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The Neuroscience of Engagement

The Neuroscience of Employee Engagement

Job satisfaction is at the heart of employee engagement. And as early as 1959, it received decisive momentum when Psychologist Frederick Herzberg published the Two Factor theory of motivation. Herzberg’s research suggests that fulfilment at work is due to two set of factors:

  1. Motivators – intrinsic conditions of the job
  2. Hygiene factors – extrinsic factors causing in dissatisfaction if absent

With more advancements in brain science over past decades, Herzberg’s psychological studies have been given deeper scientific substance. Today, neuroscience (the study of the nervous system) can explain the fundamentals of human motivation at a molecular level.

This makes me question: how can we leverage neuroscience findings to help optimize employee engagement initiatives?

Let’s explore …

Neuroscience and Motivation

In “Motivation on the Brain – Applying the Neuroscience of Motivation in the Workplace”, Kimberly Schaufenbuel details the four core drivers of motivation at work:

  1. Drive to Defend: this is the only brain circuit triggered when people feel threatened.The most common “threat” at work is to feel undervalued. Usually triggered by lack of feedback or line manager interactions, it can be fixed through continuous, positive feedback.
  2. Drive to Acquire: the need to seek, to take control, and to retain objects and personal experiences of value in pursuit of immediate gratification.This can be fulfilled with short term gratification through employee recognition and rewards.
  3. Drive to Bond: the brain is wired to be social, and this drive allows like-minded people with shared interests to work cooperatively together.This is strengthened by a company culture where collaboration is valued, and leaders positively “walk the talk”.
  4. Drive to Learn: The natural desire to make sense of our world and ourselves. It exists in a cooperative atmosphere where curiosity is rewarded and knowledge freely shared.Through appreciation and gratitude, you can encourage creativity and learning.

Address the Drive to Defend: Continuous Feedback

Drive to Defend- Neuroscience and Engagement

Did you know that our brain interprets “social pain” much like physical pain?

This is the conclusion of the work by Naomi Eisenberger, Psychologist at UCLA.

Let’s take employee feedback and annual reviews for instance. If sporadic, people can experience those as an attack on their “status”. The brain is quick to perceive feedback like a physical attack, and reacts with a defensive strategy.

Achievers, a leader in employee engagement and recognition, has been an advocate of continuous feedback and listening. Egan Cheung, Vice President of Product at Achievers, shared at the 8th Annual Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) conference in New Orleans:

“To engage a modern workforce, an organization needs to be continuously listening to its employees.”

Access to constant feedback is now real. Achievers recently released Listen, where employees can provide feedback to management on their day-to-day issues via check-ins and pulse surveys.

Achievers’ Listen goes even a step further, taking into consideration the importance of positive feedback. Allie, an intelligent, digital “coach”; interacts with employees in a familiar conversational way, while guiding employees with effective feedback and providing recommendations back to managers.

Address the Drive to Acquire: Incentives

Drive to Acquire - Neuroscience and Engagement

The value of incentives to motivate employees has been debated for long. Still, money can be effective to express appreciation: a survey by Harris Interactive and Glassdoor revealed that 75% of employees consider a pay raise as a form of appreciation.

But some leaders argue material gifts are a short-term fix only. What does neuroscience to say about it?

Receiving a gift triggers an immediate dopamine response in the brain. Described initially by Wolfram Schultzreward more than 30 years ago, reward systems in the brain heavily influences our behavior.

Achievers’ platform is a good example of alternatives to cash bonuses. Through points-based employee recognition, each employee can receive monetary and non-monetary based rewards and recognition.

And it works! As shared at ACE 2017, organizations using a rewards and recognition technology solution reported better levels of employee engagement, employee retention, and productivity over the course of a year.

Address the Drive to Bond: Social Connection

Drive to Bond - Neuroscience and Engagement

Matt Lieberman is the Director of UCLA’s Social Cognitive Neuroscience lab. In his TEDx St. Louis talk “The Brain and Its Superpowers”, he shares:

“Social is not one of our programs. It is our basic operating system.”

