Category Archives: Employee Engagement

January 24, 2013 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Is time, not money, the currency of employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction?

Despite sustained high levels of unemployment, it isn’t easy to find great employees, in any industry.  Ask anyone who has been interviewing for open positions and they will tell you – it is faster and easier to keep, train and promote an employee than to hire a new one.  And sometimes, it is more expensive…because candidates in the market might even be cheaper in this environment, especially if they’ve been unemployed.

Hence the reason that practically every client I have wants to talk about their “talent strategy” as one of their communications priorities.  Certainly, compensation is important.  But true employee engagement, the kind of passionate advocacy for your company and your brand that provides a competitive advantage, takes more than a paycheck…and it takes more than a newsletter, too. We all know this, intuitively.

What do employees want more than money?  This great infographic reveals the top 3 things your employees are wishing for:

  • Verbal affirmation (compliment their good work)
  • Acts of service (help them get their work done)
  • Quality time with their manager

Further proof that time is worth more than money.

January 31, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

3 Rules For Creating A Performance Driving Culture (Hint: It Isn’t About Being A Family)

I consider myself to be a student of “culture building.”  And I whole heartedly believe that culture has a direct impact on business performance.  It was a lesson I learned as a young PR pup, learning the ropes with my first big client, Continental Airlines – whose efforts to change their culture saved the airline and resulted in a business school case study kind of turnaround. 

Since then, I’ve observed, learned and absorbed every client’s approach to culture – and it is no surprise that the annual Fortune Best Places to Work leaders all talk about the role of culture in enabling their businesses to be successful. 

Building a performance-driving culture isn’t rocket science.  Most of the rules of the road come from simple lessons we all learned from our grandparents:

  1. Treat people with respect.  Google’s Larry Page said it perfectly:  “When you treat people with respect, they tend to return the favor.”   Respect isn’t just about talking to them nicely – it is about trusting them to have some control over their work – whether that is their schedule, their assignments, and management of priorities.  Respecting them enough to share the big picture strategy.  And yes, work-life balance counts too.  Page says you need to treat employees like family – you probably need to treat them better than family.
  2. Treat people as individuals.  Employees are not a flock of sheep.  We’ve developed super sophisticated ways to market products to micro-targeted groups of customers…recognizing the trend in individualization applies to the internal customer too and can be a real differentiator. It’s also how companies like Wegman’s and companies you may never have heard about like Camden Property Trust break into the Top Ten.    Perhaps the most extreme examples of this philosophy are the 14 companies who have a “no layoffs” policy.  The interesting thing about them is that many of them are in businesses that are hardest hit by the recession and changes in public policy– retailers, travel companies, healthcare and even AFLAC.  So they aren’t businesses who grow in all cycles.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Repetition is the key to culture building.  Grandpa’s story about walking to school uphill both ways served a purpose.  When you are sick of talking about something, your team is just starting to hear it.  And when you are ready to choke yourself, they are starting to believe this is more than the “direction du jour.”  Stay the course.  Reinforce your message.  And most importantly….walk the talk.

November 22, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Labor Unions Are Evolving…But Do They Still Matter?

When you think of labor leadership, what comes to mind?  If you are thinking of the tough talking prototype portrayed in the movie Hoffa, think again.    Labor unions and their members have massively changed in the past generation – 1/3 have college degrees, nearly half are women, and only 1 in 10 work in manufacturing.  And their leadership is changing with it.

This NYT piece profiles three labor leaders who are women…that’s right, women. And they aren’t the heads of nurses or teachers unions.

Some would argue that this is simply a reflection of the changing demographic – but I think it is more than that.  Today’s labor leaders live in an increasingly complex world, where the old style game of “chicken” that characterized negotiations may no longer be effective.  As states entertain right-to-work policies, governors play hard ball with public employee unions and concessionary contracts become commonplace, the ability for a leader to create communities, build consensus and advance compromise as an acceptable, even successful outcome, has never been greater. 

As I read about these women, there is a notable absence of “scorched earth” in their success stories, and an increased focus on being more broadly relevant to their communities at large – not just their immediate membership.  This is a model that would serve leaders of all kinds well.  Iconic leaders don’t just represent their own company, their own employees, or their own customers – they are the voice of an industry, or of the business at large.   They stimulate conversation on broadly relevant issues.  They lead.

June 1, 2011 | kfieweger | Tagged , , , , ,

Employees Discuss Your Brand All The Time…And Impact Your Reputation

Harris Interactive came out recently with its annual Reputation Quotient Survey and there are some interesting developments.

The top spot in 2010 went to Berkshire Hathaway but not so this year after the Sokol fiasco, which we’ve previously written about here in Return on Reputation. Now Berkshire Hathaway is down to No. 4 – not bad, all things considered, but still a precipitous drop from a previous, largely untarnished image. Who dropped off the top 10 list entirely? Coke and Microsoft…replaced by Disney and Apple. Google moved up two spots to rank No. 1.

