact it had on the business. Here’s how it affected other teams. So get a little more granular. Take that extra time to be able to show that impact that a person has on the organization,

Jenn DeWall:   Build-in what it means. You know, how people truly see just because you’re saying thank you, you did a really good job on that project doesn’t land as much as thank you, Dan, for taking time to be diligent. Do this research and prepare for this so we could deliver a great presentation to close the sale with this client. You know, it’s, yeah, provide a little bit more of feedback when you’re giving recognition. So people can really truly envision themselves as the younger they are, the less likely that they may have the ability to see the big picture to see what you’re seeing. So it’s another great way that you can help them develop their strategic thinking skills by showing that even though they may not think their job has a huge impact, that it actually really does to the company’s success and the overall strategies that they want to achieve.

Connecting to Something Bigger than You

Daniel Kasper:   That’s exactly what I mean. I think so frequently working in a business, even myself, you get sucked into your work, and you don’t see kind of the higher picture and what you’re working on, even though it may seem mundane, how it’s connected. So having, you know, what could be, even at the specialist level or some entry-level what they’re working on changes the business. And so being able to connect that to something larger, especially with the new generations and their trends we’re seeing and what drives people and motivates people that’s really having an impact in the engagement of, of company, the culture of a company and just overall successful teams.

Jenn DeWall:   Right? I love it. It’s, you know, it’s recognition for all levels. And I just, I mean, I’m kind of obsessed with talking about the big picture because it really is one of those soft skills that aren’t well developed, but I think recognition is a great way to help people develop that skill. Especially if they’re new to your workforce in those entry-level specialist roles. What are the challenges organizations face in implementing rewards and recognition strategies?

Daniel Kasper:   You know, there’s still a lot of companies that don’t feel this is a need. So I think that’s the first step and I think that’s drastically changing.

Jenn DeWall:   Why don’t they think it’s a need?

What’s the ROI for Employee Recognition?

Daniel Kasper:   To me, it comes down to, I know it’s ROI, right? It’s what is the ROI, what is the ROI? And we can talk about ROI. I mean, there are numerous data points that I can pull it and talk about it’s going to show ROI and rewards engagement strategies. However, there are also people, right? And people aren’t this kind of binary component. There are so many different kinds of fuels and inputs that equal outputs. And so why I can talk about correlations between rewards and recognition strategies, then being successful and how it impacts your people. There’s still, so this gray component because is it an exact match? Maybe not, or maybe it is. So I think that there’s just the human element that makes it this piece of kind of the hard ROI that you see in financials or data. It’s a little bit different, or it’s a little bit harder to get to.

Jenn DeWall:   Yeah, it’s harder to calculate, like in some respects, you know, it’s, we complicated, I think. I think we complicate rewards and recognition at work, and we ignore it. But I bet the same people that ignore it and don’t think that it’s a value in an organization are probably the same people that are using a rewards and recognition strategy to get desired behavior from their children.

Daniel Kasper:   I would argue the same thing.

Jenn DeWall:   But they see no value for this here. If you’re doing it -and it’s not to say to treat your employees like your children, but to remember that you know, there’s a way that you can achieve the behavior that you want and rewards and recognition is a great way to do it. Why do you think companies fail at it?

Daniel Kasper:   I don’t think they, well, a couple of reasons. One, they try to keep it in house, I think for, for a long time and then then it becomes because it is time-consuming to run a meaningful rewards recognition strategy, it kind of falls to the wayside. So there is a time and place to keep it in-house. I get that. You know, I come from a startup world as well. But at some point just because of the gravity of it and if you value your team and you want to to help take them to the next level, invest in something that’s going to help you automate that. Because I think otherwise it’ll fall to the wayside.

Get Help From the Experts

Jenn DeWall:   Why would you want to, if that’s not your expertise, give it to the experts and let them, you know, show you what is on-trend, all the data and research and show them? I just love that it’s integrated into HR software. Because again, I cannot tell you how many rewards I never used, because I had to figure out a new password to try and figure out how I could find them. So I love that there’s that just ease of accessibility piece that’s in there. And I know I’m jumping all around here, so I’m so sorry.

Daniel Kasper:   Another thing is I think you should look for it outside of automation too, is like, yeah, it takes a lot of time, but you’re going to want to have like the power of choice, which we talked about, which is hard to offer if you’re doing it in house. You’re going to want some reporting around it. Again, we talked about ROI and data. There’s a lot of things we can do with rewards and recognitions and data now. So you’re gonna want that. You’re gonna want some alignment to values, and then you’re gonna want some psychology. So it’s a fun product built in that people get kind of that release of dopamine like they do on Instagram when they get likes, built into the software. So there are numerous components. If you want a meaningful strategy, yes, there’s a time and place to do it inside. But I think once you get to a place where you really want to take it to the next level, I would look to other solutions out there.

