by William Ng | January 30, 2012
Hallmark Business Connections, the business incentives unit of Hallmark Cards, has hired a 15-year veteran in the employee recognition field to help catapult the company as a strategic recognition development partner for clients. Jonathan McClellan, whose career includes 10 years spent at BI Worldwide, says his hiring as employee recognition segment director is part of Minneapolis-based Hallmark Business Connections’ intent to provide greater expertise in designing recognition program solutions for companies.

“The biggest need at this point [among clients] is linking performance to employee recognition and employee engagement to company growth,” says McClellan, who holds a degree in marketing and business from St. Cloud (MN) State University and has designed marketing and workforce engagement programs through application of motivational theory and design.

“The disconnect is that they may not fully grasp how to align goals and values to desirable outcomes,” McClellan says. “A lot of companies stop short of achieving measurable objectives, and this is what our customers are trying to tap into.”

For Hallmark Business Connections, McClellan says it wants to become a more well-rounded solutions supplier, delivering program design and strategy in addition to incentive fulfillment services. The company is a specialist in supplying physical and electronic greeting cards that contain redemption/value codes that are redeemed for gift cards of top retailers, catalogs, restaurants, travel providers, and entertainment companies.

McClellan is leading a team of about six that works in client strategy development at the company, which is embedded within a marketing and strategy team of roughly 15.

“Hallmark has a rich tradition, but it has, historically, focused on fulfillment technology and efficiencies for companies to roll out across the enterprise,” McClellan explains. “In the last couple of years, companies are looking for assistance in setting up their programs. Hallmark can do fulfillment impeccably, but companies also need help with the earlier [program] stages. So it created this position of mine.”

Look for Hallmark Business Connections to have greater thought leadership participation in the industry as well as become a bigger consultative resource and a provider of employee strategies for frontline managers, including gamification and peer-to-peer social recognition, McClellan says. Altogether, these innovations could potentially redefine the employee engagement space, he says.

McClellan remarks that many companies have traditionally seen employee recognition and engagement from a simple perspective, but the tight economic and business climate is changing the rules of the game. Now companies need it to be a competitive differentiator, and he says Hallmark Business Connections intends to “fill those gaps” of knowledge and expertise. He notes, “Anybody can do fulfillment, but if you put all the focus there, you won’t tap into the full potential of employee engagement.”