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How to create an engagement program employees will love

  
  
  
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Getting caught up in the mire of research and opinions about whether or not rewards work can drive one to drink—or something stronger! It’s especially true if you have a large workforce and are getting pressure from the top to produce results. What kind of behavior changes are you looking to achieve in your workplace? What measurements are you using that confirm certain behaviors are improving?

We know what doesn’t work. Compliance is not engagement. Fear isn’t respect. Intimidation creates costly turnover. Cooperation isn’t always collaboration. Throwing only cash or rewards at your workforce will produce only temporary changes in attitude and behavior.

The Pavlov approach to changing employee behavior gets a one-time response at best. Once the reward runs out, your employees will often revert to their old ways. Losing weight, showing up on time, quitting smoking, practicing safety, contributing ideas, saving money, or improving sales are all goals that need more than a pat on the back or a new TV. You can spend a lot of money—only to get a temporary result.

So do rewards work?

The answer will depend on how your programs are designed and implemented. What you want is the best use of your organization’s resources for long-term positive and productive performance. Here’s a hint—sincere and deserved recognition is the foundation.   

Why marketing needs employee engagement

  
  
  
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When examining notable Chief Marketing Officers like Marissa Riccardi, Michael Lazerow, Eileen Zicchino, Simon Clift, Pamela Kaufman, Terri Graham, and so many others, a common understanding is shared. Employee engagement dramatically affects the success of building your brand.

“When it comes to clients, it’s all about trust,” notes CMO Eileen Zicchino. “When we look at our brand attributes, it’s about character, intelligence, and strength. Our employees help us put the client first. Our workforce works very closely with them which, in turn, builds our brand. It must be about relationships and trust even if it means we have to turn away business.”

The promise your brand makes to customers is powerfully delivered through the behaviors of your workforce. They are your brand ambassadors. With every move, they represent your brand and they are what differentiates you in the marketplace. All the advertising dollars in the world can proclaim how great your products are or how customer-focused your company is but it’s not enough. How your receptionist answers the phone, how accessible your customer service hotline is, and how well you serve the interests of your clients is what ultimately wins and retains customers.

Properly identifying what makes your brand valuable while helping employees to live and breathe your brand promises will result in superlative employee and customer experiences. That’s what you want.

The focus then becomes how best to collaborate with your employees to match brand values with your customer requirements. What are your strengths? What are you excellent at? What is innovative about you? Are you delivering on your promises? Does your workforce enthusiastically advocate for your brand’s message?

Detoxify your workplace and improve performance

  
  
  
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When Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) was coined by the World Health Organization back in 1984, many dismissed it as an exaggeration. How could a building make you sick? But it could and it did. No specific causes could be identified at the time, but many building occupants were experiencing acute health problems and daily discomfort. After closer examination, some illnesses could be linked to time spent in the building. Poor indoor air quality and lack of ventilation were listed as the culprits. The workplace was toxic, affecting employee performance.

More success stories from the employee engagement archives

  
  
  
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It’s not difficult to make the case that the ongoing financial mess on Wall Street and TARP payments to some of the country’s biggest banks have victimized smaller firms. One victim is the investment management industry. A big challenge becomes being able to assure clients they can continue to trust them with their money.

As we have emphasized in previous blogs, having a workplace that engenders a culture of respect, engagement, trust, and fairness will aid in empowering your organization to keep clients. And how do you do that?

By inspiring your most valuable asset—your employees. When individual employees feel a part of the whole, they will invest more of their efforts on your customer’s behalf. And your customers will respond positively. Often a customer’s only perception of your business comes from their interaction with your employees. That presents a wonderful opportunity for you to become remembered as the deliverer of a great brand experience. The perception of being a caring organization will resonate well within the marketplace.

The employee factor is a powerful asset you already have that can offset market conditions. So ask yourself—what is your client’s perception of your company? Is their interaction with your organization conducive to them staying? Is your customer’s recollection of their entire experience with you, at all touch points, a good one? Is your organization still cautious about implementing an employee recognition and rewards program? Do these programs really work? Here are some success stories guaranteed to reassure you of the value of employee interaction.