Jenn DeWall:   Yeah. Which is what I would want. I guarantee that the choices are just so much more limited, or they just don’t. I feel like they’re not on-trend. They’re what you might’ve appreciated, you know, five years ago, but not necessarily what you would appreciate today. Or maybe you picked it aerobed last year, and you don’t need another aero bed. Because I guess that is one of the things that I picked from a rewards program.

When Employee Rewards Go Wrong

Daniel Kasper:   That’s an interesting component too. I mean, we’re looking at this concept of rewards and recognition, and a lot of the challenges are the failures that we see is not knowing your team. And so we hear of the situation where the hearing impaired person gets an iPod. Or that you hear of the person that you know recently gave up drinking for the month and now they get the bottle of wine. So there’s like multiple components of this that are like, Oh, they just kind of leave you shuddering and it’s something that, you know, do reverse things in terms of rewards and recognition. So it’s, it’s something to look into and just be aware. Know your people or offer some choices. So you know, they can select something different.

Jenn DeWall:   And then you’re able to give something that’s appropriate. So if someone is not able to, like if they took the month off, they were abstaining from something that you’re not looking like you’re so disconnected that you’re giving them a reward that’s untimely or will never be used. And I think that the question of what motivates you is something that not a lot of people get asked and they, you know, I think leaders just don’t necessarily prioritize that as a question that you need to ask. Like, Hey Dan, like what motivates you to do a good job? Because oftentimes we think that it’s something that is, everyone wants the same. There is one, you know, one size fits all approach, and maybe they want to be recognized publicly with a card. Right? That’s honestly one of the ways that I think about it.

Jenn DeWall:   They’re like, well, either they want to do it publicly or they want to do it privately, but they don’t recognize that everyone actually has unique ways of being motivated. We are so different from human beings. So the fact that we forget that is interesting, but I know I do it too. But yeah, absolutely like that. Just that diversity. Like why don’t people ask that question, or why do you think people struggle with understanding what motivates someone? Because I think that’s why Wishlist Rewards is so great because you do give a choice to the employee. So the employer doesn’t have to try and play the guessing game. But why do you think people don’t ask that question?

Make What’s Important to Your Team Important to You

Daniel Kasper:   I just think it comes back to like just general leadership principles. To me, it’s one of the- if the first thing is if I’m looking to build a team is I look to make what’s important to my team important to me. It’s such a foundational component because it shows, Hey, what’s what you’re working on, and your time is also equally important to me. And that automatically starts building that relationship. And so again, if you look back to the concept of, Hey, these teams are so important to your business, take some time to get to know your people because that relationship is only going to help them bring another level of passion, other ingenuity, that creative skills are going to be more approachable. So it’s going to have direct impacts on your business on just to ask them questions about seriously, and it doesn’t have to be, Hey, when is this deliverable? Its how are you doing? What are you spending your time on these days? What can I help with? Are there any struggles that I can help remove for you?

Jenn DeWall:   Right, absolutely. Just checking in to see how it’s going, like, and even the simple questions of how was your drive-in? How was your weekend? Did you enjoy your lunch? What are you doing? Are you doing anything fun for like fun this weekend? Getting to know your people. I love, or you can tell, I’m kind of obsessed with talking about this. It’s just something that I think is super important to people and connecting with their culture, with their, with what you want them to do with their strategy. What is your favorite trip or experience that you offer or option that you offer? I know I’m putting you on the spot with that one. Yeah.

Daniel Kasper:   I’m an adrenaline guy. So I really, I had the opportunity to drive a Ferrari at one point. So that one of my favorite things is to get a few laps than on a Ferrari F430.

Jenn DeWall:   How fast did you go?

Daniel Kasper:   Not as fast as I’d liked.

Jenn DeWall:   Were you afraid?

Daniel Kasper:   No, I had a guy sitting shotgun with me who had his hand on the emergency brake – ready to pull. Not sure if he didn’t trust my driving, or –

Jenn DeWall:   What could you have done for rewards and recognition strategies and build trust in that situation? Ha!

How Can Companies Do Better?

Jenn DeWall:   What do you think that people could do better in terms of rewards and recognition? Even at the moment? I know we’re talking about like Wishlist Rewards is great. Like is this a, is Wishlist Rewards a point-based system? Is it a one and done system? I know it’s not actually points, as you said that it wasn’t before, but how does it actually work? Like if someone was going to embed this program and actually have it, how do you work?

