As the workforce turns peak Millennial, average employee engagement and productivity at work have plateaued, leading to C-suite headaches over negative impact to the bottom line.
One Fortune 500 consulting exec I spoke to a few months ago said the company (a household name) is bleeding Millennial talent at spectacular rates and would be thrilled to increase their engagement rate by a mere 1-2%. With 300,000+ employees, that’s quite understandable.
With the U.S. economy humming at record-low unemployment, meaning record-high turnover, the problem is real – and gloriously bad. This is why corporations are throwing hundreds (yes, hundreds) of billions of dollars a year at high-priced consultants to improve employee engagement, benefit design and utilization, internal communications, PR/Media, and other elements of the Employee Experience (EX). EX has taken over from Customer Experience (CX) as the top factor in how companies compete for talent.
The trouble is, the vast majority of companies, including the aforementioned consulting behemoth, are reacting to lagging financial indicators, rather than being pro-active to take care of employees beyond the usual benefits and short-term perks.
To be fair, there isn’t a single magic bullet found to date that truly slays the Millennial turnover problem. But certain approaches have shown promising results in just a short time.
One of the strategies proving successful in increasing engagement is personalized coaching. Tons of startups have sprung up in just the last couple years that create marketplace access to coaches, speakers, consultants, and experts in engagement to work 1:1 and with small teams to improve everything from time management and productivity habits to personal development and others.
One startup making waves for top-notch clients like Nike, Microsoft, EY, and Wix is Reaction Club, based in Tel-Aviv. Founded in 2015 by professional triathlete Yonatan Malka, Reaction Club is built on a thoughtfully layered methodology of teaching the habits of well-being to employees as a benefit.
I sat down recently with Yonatan to learn more about him, his company, and unique methodology.
Yonatan, thanks for sitting down with us. To start, what was the biggest challenge you overcame in your personal life that impacted how you see the world and how you serve others?
I started joining triathlons when I was 9 and every day since I dreamed about winning the Olympic gold medal. Even at a tender age, I was really focused on that one particular goal. I became a professional athlete at 16 and qualified for the Israeli Olympic Squad in 2010, my country’s official delegation to the London 2012 Olympics. However, a year before the Olympic games, my foot got badly injured, and I had to drop out of the team. It was my life’s biggest heartbreak then.
But, as they say, this unfortunate event gave me life’s biggest realization – a journey isn’t measured by one great result, and that each little achievement in the lead-up to the goal was a victory in itself. I had achieved so much at such a young age in my journey as a triathlete and professional athlete. Yet, I didn’t realize it then, because my eyes were always focused on the big goal.
With Reaction Club’s well-being instruction method that I developed, I help people to enjoy the success of achieving these little victories on the journey to a bigger one. Understanding that small goals are also victories, the aim is to help people build their self-confidence and further challenge and motivate themselves to become better versions of themselves.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career and what has it taught you about yourself and your team?
Starting something new is always a challenge. When we failed for the first time as a team, it was understood – and my team and I knew – that it was part of the process. Unfortunately, after repeated tries and failures, some team members were demotivated and some even left. We paused for a while and met for a run. It made us understand that the mission of this company, much like in sports and in life, is not for everyone. Only the strong ones survive and those who stick by you in the tough times are the only ones you can trust. For every failure, every win is a shared victory for the team. So now, when a new person is joining the team, we tell him that he needs to fail 9 times as fast as he can, so we can see if he really has what it takes to be with us.
What is your life mission? How does your company’s mission align with your personal mission? Please be specific.
My life’s mission is to make people move. I personally believe that active people are better in everything they do. They are happier, nicer to their surroundings, more creative in finding solutions, and generally make the world around them better. They don’t have to be professional athletes; they just need to be active according to their pace and preferences. I feel that, with the right solutions, I can make many people become active and have a more positive impact on society.
Our company’s mission is to “move employees to make better companies.” By offering integrated wellness solutions to companies, we are promoting a more active company culture, whereby employees adopt active lifestyles for better individual and team performance.
How do you attract top talent and keep it around?