According to Matt Lieberman, the default state of the brain (when where we’re not cognitively engaged in anything specific) is to deepen our social cognition network. He shares:

“This network comes on like a reflex to think about other people’s minds — their thoughts, feelings and goals…It promotes understanding and empathy, cooperation and consideration.”

Promoting social bonds is a pivotal dimension of employee engagement. As organizations go global, a common platform to share and connect is a simple way to tap into social drive.

A case study covering Ericsson’s employee engagement and recognition program stated:

“The program spreads positivity throughout the geographically dispersed organization, connecting employees – through recognitions they post on daily basis – to each other, and to the company”

Address the Drive to Learn: Appreciation
Drive to Learn - Neuroscience and Engagement

Small acts of generosity and gratitude trigger a specific neurobiological feedback loop. Glenn R. Fox (Brain and Creativity Institute at USC), conducted extensive research and concluded:

“When the brain feels gratitude, it activates areas responsible for feelings of reward, moral cognition, subjective value judgments, fairness, economic decision-making and self-reference.”

Employee recognition can directly impact employee engagement levels. As the brain responds to gratitude with a positive feedback loop, needless to say that a recognition-based culture can do more than a feel-good effect! The by-products of gratitude at work are serious business assets, such as enhanced creativity, increased happiness and productivity, and better cooperation within teams.

By aligning your employee engagement strategies to main human motivation drivers, you tap into dopamine reward loops and create a lasting positive feeling.

What is the value behind employee engagement? To learn more, download this white paper covering The True Cost of Disengagement. 

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Coralie SawrukCoralie Sawruk helps global organizations create efficient team dynamics. A people-person at heart, she believes the ultimate competitive advantage is created by the right talents working hand-in-hand, cheerfully.

Coralie shares her insights on human-centric leadership and leading happy teams on her website.

Get in touch on LinkedIn.

 

 

Company Missions and Values

Top 5 Company Missions and Values

Keeping employees engaged is vital for the health of your company, but it’s not a simple task that you can just scribble at the bottom of your to-do list. Your employees respond in complex emotional ways to the culture of your company, and the more positive and well-defined that culture is, the more they will feel they belong. Missions and values articulated through mission statements define a company’s identity right from the moment of its founding. When shared widely, these expressions of an organization’s purpose are an incredibly powerful tool for creating and focusing employee loyalty. Douglas Ready, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, points out that the secret to getting employees engaged “lies in three organizational capabilities: being purpose-driven, performance-oriented, and principles-led. Developing the three together is referred to as creating ‘collective ambition.'” But how do you put your company’s purpose into words?

Vision, Mission, Values… Parsing the Vocabulary of Inspiration

Although a variety of terms can be used, each company statement usually expresses some guiding vision or purpose, followed by a set of practices or behaviors that aim to realize that purpose. Let’s take a look at Ericsson. The first sentence of their vision states, “Our vision is a Networked Society where every person and every industry is empowered to reach their full potential.” That vision declares what this company is aspiring to; it describes the world that they want to help create. Ericsson’s mission statement describes how they plan to proceed: “We…have set out our mission to lead transformation through mobility… We do this in three principal ways…” And then they go on to enumerate those three ways. Occasionally, companies switch up this language and use the word “mission” to describe their overall vision, and the word “values” or “strategy” to explain how they plan to get there. As PwC puts it, “Our purpose is why we exist. Our values define how we behave.”

Building Blocks for Expressing Your Purpose

If your company’s reason for existing is buried in a pile of printed brochures and hasn’t seen the light of day since your founding, or if you’re creating a mission statement for the very first time, it’s helpful to look at how other organizations have chosen to express themselves. Five qualities that characterize the very best mission statements are as follows:

1. Innovation

In most cases, today’s companies are looking to create solutions better than any that existed in the past, and they want their mission statements to express this aim. An example is Samsung’s vision statement, which begins, “Through innovative, reliable products and services…” and then goes on to elaborate how they are “taking the world in imaginative new directions.” Our own mission statement here at Achievers also centers on innovation: The purpose behind what we do every day is “To Change the Way the World Works.”

2. Optimism

Regardless of how mission statements are structured, the one quality they universally share is that of optimism. A statement may specifically address the future role of the company, as when Cott says their vision is “To become the leading North American and European Water, Coffee, Tea and Filtration service provider …” On the other hand, Bank of Montreal (BMO) simply lists as one of their values, “Make Tomorrow Better.”