Daniel Kasper:   We have a couple of different programs. We have a reward side, which is that you can send out rewards for performance space, or we can integrate it into your HR software and automatically trigger gifts based upon company objectives or birthdays or anniversaries, whatever that may be. So that’s on the reward side of the house. We automate the kind of the reoccurring, and then we have spot gifting portals where managers or people can come jump in and reward for meeting certain goals or the recognition side of the house. We actually got away from points, and we did a bunch of research on across verticals, and we found like I mentioned earlier, it’s, it’s a currency that is sitting in the ether not being used. And these new demographics that are becoming the predominant demographic in the workforce, the millennials and Gen Z, they want to have that thank you.

Daniel Kasper:   Not just because it’s a currency because it means something. They want to have that connection to the impact. They want to be able to pay it forward. And so that’s how we crafted our recognition software. Its based around saying thank you. It’s based around kind of doing some cool things with reporting. So we have like this, this blast feature where you can actually see heat maps of if you were to pay it forward to Christian. You can see kind of a heat map of your organization and how one job actually impacted your organization. That’s a pretty cool feature.

Jenn DeWall:   Whoa. So if you were a manager or an executive leader that may not be as connected to your organizational pulse, could they have access to that?

Daniel Kasper:   You could, yeah, you could. And I recommend it because it’s an easy way for executives to spend, you know, spend 20 minutes every week, jump in. You can see the good work in your organization, you can respond directly to that person. And it’s done in an easy, easy way. So there are really cool things that we’re doing with reporting. You can tag it to social. We’re making it fun. You can add gifs; you can add photos, you can tag a video when you’re going whitewater rafting. And then you can also have your employer if they’d like to share that on their social. So we’re building just kind of an ecosystem of memories and stories that employers and employees are creating together.

Jenn DeWall:   Do you have a favorite story that you’ve seen play out that you can share?

Daniel Kasper:   So recently, we’ve had a couple get engaged on a Wishlist experience. They did a horseback activity. It was here in Colorado. It was up in Estes Park.

Jenn DeWall:   I just went horseback riding there a month ago!

Daniel Kasper:   So yeah, we had a couple get engaged, and they sent this photo, and it was all facilitated on the Wishlist experience. So it was really cool to see how yeah, we’re creating memories but also the impact we’re having on these people’s lives.

Jenn DeWall:   Holy cow. That is an amazing way that- because in what other universe would you actually see an employer be connected to an engagement story, right. I mean, my employer was definitely not involved in my engagement nor my wedding, but they did give me a really nice wedding shower. But it, you know, it wasn’t, there was just such an interesting thing to me to know that there is a way that you get to break down those silos between, you know, work and being a human being outside of work. That you’re able to see someone as an individual. My gosh. Do you have more stories? I love these stories. Give me one more. I’ll just ask for one more. As you’re racking your brain, and I’m so sorry for not asking you for this ahead of time.

Use Rewards to Show you Really Care About Your Employees

Daniel Kasper:   We had a family, this is a sad story, but it turns out with a happy ending, they lost some of their house in a fire recently, and they had planned – so they had saved up funds that they had planned to use on this Disney World trip. And had to put back into their house, the insurance claim and etc. And so their employer sent them a Wishlist, and we coordinated a full end to end trip to Disney World with their whole family. We got them there. We gave them, you know, passes, we gave them dinner. They are able to do Epcot Center as well. So they did the full thing, and we were able to facilitate that from their employer. So it’s a cool story. Again, it’s about these real-life events that are happening right in front of our eyes because of a place where that wouldn’t traditionally happen. Because it was, you know, your, your plaques and your trophies. Now we’re telling you stories. Now we’re a part of life events.

Jenn DeWall:   Oh my gosh. I, that was the first time I think of teared up today. What a great gift to give someone. Especially, you know, you bring up another time. It’s not always just using rewards and recognition to validate good behavior at work. It’s using rewards and recognition to see if there are ways that you can help your employees when they’re in times of need. How can you support them? Because if you truly have that culture where your people are first, your people are family and Wishlist, I mean it just sounds like there’s that opportunity to really treat them like family.

Daniel Kasper:   It is. And that goes back to you just making what’s important to them, important to you. And the ROI you see if you invest in what’s important to them, they’re going to have your back and the loyalty that will be created for your company and for your team. I promise you that as ROI.

Rewards that Appeal to Millennials

Jenn DeWall:   Yeah. Well as, I mean, we could go in and talk about this as a millennial. There’s so much of what a millennial wants in the workforce is to be seen and to have meaningful work to feel connected to their work. And the more that you can reinforce that, the more likely they are to stay. So many people say, Oh, millennials are just job jumpers. Well, they leave when they stop being rewarded. They leave when they are not challenged. And rewards and recognition are great ways to start challenging people to take on different things. So if you want them to stay and sure that they have those opportunities for growth and reinforce it with some rewards and recognition that are meaningful to them. It’s not that it’s, we complicate it so much by just calling millennials out like they just have different needs. They have different desires just because they were shaped, and they were born in a different time, and that’s okay. They just have different desires.

