Talking With: Autumn Manning, CEO of YouEarnedIt

Employee turnover and retention are key concerns for the restaurant industry. In our continuing series, “Talking With:” Autumn Manning, CEO of YouEarnedIt discusses a case study for how Karl Strauss Brewing Company used an app designed to reward and engage staff. Others using the platform include Dunkin Donuts  Panera, Anheuser-Busch and Birch Coffee.

Where did the idea for the app come from?

Some of the best companies are born out of a true need versus someone trying to come up with an idea to go build a company and YouEarnedIt certainly was the former. Rockfish Digital is a very large global advertising company and as they were going through a period of rapid growth they realized that culture was very important to all employees and having a workforce that enables them to do best work, connect to people across the business, and receive feedback and meaningful rewards for all of their hard work was important. It started as an informal program within the four walls of that company and as soon as we started getting traction, we decided to spin out and run as separate company.

Autumn Manning
Autumn Manning

How is the app customizable for the restaurant industry?

For anyone in the restaurant industry, the challenge is offering your field level leaders and employees the freedom within some framework. From a branding standpoint, the Karl Strauss brand is one they are very proud of, so they are able to customize the mobile app and web app to look completely like their company.

More importantly from a customization standpoint, we’ve been able to serve the unique differences of the breweries versus the restaurants and allow them to customize their rewards approach for each location if they choose. They can also customize behavior bonus options. Some locations may want to recognize and reward people for running in a 5k and other locations might want to reward people for completing their annual physical. So the YouEarnedIt platform has provided a framework that is deployed from corporate but gives freedom within that framework for local leaders to have a program that really does feel uniquely theirs at each specific location.

Another thing to add, is research shows, and most of our customers prove this to be true, that most people have a smartphone, so accessing the app is very easy from your mobile phone. However, there might still be locations or people who prefer paper-based information. The YouEarnedIt platform provides both, giving more flexibility and ease of use to use the platform in a way that makes sense for their company.

How does the restaurant use differ from other industries?

n terms of how restaurants might use the YouEarnedIt platform and methodology versus other industries, I think it really goes more in line with what problems they are trying to solve in the first place. A challenge that restaurants face is having an easy ability to send feedback and recognition to hundreds if not thousands of people dispersed across various locations. Often times, that’s done through email, where the sender and receiver get the benefit but the group doesn’t get the benefit from what that person did well and the learning that comes from that. So the biggest use case that we hear falls along the lines of how do I connect all of these people to our core values and the behaviors we know drive success from a sales standpoint to a customer service standpoint and a culture standpoint. YouEarnedIt uniquely helps them solve that problem.

And then from a transactional level, it certainly helps from a time and money saving standpoint, where it enables customers in the restaurant industry to provide a rewards approach that is customized for the different locations, but still possible to be deployed. Often, the challenge is HR or the executive team offers monetary rewards or cards or plaques that are difficult to fulfill to thousands of people. The YouEarnedIt platform takes that burden off of their hands.

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What problems do you feel the app solves and why is it important?

Fundamentally we continue to build the YouEarnedIt app to provide four key things that every person in any workforce needs. A deeper level of connection to their coworkers and the company they spend their time working for, a sense of meaning around the work they do everyday, the ability to impact other people and the community in which they serve, and the ability to receive feedback for all the great work that they do. That’s how we define employee engagement and that’s the problem we solve.

Certainly for our buyers, there are much bigger pain points in terms of deploying a program like this across several thousand people. It’s very difficult to do and very cumbersome to deploy and YouEarnedIt takes the burden off hands of the hands of the organizations and deploys a seamless program that enables them to focus on the business while we provide employee a tool where they run the culture.

How did you connect with Karl Strauss?

Karl Strauss is a customer that is not unlike many of our strong partners in that they already have a fantastic culture. They recognize the importance of keeping people connected to the core values, the mission of the organization, and making sure as much as possible that they are providing feedback and recognition across their workforce. We initially connected with them because they were already a believer in a strong culture and they found YouEarnedIt as a platform to help add fuel to what they were already doing well. Through enhanced reporting and capabilities they were able to serve their disperse audience.

How does Karl Strauss use the app?

Karl Strauss has several things that they do to provide a fun culture, meaningful feedback, and wellness initiatives to make sure their people live active and healthy lives. They already did lots of things to reward, so their use case is very diverse because they took all of disparate things that are really important to employees today and put them all in the YouEarnedIt program. Now their executive and HR team are enable to easily deploy all of those programs into one seamless platform and they have the added benefit of reporting and visibility across the field to what’s working, what’s not, who’s doing what well, and who’s serving the customer according to their core values.

For the average Karl Strauss employee who is working hard to serve their customers, they have the ability to pull out the mobile app to see who in their store just received recognition for doing something well, the ability to send and highlight recognition to other people in the store, and also redeem that recognition for rewards that are meaningful to them. The rewards are things like giving back to their local community, doing team yoga together, or accessing gift cards to a popular retailer.

How has it affected the retention rate?

For Karl Strauss there are several key ways that they measure the success of program, retention being one of them. One of the biggest impacters of keeping your good people in place longer, especially in a highly transitional environment like the restaurant industry, is streamlining the communication going on across the organization.

The real ROI for Karl Strauss came in the form of many things, retention of their management and other key players in stores and breweries being a key one. While I don’t have specific numbers, they have certainly seen a sizeable impact on making sure that people who are working hard to serve consumers all day, every day know what they are doing is being appreciated. Research shows that one of the biggest reasons people leave, especially in such a fast-paced environment, is a lack of appreciation for all the hard work.

The other value and ROI that has come for Karl Strauss is clearer visibility for new hires. When they start at Karl Strauss, they can use YouEarnedIt to know what their core values look like in action, what success looks like, and how they serve a customer effectively in their culture. Those learnings are socialized through the platform and new hires are able to get up to speed faster.

Saving time and money on retention so you can put that money elsewhere to better serve the customer is a huge ROI for them. Their ability to reduce cost on unnecessary monetary rewards has impacted their business and has been a huge metric for success. And frankly, their engagement levels in the programs that are good for the business, such as their wellness programs and charitable giving programs has skyrocketed. The YouEarnedIt platform has been able to promote and drive awareness on those initiatives, which saves time and money and impacts the bottom-line.