3. Integrity

Ryan, LLC specifically lists integrity as one of their company’s core values. They promise to “Do the right thing” on their web page, letting employees and customers know that they can trust the company’s honesty. PwC also lists “Act with Integrity” as their very first corporate value. The company identifies the primacy of this value, along with others like “work together” and “make a difference” as the way they strengthen employee alignment.

4. Generosity and Citizenship

Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. Even a primarily online company still participates in its surrounding community, providing employment and paying taxes. Rogers places the following statement in a bold banner at the top of their “Vision and Strategy” page: “Contributing to our community, economy, and society in a meaningful way.” They go on to elaborate, saying, “We strive to be a good business for our customers and shareholders, a good employer for our people, and a good neighbor in the communities where we operate.” PwC also directs their purpose in an outward direction: “Our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems.”

5. Employee Empowerment

The importance of a company organizing its fundamental principles around employee motivation cannot be overstated. Your employees are your most valuable asset, and managing them well requires a clear declaration of their worth. It makes a real difference when (as with Cott), a company states: “Cott employees worldwide are united by a single, unifying core value: to think and act as owners and as if Cott’s resources and reputation were our own.” One of the values listed by 3M underlines this principle: ” [We will] …value and develop our employees’ diverse talents, initiative and leadership.”

The majority of employees — 57 percent — say they aren’t motivated by their company’s mission statement. This may be because they simply aren’t aware of it: Only 39 percent of workers even know their organization’s mission statement, and just 40 percent say they are familiar with the vision or purpose behind the work they do each day. The next time you’re thinking about revamping your company’s mission statement, remember to keep in mind these shocking stats and leverage our top five company missions and values list.

To learn more about how companies like 3M, Rogers and Ericsson are effectively engaging employees, access their success stories here.

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engage your workforce

Smart & Final: Effectively Engaging 10,000+ Employees

How do you effectively engage over 10,000 employees? This was the challenge presented to Smart & Final, a major chain of warehouse-style food and supply stores. Smart & Final has over 10,000 employees and approximately 211 stores in 5 states. Their previous employee recognition strategy consisted of a ubiquitously disliked service awards program that was perceived by employees as being impersonal and demotivating. This type of employee experience was unacceptable and something had to be done about it. The Smart & Final team took on the huge task of overhauling their employee recognition strategy and finding a new way to boost employee engagement across the entire organization.

With 66% of HR leaders currently updating their employee engagement and retention strategies, Smart & Final is not alone. Companies worldwide are finding immense value behind putting more time and resources into employee recognition and engagement programs. For starters, 60% of best-in-class organizations have stated employee recognition is extremely valuable in driving individual performance and 50% of HR leaders said that an increase in employee recognition would boost employee retention. If that isn’t enough, a 1% increase in employee engagement equates to an additional 0.6% growth in sales for companies.


Businesses share why employee recognition and engagement matters

It’s a no-brainer why so many companies, such as Ericsson, Rogers, and Availity are jumping on the employee recognition and engagement wagon. Smart & Final wanted to make sure their new HR strategy would hit employee recognition numbers out of the park. And that’s exactly what they did. After Smart & Final implemented its new Spotlight program with Achievers, they saw stronger employee alignment, activity rates, and revenue. The business impact was significant with amazing results, including:

  • Increased monthly recognition activity at 11 times the normal average
  • More than 43,000 recognition moments in one month alone
  • Sales grew 1.1% on average
  • 96.8% of employee recognitions were sent without points attached, making the cost virtually free

Joe Tischbern, Manager of Learning and Engagement at Smart & Final, has seen a shift in perspective from executives on employee recognition after kicking off Spotlight. In our customer testimonial video, he shared:

“Some of our executives were skeptics when we started this. They’re no longer skeptics because they see the impact that a recognition they give has on the hourly associate working in the store. Our CEO himself has said that he’s seen the difference. He’s seen the fact that when he has the opportunity to recognize people, he sees a change in their behavior.”