What does all this mean for companies who care about their reputation? That it’s a fickle thing and as Warren Buffett famously said, takes an instant to evaporate. Not only that, but everyone has a say these days in what kind of company you are. Google came in first for its financial performance and workplace environment…proof positive that all stakeholders weigh in when it comes to reputation.

Investors and employees clearly gave Google a boost on the ladder in today’s 24/7 interconnected world, and that matters. Every company spends a lot of time thinking about how they communicate with Wall Street – conference calls, press releases, one-on-ones with big institutional investors. But probably not as much time focusing on the way they talk to employees and how they empower their employees to talk about the company, too. Smart companies have “ambassador” employees blogging and participating on Facebook, Twitter, etc., after implementing forward-looking social media policies that lay out the ground rules. Google it and you’ll see.

February 10, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Employees are the Canary in Your Reputation Coal Mine: 5 Ways to Keep Them Singing

Last weekend, I had the privilege of guest lecturing on the new realities of crisis communications at Farleigh Dickinson University as part of their Executive Lecture series. And while I was invited there to share my experiences and talk about crisis communications in our wired, networked world, I was the one who walked away learning a lot. The students were smart, insightful and particularly intuitive about the use of social media in a crisis…something so many clients are wrestling with today. We debated some of the textbook crisis case studies, and whether those responses would have been as effective today. All in all, a pretty engaging and rewarding way to spend a Saturday morning.

But for me, the greatest perk was staying for the lecture that followed mine….Driving Alignment Through Employee Engagement, which was the topic by Johnson & Johnson’s VP of Corporate Communications, Craig Rothenberg. Unless this is your first time reading this blog, you know that employee engagement is a particular passion of mine…and Craig gave me some real food for thought. He was candid about the recalls at J&J, and the challenges recent events have created from an employee engagement standpoint, particularly as it relates to the famous J&J credo as an authentic culture driver. He talked about the downsides of decades of success, and a workforce with long tenure, when you hit bumps in the road. And he talked about engagement as a means to an end, not the end itself.

My takeaways from his advice, not just to students, but to all of us:

• Employees are talking about your company, with or without you. If you don’t participate in THEIR CONVERSATIONS, they will wonder why, and make judgments about that.

• Engaging employees isn’t about what you say; it is about what employees hear. Messaging cascades are what you say….but did employees hear your intended message?

• When you talk to employees, consider it a public statement, referencing the J&J communication to bonus eligible employees that the Company would not pay full bonuses this year. If you don’t want to read about a policy or program you are implementing at your Company in the NYT or WSJ, then you aren’t comfortable with that program…re-think it.

• Employees don’t respond to messaging. They respond to listening.

• If employees see your reputation as declining, that is a canary in the coal mine…it foreshadows reputation damage to come. Pay attention to it.

January 12, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

Your Company’s “Story” is Just Words, unless Leadership Walks the Talk

One of the great perks of my job is that I get insight and visibility into the leadership of many different Companies – some major household names, and others that are companies on the rise. I get to help them craft their “stories” – both internally and externally, and observe and engage with leaders of all kinds.

One of the greatest challenges clients face is creating culture – how do they take their mission, their vision or their “credo” and make it meaningful and authentic in the organization? I’ve said before that it all comes down to leadership, and I came across this blog that approaches it from a visibility standpoint…you have to make values visible in order for them to be relevant.

The leaders of the organization have to demonstrate the behaviors and values, and they need to recognize and reward the behavior they want repeated, emulated and adopted throughout the organization. Simple to say. Not so simple to do.

November 16, 2010 | dlauer | Tagged ,

Can You Be the Happiest Place on Earth When Your Employees are Unhappy?

For years, Disney Theme Parks have been known as the “happiest place on earth,” yet persistent rumors about Disney as a difficult workplace have abounded that behind the Mouse Ears and the Zippity Doo-Das was in fact, an “evil empire.”

This recent survey indicates that there may be some truth to those rumors. The 2010 BlissIndex considered employee satisfaction (or, in Disney’s case, dissatisfaction) with growth opportunities, salary and benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, job security, senior management and ultimately – whether or not employees would recommend it as a good place to work. It’s hard to believe that the most magical place on earth is actually closer to hell on earth for those that work there, ranking behind 40 corporations and even the military, which, also surprisingly, came out on top.

Having cited brutal working conditions and likening Disney to Nazi concentration camps, employees are not holding back when it comes to telling the world what conditions are really like in the land of talking animals, beloved Princesses and happily ever after.