Daniel Kasper:   I totally agree. And we’re looking at the things that they’re wanting. I actually respect, you know, they get the demographic, it’s kind of a talked down to frequently. But they’re looking to have an impact, which I respect. You’re looking to kind of pay it forward and show, Hey, it’s not me. But if they have the team concept, which I respect, they’re able to adapt to global environments, and they respect people that think differently than themselves. I respect that. I mean I could keep going just this, while the demographic does get talked down to frequently or at least questioned a lot, I think a lot of what they’re challenging is really putting the concept from, you know, kind of big organizations to people and even if you are at a big organization, your center, and your heart should be around your people because that’s how you will find success.

What’s Your Leadership Habit for Success?

Jenn DeWall:   Right! That’s the only way. I mean, I know that that’s one of my passions for why I do leadership is because the way that you can make an organization better, a community better, a family, better, you know, insert whatever I wanted to say, is by developing an individual and helping them be a better leader, whether that’s bringing in love or bringing in the ability to see others, that they have feelings, right? They’re not just a product, or a means to an end, that there’s a person behind that and it’s, it’s pretty powerful. Dan, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, but I have one last question that we wrap up every single podcast interview with. And that is what is your leadership habit for success?

Daniel Kasper:   Of course, you know, we mentioned at the beginning I was formed in special operations community in a place where literally teams meant life or death. And that’s something I’m bringing forward with me today. I will never leave that. My team is my focus. So even being the CEO, if you think about the traditional hierarchy, you have the pyramid, and the CEO is at the top and the specialist at the bottom. My vision is completely the opposite. And I draw it for every employee that starts at Wishlist. I draw it upside down because my role is to work for my employees. That is my job, to remove roadblocks, to help them do the best work of their life at Wishlist. And that is my job. And again, it starts with making what’s important to them important to me. So to me, it’s around people. It’s around servant leadership, and it’s about helping your team to want to and in inspiring them to want to create lasting change themselves.

Jenn DeWall:   Right? Because everyone, you know, as much as people want to be seen, I truly believe that everyone actually wants to feel like they’re adding value to something. We want to connect our worth to know that, yeah, I made an impact on my employer, to my family, to my friends. We all want that. That’s -to be human. And I sometimes think, again, going back to it, we complicate things for rewards and recognition are just a great way to, I think for the resistors just to get them- the resistors of feelings may be- to get them familiar with being like, okay, like you did a great job. I want to reward that. And the people that know that experiences matter, you know, rewards and recognition are just a great way to solidify that. Personalize it, find the best ones at work. But I love that you give, again going back to it, you’re customizing it in a way that makes it easier for employers to determine what motivates them because they have the choice or employees to determine what, determine what motivates them because they have the choice for what they want. Any last things that we didn’t cover that you would want to share with our listeners? I mean, I know that you operate right now in the US, but you are planning on a global expansion. So to all of our listeners out there, Wishlist rewards will be in your neck of the woods sometime soon just to keep checking on their website. But I know that’s one of your plans, right?

Daniel Kasper:   We are, yeah. We’ll be expanding internationally, predominantly the UK and EU, within the next year. And then my ask is really just taking some time and go out of your day to put your people first. First, ask them questions, connect to them. Really show them that you’re there for them. Because I promise you what you’ll see as a return is exponentially greater than, you know, the 30 seconds it took. Rewards and recognition. Again, what we’re seeing are table stakes. I recommend finding a solution that works for your company, whoever that may be, have a few key components in there and then use it. Because again, building a team is going to be so crucial to your organization’s success.

Jenn DeWall:   And I’ll leave the final note. If you do not have a rewards and recognition strategy, you are likely not winning the talent game. Because that is one of the tools that you can use to retain your people because you’re showing them that you value them. Dan, thank you so much for coming in. It was great to have you on the podcast today. Thank you so much.

Daniel Kasper:   It was a pleasure, Jenn. thank you so much.

Thank you for listening to today’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast with Wishlist Reward CEO, Daniel Kasper. To find out more about wishlist rewards and how you can offer more recognition strategies, head over to enjoywishlist.com or find the location in our show notes where you can request a demo for the wishlist software and learn more about how they’re flipping the script on employee rewards and recognition. If you liked today’s episode, please share it with your friends and family, and don’t forget to rate and review us on your favorite podcast streaming service.