Not only did Smart & Final’s new employee engagement strategy convert recognition naysayers into believers; sales numbers, employee happiness, and customer satisfaction all improved. Tischbern further shared:

“Sales actually increased during the process because associates were excited. There was a better attitude. The customers were more excited because our associates were more excited.”

Smart & Final’s Spotlight program successfully increased employee engagement across its entire organization. With only 13% of employees engaged worldwide and disengaged employees costing organizations between $450-$550 billion annually, it’s important to address the current state of employee disengagement sooner than later. Avoid high turnover rates and unnecessary costs by re-evaluating your current employee engagement strategy today. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How are you currently engaging employees? Is it working?
  2. Are you successfully measuring employee engagement at your company?
  3. Would you consider your company culture positive or negative?
  4. How often do employees recognize colleagues at your workplace?
  5. Are your employees overall happy at work?

If you are unsure how to answer the questions above or unsatisfied with your response, it might be time to join the 66% of HR leaders who are updating their employee engagement and retention strategies. Follow in the steps of Smart & Final and start making a change to create an unbeatable impact on employee engagement.

To learn more about Smart & Final’s Spotlight program and HR success, download Smart & Final’s case study.

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If you’d like to learn more about another employee engagement success story, check out 4 Strategic Drivers of General Motors’ Adoption of Recognition Technology.

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About Kellie Wong
Kellie WongKellie Wong is the Senior Editorial and Social Media Manager for Achievers. She manages Achievers’ social media presence and The Engage Blog, including the editorial calendars for both. In addition to writing blog content for The Engage Blog, she also manages and maintains relationships with 35+ guest blog contributors. Connect with Kellie on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

Recognition Provider Spotlight

Achievers Named #1 Overall Recognition Provider in Baker’s Dozen 2017 by HRO Today

Achievers is honored to be listed as #1 out of 13 ranked vendors in both the Overall Excellence category and Breadth of Service category in the HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen Survey. Read the press release here.

Employee recognition is a very important part of company culture. So much so, more and more HR Tech is dedicated to making employee recognition easy for both employees and managers. And it can address important business objectives relating to employee engagement, like attracting top talent and increasing productivity. In fact, 40% of workers in the U.S. said they would go the extra mile for a company that rewards and recognizes them on a regular basis. This means even the smallest investment in an employee engagement platform could have a big impact on your company’s bottom line.

Here are just a few of the key business objectives HR tech, employee recognition and employee engagement can address when working together:

With more and more HR tech providers offering a solution addressing employee engagement and recognition, it might be hard to decide which is the right one for your company. But according to HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen Survey, Achievers is the cream of the crop. As announced on August 17th, 2017 Achievers finished first out of 13 ranked vendors in both the overall score category and the Breadth of Service Category.

HRO Today ‘s rankings are based on the buyers of the services, rather than the opinion of HRO Today staff. The overall category ranking is derived from three components: features breadth, deal sizes, and quality. Check out what Elliot Clark, CEO of SharedXpertise and Publisher of HRO Today, said about why Achievers won:

“Employee recognition leads to better employee retention and engagement, and companies seeking recognition and motivation service partners consider the information provided in the HRO Today magazine Recognition Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Survey to provide extremely valuable insight to a successful RFP process. Achievers led this year’s ranking in the No. 1 position, overall and for breadth of service, differentiating itself as an exceptional provider in this highly competitive industry.”

This is a tremendous honor for Achievers. As Greg Brown, Achievers General Manager, commented:

“The eagerly awaited HRO Today Baker’s Dozen results are considered by buyers to be the gold-standard for recognition providers. Achievers is honored to have earned the No. 1 ranking in both the overall category as well as breadth of service. Achievers understands the challenges organizations face today to attract, recognize, and retain top talent. We are committed to helping our customers excel in employee engagement.”

Having pioneered the concept of social recognition, Achievers remains the innovation leader in the industry, continuously developing new approaches that drive employee engagement by delivering best-in-class employee recognition tools. Among Achievers large customer base, clients like Ericsson and Shop Direct have already seen results, such as:

  • A 3 percent increase in engagement score for Ericsson, up from an already astounding 81 percent
  • A 17 percent engagement survey increase for Shop Direct

Over one-third of Achievers’ employees are a member of a service team, existing as part of its Professional Services, Customer Success, or Member Experience team dedicated to giving the best client experience. It is this emphasis on customer service that has led Achievers to receive consistently high scores on customer satisfaction surveys.