While the disenchanting news isn’t enough to keep my family away from Orlando (yet), it should be more than enough for management to sit up and listen to the ambassadors of the brand’s reputation. Disney’s reputation and its future business are at stake, making this one problem worth solving, no matter how difficult. Being the happiest place on earth is a tall order. And it is a promise that will be hard to keep when employees are disgruntled and disenchanted. And once the experience stops living up to the promise, even Prince Charming won’t be able to save them. The time for action is now.

How can Disney put the whistle back into Whistle While You Work?

They can start by listening. Acknowledging the issues and seeking input to improve their culture, with the goal of elevating the employee experience to that of the guest. I’m not talking about an overnight fix. The first step in restoring credibility in the eyes of any corporate stakeholder is listening. Maybe it’s a series of virtual town-hall meetings, maybe it’s in-person workshops, but the dialogue must be started and the focus should be on how to be successful. Maybe it’s time to rekindle the passion that the franchise was built upon. But the concept of treating employees like guests is a good place to start. Eliminate the double standard between treatment of your colleagues and your guests. And in the words of Jiminy Cricket…let your conscience be your guide.

This survey is like the warning to Snow White not to eat the poison apple. They can act on it, or wait for that apple to choke them.

August 24, 2010 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

One Bad Apple Can Spoil the Barrel…But Whose Barrel is getting spoiled in the Mott’s case?

I’ve been intrigued by the labor issue between Mott’s and its workers in Rochester. Here you have a company posting healthy profits and asking for wage and benefit reductions at the bargaining table. To be fair, much of what I read comes from the Union, because Mott’s isn’t saying much. However, the turning point on this issue may be just around the corner. There is a perfect storm brewing…

Food safety is a hot topic…with the egg recall being the most recent example of “commodities gone wrong”…and the union is asking if the unskilled replacement workers can maintain safety and quality standards. If this issue takes flight with the informal group I call “the lunch-box packers,” Mott’s could have a problem.

And let’s not forget that September and October is apple season in NY…and apples are big business in the NY economy…this dispute doesn’t just affect the factory workers and the Company, it also has the potential to impact the apple growers, who have already said that they will cross the picket lines to deliver their crops for processing.

And last but not least, it is campaign season. Members of Congress are already getting involved, and not just in the NY delegation. Candidates for everything from Governor to dog catcher will be lining up to take photos with these workers.

On the flip side, the fact that the union, despite political support and pro-union news coverage, has not been able to engage a consumer boycott, or otherwise capture our attention with what should be the perfect case to advance a corporate greed campaign is equally interesting, and may signal a fundamental shift in the power and relevance of unions overall. Maybe the economy has made us less sensitive to the union’s argument? Are decreasing benefits, frozen wages and high unemployment such a fact of life, that the Union’s corporate greed arguments no longer incite our emotions?

Either way, it seems to me that this has the potential to be a game changer for labor relations in America… Mott’s is a market leader. They are like the “Q-Tip” of apple juice and apple sauce…evoking happy memories of childhood and despite the backlash against juice – a good healthy brand association. An ugly labor dispute could have a long term impact on the brand. Or not…which could spell even bigger trouble for organized labor.

August 11, 2010 | bsilver | Tagged , ,

Fish on! Jenny was a hoax, but the reputation rules still apply

Okay, we confess – we took the bait about Jenny and her white-board flame job of her boss, Spencer. Turns out it was all a hoax.

But we were in good company. Word is that Leno’s people were scrambling around yesterday, trying to find Jenny in order to get her on his show. Ditto for Good Morning, America. In fact, Gawker called it “The Quitting Tale that Suckered the Whole Internet.” Including them!

It reminds me of the day that the New York Mets listed Sidd Finch on their 1985 spring training roster, but at least Sports Illustrated and George Plimpton had the decency to pull off that prank on April Fools Day.

All kidding aside, our points about reputation and social media still stand. In an era when news can spread instantly from a variety of sources, executives can’t be too careful, corporations have to keep their crisis protocols / plans fresh and their crisis teams, internal and external, have to be ready to respond on a dime. You never know when a real Jenny will turn up on the Internet with her white board.

August 10, 2010 | bsilver | Tagged , ,

Woe be the supervisor who belittles an assistant with a white board

We all know that a corporate reputation can get hammered at light speed six ways from Sunday, thanks to the explosive, viral nature of social media. But I’ll bet none of us saw this one coming.

An executive assistant quits her job using a dry erase board, digital photos and a wicked sense of irony and humor. In doing so, she calls out her boss for lots of bad behavior – including wasting most of his work week playing FarmVille.

Details are sketchy so far, but given that the story of Jenny the HPOA appeared this morning on TechCrunch, it’s only a matter of time before we know all about Jenny, her former boss Spenser and the name of the brokerage firm where Spenser works.

Reputational danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Elsewhere on this blog, my colleague Carreen Winters has catalogued a variety of situations that can trigger the need for a company’s crisis response. Now she can add “angry executive assistant armed with a whiteboard” to the list.

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