Companies that have embraced the power of engagement

What you should know about employee engagement

  
  
  
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Companies today want to attract and retain the best quality talent. Some of these same organizations believe the best way to do this is to offer the most enticing perks one can imagine— sauna rooms, nap areas, free lunch, paid days off, afternoon bowling, and the list goes on.

Much confusion remains among employers as to the differences between a happy worker and an engaged worker. Of course, anyone would be happy with a free lunch but the point here is that being engaged must come before being happy. They are not necessarily exclusive. They just need to be put in the right order. Your highest ideal, as an employer, is the development of a productive, creative, loyal, and passionate workforce. That will happen when you have engaged your people. The results will also affect your customer base because your engaged employees will take better care of them. Your customers, in turn, will tend to stick with you.

If you are a forward looking brand, you will have to contend with the economic uncertainty out there among consumers. No one has to tell you, the customer is always right even when they’re not. Although the level of consumer skepticism is high, this can work to your advantage if your employees are inspired to provide great customer service and experience. For example, an employee may be happy at work but not necessarily investing their energy on behalf of your organization.

When surveyed, some employees might even claim to be happy and satisfied with their job but will not hesitate to jump ship when another “opportunity” comes along. By coming to a better understanding of what it means to be happy, satisfied, and engaged, you can take intelligent steps to improve your overall workforce retention and performance.

How passionate, inspired employees raise job performance

  
  
  
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There’s a new book which I suggest should be required reading for every employee. It talks about purpose, inspiration, and commitment to one’s work. It’s called “Shine at Work” and it’s written by author and teacher Diane Ingram. The concept of a workforce bringing more of their energy to initiate, create, and innovate assures a boost in everyone’s overall performance. Ask anyone about their job passion level. How they answer you says a lot about how they get up in the morning and start their day.

How to motivate a sales champion

  
  
  
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Industry Hall of Fame winner and AMD Founder Jerry Sanders launched an American Dream sales campaign as an incentive for his sales champions reaching 200 million in sales. When the goal was reached, the sales team was paid handsomely plus every other employee’s name was placed in a hat. Factory line worker Jocelyn Lleno was chosen and awarded a new home. Two others received Cadillac Sevilles.

How to hire and retain a sales champion

  
  
  
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Behind every company’s increase in market share there is at least one sales champion. They’re people who understand human needs, communicate clearly, and know how to gain a buyer’s trust. Some sales champions have gone on to become very successful business owners and teachers. Great sales people are made. Anyone can become successful in selling. All it takes is the right training. Right? Maybe—but it’s not as simple as that. To make it in sales (or anything else), you must bring a big desire and a clear reason for wanting to become a salesperson.

Unfortunately, employers often overlook these inner ingredients during the hiring process. Many sales managers still make the mistake of hiring a salesperson because they were swayed largely by their resume, looks, dress, and talk. They believe this is all that is necessary to mold them into a grand producer. With just a little training, you can send them off to conquer the marketplace. When minimum emphasis is placed on what’s behind the nice suit and smooth talk, you will shoot yourself in the foot. The interview process should be your opportunity to get a holistic picture before signing them on.

How can you use the interviewing process to better know if the person sitting across from you has those inner traits necessary to make a good candidate? If great sales people are made, this does not override your responsibility as a manager to conduct a thorough and complete interview. Lacking certain basic intrinsic ingredients will guarantee that your potential sales rockstar will fail and quit soon after. And turnover is time-consuming and costly for your company.

Advances in communication and social media technology can give your sales team incredible access to analytics on your prospect’s behavior, interests, and needs. It’s useful information that can result in creating different sales strategies—strategies that can even produce higher conversion rates. However, relying mostly on analytics as your assurance to close a sale or keep a customer loyal is a trap.  