If you’d like to learn more about the Achievers and start running an award-winning employee engagement and recognition platform across your organization, schedule a demo today.

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About the Author

Iain FerreiraIain Ferreira is the Content Marketing Manager at Achievers. He lives in San Francisco. You can view his Linkedin profile here.

 

 

 

 

For Recognition to Have an Impact, Make It Strategic

We’re way beyond the old paradigm of years-of-service plaques or holiday gift cards as a form of employee recognition. We know that such rewards, tied to tenure or sporadically bestowed on an individual employee for a job well done, fall short of achieving any larger goal. For employees, they do little to spur a sense of being truly valued by an organization. For the organization, they don’t spark the levels of engagement that we know drive performance and lead to desired business outcomes. Why is this an issue? Gallup research this year found that only 33 percent of US workers feel engaged at work (it’s a mere 13 percent worldwide!). That’s nearly the same figure it was 10 years ago.

And even if organizations do connect recognition to driving individual performance and achieving desired business outcomes, how many have a recognition program that actually works? Achievers’ 2015 “The Greatness Gap” survey of the North American workforce found that most employees are far from satisfied with how, when, or why they receive recognition — if they do at all. They don’t feel they are recognized at their preferred frequency (41%) or get a manager’s in-the-moment feedback (60%) They don’t feel recognized for making progress (57%) or achievements (53%). Based on these findings, disengagement, not engagement, seems to be the rule.

But this gap is more than just a gap in driving engagement via feedback. It represents lost intelligence on how to improve the employee experience and better align it with business goals. To play an effective role in an organization’s success, a recognition program needs to serve a powerful strategic function for both employee and employer.

Strategic recognition serves a number of dual roles:

 

It’s part of a widespread, unified system of employee engagement —

that can be customized into any format, platform and frequency.

 

It’s aligned to the vision and values of the organization —

and can be tailored to meet individual employee preferences.

 

It generates powerful insight on employee performance and behavior —

but “learns” from even the delivery of a “smile” emoji or an e-thanks.

 

It’s closely aligned to business goals and targets —

While also recognizing employees for “softer” contributions & achievements as well.

 

It builds bridges between the executive/management and employee sides —

and enables uphill, peer-to-peer, team-to-team, and intrateam recognition as well.

 

It functions from a single, Cloud-based nervous system, regardless of organizational side or geographic location—

but always feels local and human in scale and tone.

 

It identifies out-in-front performers and succession candidates —

while pinpointing gaps and trouble-spots as well.

 

A strategic program of recognition builds engagement — and therefore has a positive impact on retention — supports talent management, and is closely tied to business goals. It is also the foundation of a cohesive, supportive environment. It also looks at the future as well as the present. It may be further refined to fit organizations shifting to more autonomous, team-based structures — a coming workplace shift identified by Deloitte’s 2016 human capital research. Or it may already be addressing profound shifts in workplace demographics (4 generations working together) and geography (global organizations with multiple hubs).

How long does it take for a strategic recognition program to take root and deliver game-changing results? Shop Direct, a multi-brand digital online retailer with some 4,500 employees, launched its highly successful recognition program across multiple global sites two years ago and it is already being credited with having a major positive impact across the entire organization. 

Shop Direct’s Shine program was designed to reinforce the organization’s purpose (to “Make good things easily accessible to more people”) and values (Trusted, Together, Proud, Ambitious, Innovative), and to drive performance. The program enabled instant recognition and rewards across multiple sites. And with features like at-a-glance data and in-the-moment messages, it soon turned into a keen motivator that has boosted engagement levels by 14%. But perhaps the clearest indicator of success has been the high level of adoption that the program has achieved. In less than one year, Shop Direct employees had sent more than 355,000 recognitions, and activation rates stood at an impressive 97%. Shop Direct has since garnered multiple awards for its innovative thinking — including being ranked as one of Achievers 50 Most Engaged Workplaces.

