O.C. Tanner launches new creativity lab

Published: Tuesday, June 3 2014 5:15 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, June 3 2014 5:24 p.m. MDT

Emma Howland, 3, left, and Wesley McMurry, 3, look up at a screen during an open house at Tanner Labs in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Tanner Labs, which is the new research and development arm of O.C. Tanner, will serve as an incubator and think tank for creating and testing new products.

Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A local business institution that pioneered workplace recognition is launching a new facility aimed at developing the next generation of workplace innovations.

O.C. Tanner announced Tuesday the opening of Tanner Labs — a new research and development arm that will function as an internal think tank and incubator for creating and testing new products along with becoming a resource to startups and inventors in the community.

“It’s tasked specifically with developing new products within O.C. Tanner … specifically technology-focused,” explained Nate Walkingshaw, vice president of Tanner Labs.

Founded in Salt Lake City in 1927, O.C. Tanner — one of the original inventors of employee recognition strategies and rewards programs — also gained recognition for its high-end jewelry business as well as for providing rings and medals for numerous Olympic Games beginning in 2000.

This latest venture is targeted with developing future career achievement, recognition and performance tools, along with employee wellness programs, Walkingshaw said.

Personal technology develops more rapidly every year and it is challenging for human resources managers and company leaders to keep up with the trends and habits of a progressively connected workforce, he said.

Tanner Labs was created to quickly develop and pioneer a fresh new approach to employee wellness and recognition and to foster creative thinking around wearable technology, mobile apps and incentive programs.

“Tanner Labs will have the back-end support and nimbleness to develop technology and act on market trends rapidly,” said president and CEO Dave Petersen. “Organizations are looking for productive and healthy ways to interact with employees using innovative technology to reinforce culture. We see Tanner Labs leading these efforts.”

The company, named for founder Obert C. Tanner, has become a leader in human resource consulting sectors while designing and helping to implement employee recognition programs for clients in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The company also provides presentation training, administration and awards for programs honoring employee service or performance for numerous Fortune 100 firms.

“O.C. Tanner has been helping companies grow for 86 years by creating programs that inspire employees to invent, to create, and to discover, and this will not change,” Walkingshaw said. “Tanner Labs will have the same vision but fewer constraints when it comes to acting on trends and bringing products to market. We’ll look at solutions through a different lens but remain collaborative in all our efforts.”

The new facility’s first offerings will be Welbe, an application designed to provide corporate wellness program administrators with information about the overall well-being of their organization; and Gratzi, an employee appreciation tool designed for recognition of exceptional workplace performance.

Welbe will leverage wearable devices, mobile apps and employee submitted data to aggregate company-wide and individual worker well-being, Walkingshaw said. Biometrics, financial, social, nutrition and career data can all be gathered and analyzed, with challenge activities and incentives to meet goals set by employers, he explained.

As for Gratzi, deserving employees will receive various awards recognizing outstanding accomplishments using technology to development and manage the merit-based program, he said.

Walkingshaw said the new lab will operate as “a company inside a company.”

“Our people are wonderful at (coming up with) ideas,” he said. “We (want) to capture those ideas and figure out a way to build on them.”

Email: jlee@deseretnews.com

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