The art of selling is simple but demands superlative care and persistence. Selling is very rewarding and profitable but it’s hard work. Speak with any experienced, successful salesperson and they will tell you that without these “internal” qualities, disappointments and failures will end your career quickly. Sales success requires a deeper motivation. Sales training then becomes easier and more effective because your student brings the right stuff and willingly embraces knowledge and personal growth. Start with identifying your student’s desire level and go from there.

How can you find out if your applicant is the one you’re looking for? How can you save time during the interview process and make the right hiring decision? What are the best sales training methods? How can you retain your sales champion once you've found them?

How and when to start a peer recognition program

  
  
  
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The top three employee incentive programs are: length of service, outstanding service, and peer-to-peer recognition. Why peer-to-peer employee recognition? Peer-to-peer programs offer an organization great benefits. They are relatively easy to develop, they are inexpensive, they involve large groups of employees, and they fulfill the demand of being recognized by coworkers. The mantra? Recognition feels good—especially from colleagues.

A well designed peer-to-peer initiative brings a good experience to the receiver as well as the giver. More and more organizations may be catching on, but the truth is, peer-to-peer recognition programs are not a new idea.

In 1895, Alfred Nobel established the Norwegian Nobel committee of peers awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting fraternity between nations. Categories expanded to include contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, physiology, and medicine. Winners are awarded medals, diplomas, and money.

Since 1929, film stars have been acknowledged by their peers for outstanding performance. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, originally conceived by MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, helped improve the film industry’s image and mediate labor disputes. As the first winner, Emil Jannings held up his “Oscar” in triumph while acknowledging his peers with, “I’d like to thank the Academy.” The UN uses a type of peer-to-peer recognition to recognize and give awards to delegates for their outstanding service.

The rise in peer-to-peer recognition programs today is due to the rising pressures on managers and HR to oversee more employees and larger teams. Workplace conflicts and a heavier workload leave less time for those in charge to focus on employee development and engagement. Peer-to-peer programs fill in the gap because this method of recognition supports camaraderie, develops employee leaders, and strengthens a sense of ownership in your mission. Simply put, peers banding together in mutual recognition for doing meaningful work engages, motivates, and raises performance levels.

In a very real sense, employees operating their own recognition and rewards system is a type of employee ownership—a type of stock ownership and shared capitalism. The latest research findings on the benefits of employee ownership coincide with the results using peer-to-peer recognition. The trust, respect, fairness, and pride index goes up. Your company becomes recognized as a great place to work with lower turnover.

The peer-to-peer recognition program—and your mission

Workplace conflict—where to find the silver lining

  
  
  
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There are many reasons why conflicts occur in the workplace. Even the most enlightened among us might actually be the source of some of it. How do we start off our day? What outside influences do we allow to get into our psyche? We can, inadvertently, bring our morning edginess into the office along with our low tolerance for disagreement or opposition.

I remember one cold, rainy autumn morning last year—I hadn’t slept great the night before. The town had decided it would start a construction project outside my window at 6 am. Facing me at the office was a mountain of paper work that had to get done and a big meeting with a new client who promised to bring tons of demands. OK, client demands come with the territory. But then my electricity went out in the middle of a shower and my office manager called to let me know her daughter was very sick and she would be out for the rest of the week. My clock alarm wouldn’t shut up. By this time, I had amassed a nice headache. I was ready for a conflict—not good for anyone. (By the way, I don’t recommend checking emails first thing in the morning either. Spam will annoy you, urgent messages will stress you, and being reminded of something you didn’t finish yet will give you guilt.) In the end, everything worked out OK that day and I didn’t have to take an aspirin. Thank God for counting to ten and taking a deep breath! But a bad day is a common reality that we all have to deal with at some time—but how we choose to allow it to affect our work also affects everyone around us.

When conflict happens, morale gets lowered and absenteeism goes up—undermining your creativity and productivity. But all conflict is not destructive. Sometimes it can be a sign of commitment to a cause or a passion about something positive. There can be a silver lining around every conflict when we understand what it is and how to turn it around.

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