Likewise, communication and network services giant Ericsson (managing some 2.5 billion subscribers globally), needed a strategic solution to its employee recognition challenge. The platform had to be able to connect over 15,000 employees in dozens of hubs across North America — and improve on existing manual recognition programs. After implementing the Achievers solution, Ericsson’s HR team was able to automate recognition among geographically-dispersed employees, track program spend (without once going over budget), and use program data to link recognition to business results. Employees enthusiastically embraced it, making it the most widely-utilized “voluntary” enterprise platform the organization had ever implemented.

If no man or woman is an island, no employee should feel like he or she is working alone. Whatever job we do, we all want to be appreciated. What’s most profound about a truly strategic recognition program is that is answers that very basic human need. But all the while, it’s an incredibly powerful driver — and monitor — of a much larger success story: the organization itself. That’s a win for everyone.

Check out Meghan Biro’s second guest blog post It Takes a Recognition Culture to Spark Engagement.

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About the Author

meghan biroMeghan M. Biro is a globally recognized Talent Management and HR Tech brand strategist, analyst, digital catalyst, author and speaker. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent. Meghan has been a guest on numerous radio shows and online forums, and has been a featured speaker at global conferences. She is a regular contributor at Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and several other media outlets. Meghan regularly serves on advisory boards for leading HR and technology brands. Meghan has been voted one of the Top 100 Social Media Power Influencers in 2015 by StatSocial and Forbes, Top 50 Most Valuable Social Media Influencers by General Sentiment, Top 100 on Twitter Business, Leadership, and Tech by Huffington Post, and Top 25 HR Trendsetters by HR Examiner.

 

Ericsson culture of innovation

Ericsson: Uplifting Employee Engagement Scores With Achievers

Did you know companies in the top quartile of employee engagement see significantly better business results than bottom quartile organizations? According to Gallup, engagement leaders  see 21% higher productivity, 22% higher profitability and 41% higher quality of work. This is also supported by Aon Hewitt, which found that a 5% increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3% increase in revenue growth in the subsequent year.

One company that is doing what it takes to stay in the top quartile of employee engagement is the world-leading communications technology and services company, Ericsson. In order to maximize their business potential, the team at Ericsson understood the need to focus on employee engagement as a driver of business success. But finding a way to engage and unify such a large and diverse set of employees was no easy feat for Ericsson, considering the company employs over 15,000 people across 30+ regional offices in North America alone.

Ericsson had tried a number of recognition initiatives previously but was looking for an enterprise-class technology solution that was truly scalable and would serve to unite its employees around their culture of innovation The company’s leaders also wanted to find a platform with robust analytics and that would help them regularly track spend, leverage recognition data for business insights, and streamline the recognition process. After researching different employee rewards and recognition providers, Ericsson chose the Achievers Employee Success Platform as the best solution to engage its employees while aligning them with business goals.

Ericsson rolled out the Achievers platform — internally branded as “E-Star” — to its 15,000+ employees across 30+ locations in North America in 2014. With a 98% employee – manager activation rate, the E-Star program soon became the most widely-utilized “voluntary” enterprise platform the organization had ever implemented. Even better, a whopping 65% of the recognitions awarded were social, or non-monetary, helping Ericsson to stay on target with budget. With widespread adoption and usage, the company was soon seeing the payoff in the form of improved engagement scores across the board. Among the successes they saw:

  • A 3% increase in overall engagement scores, up from an already world-class score of 81%;
  • North America employee engagement scores that were 5% higher than Ericsson’s global scores and 14% higher than the industry average, and;
  • Employee engagement survey results pertaining to recognition given by managers rose 4%.

With increasing positive employee engagement survey scores and new business insights derived from Achievers analytics, Ericsson is rightfully confident about the strength and ongoing success of their employee engagement strategy.

To learn more about Ericsson’s success story, download the Ericsson Case Study.

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About the Author
Kellie WongKellie Wong is the Social Media and Blog Manager for Achievers. She manages Achievers’ social media presence and
The Engage Blog, including the editorial calendars for both. In addition to writing blog content for The Engage Blog, she also manages and maintains relationships with 20+ guest blog contributors and edits every piece of content that gets published. Connect with Kellie on LinkedIn.