I believe in teamwork. The company operates on the values of inclusion. Instead of “I”, it’s always emphasized that “We” work together. There’s a process to get hired into the company to determine the right fit, but once we hire someone, we give the person the freedom and space to bring in ideas and perform at his/her optimum. I am also very open to adopting new methods of working – most of my employees work remotely and determine their work hours! I give them the prerogative to choose their work schedules and days off. These kinds of freedom allow great people to bring their best into play.
What’s your company’s “special sauce?”
I have led conversations with over 50 global HR leaders and more than 200 employees in the United States and Israel, researching the gaps within the wellness program offerings currently provided by companies versus employee needs and expectations. With Reaction Club, we bridge the gap by using a multi-attribute utility/value model that could potentially determine an increase in a company’s revenue and overall bottom line with the integration of a smart, customized, hyper-personalized wellness program; giving measurable and tangible results, justifying the ROI of its use. The wellness programs include healthy nutrition, physical health and exercise, and life balance management – mindfulness, sleep, and stress management. At the core of its thrust is the harmonious balance between the overall well-being of the employee and a business performance-focused approach.
Our “special sauce” is really connecting with our clients – both companies and employees. We understand their needs and also establish a connection that will allow us to get honest feedback. With honest feedback, we provide the best solution. We always start with customer feedback and try to dive as much as we can into the details before we start thinking of the solution. We have developed a well-being instruction method that was a result of a 1-year-long intense research on the unmet needs of employees’ well-being. This is why we, as a startup, were able to replace big service providers in leading companies in Israel (such as Microsoft, EY, Nespresso, and more).
How are you different from your competitors? Be specific.
Every program is customized for the company’s needs. Through our platform, companies can assess their wellness needs and adjust a recommended program that fits perfectly with their goals and budget. This is our number one differentiator from traditional companies. For example, a traditional wellness company will build gyms and offer general fitness classes which will result in an avg. 9% participation. This is an off-the-shelf solution that is answering the needs of only 9% of employees.
First and foremost, we understand that every company is different in terms of culture. One tech company with largely millennial employees has a more relaxed and informal culture with flexible working hours will be different from a finance company having more mature employees with a formal culture and fixed long hours. These two types of employees have different wellness needs and require different solutions.
While there are differences between companies’ needs, there are some similarities between people. We know that most people drop their new year’s resolutions before Valentine’s Day, so we first tried to understand why this happens. We found that when people can’t see immediate results, they just drop out of the program. So we developed a new methodology – named “4LPT” – which is our major differentiator from what other companies do.
4LPT (Learn, Practice, Test) is a well-being instruction method based on a positive reinforcement model. The method has four stages, and within each stage, a new core skill is being learned, practiced, and tested. Every stage is longer than the previous one, allowing the brain to acquire information in layers and master combined skills. Completing the four stages takes 49 days and results in behavioral adaptation that makes it easy to maintain wellness habits over time.
We found those two differences to increase participation and retention in wellness programs from the industry average of 9% to 31% in just one year.
What specific values gained from your upbringing and life story inform the way you approach dealing with employees, clients, investors, and others involved in your business? How do these values reflect in how you empower others?
In sports, you learn that even the world’s best athletes need a coach, and it taught me an openness to learning from everyone. Our clients are my coaches on the product. Our employees are my coaches on ideas and teamwork. My investors are my business coaches, and so on. I can learn something from anyone. I am happy and grateful that professional sports gave me an opportunity to learn life values among other skills such as goal setting, training to master skills, overcoming failures, and so on.
What else do we need to know about your life story that informs who you are and how you do business? Give us a human glimpse of who you are and your “why.”
As a young boy, I was focused on racing and, most of my youth, I traveled around the world for racing. I didn’t study English at school as much as I had to pick it up through my time abroad. Coming from a small country like Israel and building a global company that competes with American companies is a great and overwhelming challenge. Because of my background and the challenges I face, I know I have to be faster and work harder to bridge the gap. However, this struggle is only increasing my motivation. The one thing winning for me is that Reaction Club pioneers a revolutionary approach.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today, Yonatan.